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Sunday, August 24, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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For many entrepreneurs, success takes a leap of faith

Seattle Times staff reporter

In these shaky economic times, you could call them the ultimate optimists:

• Anna Nguyen of Burien quit her job as a civil engineer and started a Vietnamese restaurant on Capitol Hill.

• Jim Sloan of Sammamish and Alan Davey of Issaquah launched a telecommunications and computer-consulting business in their homes.

• Elisabeth Knottingham quit her technical-writing job, got a loan and bought a tea shop on Queen Anne Hill.

None is turning a profit, at least not yet. In some cases, finances have gotten pretty tight. Yet there is no shortage of enthusiasm. "It really is a dream come true," says Knottingham.

Nationally, economists who decide such things have declared that the recession ended in November 2001, eight months after it began. But tell that to the folks who lost lucrative jobs only to find themselves waiting tables, trying to sell real estate or sitting at home hoping for work — any work.

As Washington's unemployment rate has climbed — hitting 7.7 percent in July, third-highest in the country — 63,000 jobs have vanished statewide. Some of those who found themselves unemployed have decided the time is right — or so they hope — to fulfill a dream of opening a business of their own. Their willingness to take a risk could be just the catalyst the regional economy needs.

"It's the entrepreneurs who're going to bring us out of recession. They see opportunities and the rest of us follow," says professor Suresh Kotha, director of the University of Washington's Center for Technology Entrepreneurship.

Last year, there were over 47,000 new businesses in King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties licensed with the state. There are no figures as to how many did not renew their licenses.

In Seattle alone, some 8,000 new business licenses are issued each year. Just as many are not renewed. Clearly, it's a risky business.

Those who go for it have a common quality, Kotha said: "They tend to generalize from a sample of one, and that's them. They don't care about statistics. You might tell them that nine out 10 businesses fail. They say this one is different."

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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