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by Robert Rodriguez

The faltering economy, tanking retail sales and a real-estate market rife with foreclosures didn’t keep Ritsuko Miyazaki from launching a ceramic art store.

“I know some people would think now is not a good time. But you never know. Tomorrow may get even worse, and this is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” said Miyazaki, owner of Clay Mix in Fresno. “So why not now?”

Experts generally agree. Despite a tough economic climate, starting a business now has advantages for entrepreneurs with solid business plans, adequate financing and marketable products and services.

“These tough times really force people to practice good business behaviors,” said Melissa Chang, founder of the Massachusetts-based Pure Incubation, a business consulting firm. “It helps you persevere and understand that difficult times happen.”

Chang acknowledged that there are still huge obstacles to starting under difficult economic conditions, namely tighter lending from banks, venture capitalists and angel investors.

But credit hasn’t dried up completely, she said.

Good business ideas still get looked at. They are just scrutinized more closely.

“These are different times. And the days where any crazy idea was good enough to start a business are gone,” Chang said.

“Now, people have to really ask themselves: ‘Is this the right business to start and can it survive this economy?’ ”

Matt Dearing and business partner Greg McKinney, Miyazaki and partners Dawn Astorga and Jackie Kane believe the time is right and so do the more than 2,000 entrepreneurs who have paid for a license to start a new business in Fresno this year.

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