From Business Owner to Bankrupt and Back Again


In 2010, there were more than 1.5 million individuals and 56,000 businesses filing for bankruptcy. Mike Cleary of Atlanta suffered both.

Cleary and his wife, Linda, were operating a franchise that sold inflatables for children’s birthday parties. Before the recession hit, they were seeing great returns, but a slew of competitors soon entered the market. Then, as the economy faltered, favors for children’s birthday parties were virtually struck off consumer shopping lists altogether.

The Clearys also owned a trade show exhibit and design business. This, too, began to deflate, as businesses cut down on their spending–or fell prey to the economy themselves. They tried to keep things going, even paying employees out of their own pockets as a last-ditch attempt to keep the business afloat. But by 2010, the economy was sinking fast, and it took both the Clearys’ businesses with it.

It’s a scenario that many small business owners faced between 2007 and 2009, that dark economic period that’s now been dubbed the Great Recession. Even the successful among small businesses – those lucky enough to overcome the significant hurdles that threaten even the most fledgling of entrepreneurs –  just couldn’t rise above an economy in which consumers refused to spend. Find out how one couple survived two bankruptcies, a foreclosure and learned how to carry on with a cash-only budget in my new post on


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