COLUMBIA — Jeanie Nobis got laid off twice in five months — from the same job.
"I got laid off in August" 2008, she said. "... And then they called me back."
Nobis was rehired by the metal production company she'd worked at for the fall and holiday seasons. Then, in January 2009, she lost her job for good.
Her mother-in-law, Barbara Nobis, owns Grandma Barb's Pies. The two live next door to each other. While she was still employed, Jeanie Nobis liked to help her mother-in-law bake goods to be sold at local farmers markets.
"When I got laid off, we decided that I could go to Hannibal to try and make a little bit of money," she said. "It all started going from there."
Jeanie Nobis now owns her own business, C & J Baked Goods, with her 16-year-old daughter, Catie. The trio works together, baking six days a week for the two separate businesses, which they run out of Barbara Nobis' certified kitchen in Paris, Mo.
Selling pies won't make her a millionaire, but Jeanie Nobis' hobby-turned-business provides her with a steady income — and work she enjoys. Her husband, Cory Nobis, is a truck driver, and she says she needs the extra money.
"I make enough to get groceries," she said. "And to keep me from going back to a factory job."
Career paths such as Nobis' are becoming increasingly common, according to new research on rural entrepreneurship. MU researchers Thomas Johnson and Maria Figueroa-Armijos matched data from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor survey and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics with locations nationwide and found that when the economy struggles, "necessity entrepreneurship" increases.
In their resulting study, published this year in the Entrepreneurship Research Journal, Johnson and Figueroa-Armijos define "necessity entrepreneurship" as businesses that are begun because their creators need income. Between 2007 and 2010, a period of economic recession, those sorts of enterprises grew from 16 percent to 28 percent of all entrepreneurship in the United States.
"From economic stress, great ideas are born," Johnson concluded.
For Grant Ballard, starting a business wasn't just about money. It was a lifestyle improvement. "I needed the work," he said.
Ballard worked as a heavy machinery operator for a St. Louis-based union. The bad economy brought too many workers with the same skill set and not enough construction jobs to keep them all busy.
Ballard faced long stretches of time between jobs, and when there was work, it would require him to be away from his family. He usually traveled more than 100 miles for jobs.
"I have two kids. I wanted to be home and watch them grow up," he said. "I didn't want to be the dad on the phone."
Ballard also coaches three sports: football, baseball and archery. He couldn't be as involved if he lived on the road.
In starting his own business, Ballard was able to come home for good. He now owns Ballard Welding & Fabrication, a Columbia-based welding company.
"A pretty good-sized shop went out of business in Columbia, so there was a considerable hole that needed to be filled," he said. "I already had most of the start-up tools, had some retirement and figured I would give it a go."
Ballard opened his doors Jan. 2. Business was slow in the spring, he said, but it gets better every day.
According to the researchers, necessity entrepreneurship needs more support. With a bit of help, entrepreneurs can do more than just improve their own incomes. When they succeed, they can create jobs for other people.
"These necessity entrepreneurs could create ... economic growth for long-term prosperity," Figueroa-Armijos said.
Like Ballard and Nobis, entrepreneur Becky Henson started her business because of an unfavorable job market. She worked as a supervisor and poker dealer until her position was suddenly eliminated.
"They closed the poker room, and I was transferred to table games," she said. "I got transferred into a department that I did not care for."
She decided to take a risk and open up her own business. Now Henson is the proud owner of Dog Daze Playcare, a canine day care facility off Interstate 70.
"I had experience with this before, so I wanted to get back into dogs full time," Henson said. "This is the first time I've worked for myself — it's a lot different."
So far, she enjoys working for herself, but she wouldn't say that she'll never go back to working for someone else.
"It's a little bit daunting at first — a lot of money going out and not a lot coming in," she said. "I'm having to learn all the financial things: taxes, payroll, hiring people. It's different when it's all on you."
The biggest difference between self-employment and her old job, Henson said, is "lots, lots more hours."
In addition to rural areas, the study found an increase in entrepreneurship among African-Americans.
Anthonwell Linzie, 32, prides himself on being a young black business owner in Columbia. But he didn't get there without first doing his fair share of odd jobs.
Over the course of several years, he held positions in a wide variety of jobs, including construction, hotel management and cosmetics.
"A lot of places, you bust your bottom for a little bit of nothing," Linzie said.
What's more, in Linzie's experience, African-American men seem to have a harder time finding work than any other group.
Linzie continued searching for meaningful work until he realized he wasn't looking for a 9-to-5 job. Instead, he wanted work that would allow him to extend himself and grow.
He heard his sisters complaining about having to leave Columbia to shop for clothes. Suddenly, he saw an opportunity to fill that niche himself.
"I always knew I wanted to open up a store," he said. "I just thought it would be a men's store."
Linzie now runs Exclusive Closet, a women's clothing boutique, at 1205 Range Line St. It's right next to his sister's salon.
"It gave me a way and a platform to crash the stereotypes," Linzie said.
He works hard for his business but likes it that way.
"It's on me," he said. "The more I do, the more it will grow, and the more successful the company will be. The more successful the company is, ultimately, the more successful I will be."
But for Jeanie Nobis, material wealth doesn't seem to be the end goal. She said the paycut is worth having a job she loves and the freedom to spend time with her family.
Now that she has her own business, she said she would never go back to her former line of work. In fact, she didn't: Her employer called six months after she had been laid off twice and offered her a job.
"I said 'no, thank you' — because I really like what I'm doing."
Supervising editor is Hannah Cushman.