How to Help Small Businesses Survive the Pandemic
As states across the country begin to reopen amid yet another surge in coronavirus cases, small business owners find themselves at a crossroads. In the video above, we’re talking to a number of independent business owners to see how their clients and communities can help them get through this pandemic.
Countless small business owners faced weeks of uncertainty as closure orders shut down all but a few essential services. Some have started selling products online or offering gift cards as a way to cover expenses. Others poured their personal savings or relied on crowdfunding to try to survive until the lockdown orders were lifted – whenever that was. But since the restrictions stretched from weeks to months, the situation looked dire.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve spoken to five business owners and managers to ask them how their communities can help them weather this pandemic. What can the rest of us do to keep our favorite local spots in business? Their responses boil down to three key ways customers can make a difference.
Spread the word
Small businesses don’t have the huge marketing budgets that large corporations do. They live and die by word of mouth.
“If we mention our sale, it will fall on the same ears over and over again. If anyone else mentions our sale, it goes much further, ”said Dimitrios Fragiskatos, owner of Anyone Comics .
Posting to social media or messaging friends and family is a free way to help your favorite local places generate whatever income you can. Jeff Ayers, manager of Forbidden Planet , saw massive support when he decided to launch GoFundMe in late April.
“All you have to do is look at the comments section on GoFundMe and it’ll break your heart,” he said.
After all, businesses need to make money, and the only way to do that is through customer purchases. Siobhan Benson, owner of CutLoose BK , sold gift cards and hair products online to catch up. Her salon has been closed since March and her income has plummeted.
“We doubled our business from year one to year two. And then this year we were determined to double the business again, ”she said. “Now I’m like that, oh I don’t know, we need to look.”
Mikaella Blissett Williams, owner of the 718 , finds herself in an equally dire situation. She said her online sales don’t even account for 5% of the money her salon usually brings in, and the savings that the business had is quickly dwindling.
“If we don’t open up, our money may run out. And we, as a company, had some kind of safety net, but it really couldn’t take us more than 60 days. And we’ve already gone through that now, ”she said.
Laura Cox, owner of Acupuncture & Wellness in Wisconsin , just wants her patients to feel safe and comfortable when she reopens. One of her biggest expenses is buying everything she needs to safely open and start admitting patients. Most of her patients are immunocompromised, and their safety is her biggest concern.
“Just be patient with us as we adapt to the situation too,” she said.
Many companies have had to adapt quickly, which hasn’t always been easy. Delivery may take longer than usual, costs may increase and services may be limited. And like Cox, as businesses reopen, many will focus on the health and safety of their employees and customers. This can lead to the adoption of security measures such as mandatory wearing of masks or limiting the number of visitors. Cox hopes people will respect these rules as businesses try to figure out how to reopen.
“Just check out the companies and people that do the business you like. And find out where they stand to benefit most, ”she said.