Disaster scholars have researched and documented the many ways in which small businesses are more vulnerable to disasters than larger firms, citing such post-disaster challenges as limited resources, a lack of redundancy, and disadvantages regarding insurance. Much of this literature takes an organizational approach, and when scholars discuss business owners themselves, these discussions are usually limited to correlations between an owner’s demographic characteristics and business recovery outcomes, such as whether an organization will survive. The literature lacks discussions on how business recovery may affect the business owners themselves, overlooking personal consequences such as changes in self-perceptions as post-disaster conditions challenge an owner’s identity. This study addresses this gap by examining small business owners’ experiences and perceptions following the 2013 Colorado Flood. Drawing on interviews with seventeen small firm owners from Estes Park and Lyons, Colorado, I discuss business recovery experiences and the relationship between responses to post-flood challenges and self-perceptions. Participants described how they were troubled by their dependence on aid at a time when they were incapable of providing for others, usually a valued element of their identities. Challenges like business interruption provided opportunities for small business owners to act in entrepreneurial ways to recover as they came up with innovative strategies to meet both financial and personal goals. Some improvised methods used for business-related goals—like mitigating financial losses—ended up being long-term better business practices.

Committee:
Kathleen Tierney (Chair)
Leslie Irvine
Lori Peek