Ebony Igwebuike-Tye: “We don't have an end date. We don't know how much longer this new normal is going to be our new normal."

Ebony Igwebuike-Tye is no stranger to fixing problems—in fact, her problem-solving nature is one of the reasons she became an entrepreneur in the first place.

“There’s always a lot going on,” Igwebuike-Tye says. “But the crazy thing is I actually love it. I think I like the challenge of handling people’s problems and putting out fires.”

Igwebuike-Tye owns What to Wear, a high-end consignment store in Clintonville, God’s Kidz daycare on the South Side, and Ambassador Home Health Services, which is based in Reynoldsburg. In addition, she’s been in the real estate industry for over 20 years, working with both commercial and residential properties.

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Her entrepreneurial spirit showed at a young age, says her mother and business partner, Carolyn Warren. “She’s always had this knack for coming up with creative ways to make money,” Warren says. “If she doesn’t know how to do [something], she figures out a way.”

The pandemic was a problem that none of us was fully prepared for.

“One thing that I’ve learned about being an entrepreneur is that you have to be prepared for surprises,” Igwebuike-Tye says.

Because her ventures are in different fields, Igwebuike-Tye has had to juggle various restrictions and find new ways to run her businesses in a time where customers’ needs have shifted sometimes drastically. “In some ways, it’s also allowing us to look for opportunities where we can do things better,” she says.

Amid the pandemic, Ambassador Home Health is serving more people. “[The pandemic] caused there to be a spike in people’s needs for our services and even allowed us to extend our services,” she says. For families with at-risk loved ones, Ambassador has added grocery shopping services to avoid unnecessary outside contact.

Her daycare, God’s Kidz, also has been vital to working families through the pandemic, as it stayed open to serve those working in essential businesses during the height of the lockdown. “We chose to be open for those people so that they could have a safe, quality, affordable option and not have to worry about their kids while they’re away at work,” she says, noting that the choice to stay open came with additional costs in personal protective equipment and additional sanitizing practices.”

As for What to Wear, Igwebuike-Tye opened an online store. She’s noticed shoppers’ habits changing.

“With the shift of more people working from home, they’re not purchasing clothes to wear to work like they used to,” she says. On the other end of the spectrum, some customers want to invest in designer clothing, bags and accessories that hold or increase their value over time.

As she faced the challenges presented by the pandemic in each of her business ventures, Igwebuike-Tye says flexibility has been an important factor in keeping her businesses running.

“We don’t have an end date, you know. We don’t know how much longer this new normal is going to be our new normal,” she says. “That in and of itself is forcing us to continue to be flexible.”

Although the pandemic has sent waves through the economy and the small business community, Igwebuike-Tye says having the chance to slow down can be a positive for everyone—a time to shift their focus from themselves to the community.

“I think we have been so busy running around, with everyone kind of doing their own thing … then something hits the entire world where you’re like, ‘Wait a minute, this is not just about me,’ ” she says. “So I think it’s allowed people to take a more community and worldwide view of their surroundings.”

Heather Barr is a freelance writer.