How COVID-19 is Impacting small business

Posted by Taylor Barkin on

I’ll be honest. When I first sat down to write this, all I could really think of was the panic and pure terror of what this was going to do to our small business and to all of our friends who also run small businesses.
After a few days of processing, I had to take a few steps and just think about the things I have to be grateful for right now. Yes, we are going to see a loss and it could be significant, but we’re not alone. Many people are in the same boat or in even worse positions than us. We have the ability to take this time and turn it around into something positive rather than approaching it from a sense of panic.
We’ve been knocked down before but never quite like this. We don’t know what the future holds but we’re doing our best to remain positive and optimistic about how we can take this time and turn it around into something good. 
If you follow small businesses then I’m sure you have seen their reactions, thoughts and stories about what this looks like for them.
The reality of being a small business owner in this time: 
Some have it worse than others but many are going through at least some level of defeat right now.
The reality is that we don't have paid time off. Days off means revenue lost. We don’t have great health benefits. We have to deal with diving into an unexpected time of no sales. We are actively self quarantining ourselves because we know if one, or god forbid both of us got sick, our business would suffer so bad and we don’t have the time to deal with that and the recovery coming back from it. Many of us work for very little pay as a tradeoff to do what we love every day which makes times like this really difficult.
 Here’s our story and thoughts on all of this:
Suddenly we started seeing many of our maker friends travel out of state for a previously highly profitable show, prep for weeks, build new displays, pay for travel, set up only to be told before it started that they were canceling the event. We know what goes into this. When the event goes as planned, it’s amazing. When it gets completely canceled, the impact is awful. 
Not knowing truly what's next also makes planning for amping up our products near impossible. We’re small, we can ramp up and plan if we know we’re about to get busy. But if we spend that money ramping up our stock and suddenly don’t have a place to sell it, we’re sitting on a mountain of inventory. On the other hand, if we don’t have our products prepped in time for summer, we will without a doubt suffer lost revenue because we won’t be prepared for quick order turnarounds to make the most out of our busy period. 
But I’m saying it now. We won’t give up. We’ve gone through it all and we can get through this too. 
We’ve known for years that in person event revenue can’t forever be our primary source of revenue like it was when we first started. Back in our first and second year, I’d say about 85% of our revenue came from events. Now it’s close to 25%. 
We knew years ago that events would have a cycle, that one day we’d get fed up with weather that destroys sales in an instance, that our aging bodies would get to a point where we wouldn’t do it anymore, etc. Because of this thought years ago, we actively worked our asses off to grow beyond in person events and create revenue streams that didn’t require us setting up a temporary shop every single weekend. 
We spent years actively growing wholesale and online but in the meantime, we are still heavily involved with events around town. We’ve staffed our events for this upcoming summer and have dished out thousands of dollars in non refundable booth fees already. 
If events can’t go on, we lose 25% of our revenue automatically and the booth fees paid out months ago. But this also goes much deeper than that. We lose our in person engagement, we lose the opportunity to connect with our people face to face, we lose our chance to meet new customers to have them follow us and purchase from us in the future. We lose our ability to have predicted and solid cash flow. The saddest of all would be losing our energy and hype to keep going after it. The bright side is that because of all these events, we've been able to get back in touch with our community of those that follow us closely and we're grateful that we can communicate digitally with them now.
Then there’s our wholesale business. We work with about 150 retailers nationwide that are located primarily in tourist destinations who will suffer from people who aren’t traveling. Their inability to make as many sales as years past, or even open their doors will have a long lasting effect on our ability to have a prosperous relationship with them. I don’t know if I can even begin to put a stamp on what this loss could look like if people stop traveling for a long time. 
Then we have our expenses that all stay the same. We do what we do because we absolutely love it and are both doing what we really care about and it pains me to think that because of that we could suffer a huge loss in our business which effects both of us personally a lot as well. We already take an incredibly low wage as a trade off for doing what we love every day. This means that we often pay ourselves the bare minimum to get by and put a tiny amount away in case times get rough as we can. Paying ourselves any less because of an incredible amount of lost revenue will be damaging.
I’ll be frank here. I didn’t think much of the effect this would have on small business when this all came out but literally overnight, I saw the potential of how damaging this could be to us and the millions of other small business owners in the same position as us. 
This is not at all meant to be a sob story for us. I’m just aiming to show you the reality of our story that is without a doubt the reality for many, many others too. 
If you have the ability to shop small right now, I can’t even express what this will mean to the people you are supporting. 
How to support small business even if you don’t want to go out:
  1. Buy a gift card to use later. If you do this you can help keep small biz afloat now and treat yourself when we get back to the bright side. Especially for restaurants and businesses that rely solely on face to face customers
  1. Send words of encouragement. If we know we’re all in this together and have support from our community, we can do our best to keep our spirits high to have an easier time getting back on track later.
  2. Be understanding of closures and delays. We’re all doing our best here and   are trying to navigate this super weird  time that we weren’t expecting at all. We’re trying to deal with inner turmoil & anxieties on top of keeping our business going and growing. 
  1. Shop small online and be okay if it takes a little longer to receive the item 
  2. If you can support small instead of the big guys for things you are buying anyway, please make that effort. Groceries, booze, etc
  3. Stay away if you are sick. This seems like common sense but think about this: Us small business owners are struggling with the economic panic right now. Imagine being incredibly ill at the same time and trying to come back from that? 
If you are a business owner like us, Here are some words for you. 
  1. You aren’t alone. Our community of small business owners is tough as nails (can’t run a business if you aren’t, remember that). Let’s lift each other up, spread our messaging and hopefully this will be a bump in the road later and something that makes us stronger. 
  2. Don’t panic. It is wise to think about contingencies and how you will adjust when this is all over but try not to panic. You will probably need to adjust some things but that’s okay. Keep calm and carry on.
  3. Try to look at the bright side here. Maybe this can be a time to step back and plan, create something new or just take a freaking break because lord knows we small business owners could use one. 
  4. We can do this. It probably isn't going to be easy but we can do this!
Yes, sales are down already and we will be financially impacted but here’s what I’m grateful for:
-Our strong marriage and business we run together as husband and wife. We've been through some pretty stressful times which has shown me our strength. I know this will be just one more bump in the road that we can get through.
-My husband Tanner: He grounds me and always finds a way to keep things positive. He never panics, and when I do, he grounds me.
-Our pup, Scout: He has no idea what in the world is going on so he keeps reminding us of what truly matters, those around us.
-Being able to do what we love: At the end of the day, Tanner and I get to both do what we care about. Through hard times and all, we're so fortunate to do what we do.
-Being able to keep working from home at our discretion: This is something I don't want to take for granted. We have the ability to distance ourselves to prevent ourselves from getting sick.
We’re trying to stay positive despite the fear surrounding what’s next. I have no doubt that the days here are going to get tough because they will and it's weird because this was all so unexpected. Even if everything healed right this second, I believe we would still be seeing the residual effects for a while. This could be a long and exhausting point in our business but something tells me we will get through it. We have to, right? So let’s be there for each other, spread positivity, see what happens and go from there, it's all we can do.

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