In March of last year, as COVID-19 brought the world to its knees, small businesses across the nation struggled to make ends meet and stay afloat. Everywhere, including in the Greater Boston area, many had no choice but to shutter. Others dug deep, got creative and managed to survive. One harrowing year on, there are signs of resilience and triumph, and many small business owners are taking the opportunity to figure out how to forge a meaningful and successful path forward.

Earlier this month, a Harvard panel moderated by Karen Gordon Mills ’75, the former administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, examined the strategies used by some local small business owners over the past year and considered ways in which small businesses can turn the corner, and even thrive.

“Small businesses are critical to this whole country,” said Mills, who is currently a senior fellow at Harvard Business School, and on the board of the Harvard Allston Land Company (HALC). “Half of the people who work in this country own or work for a small business. So that’s half of America’s jobs. And it has been a challenging time. I think it is the most challenging time for small businesses that I’ve seen in my lifetime.”

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