Small Business & the Pandemic


Image by Tayeb MEZAHDIA from Pixabay

Jori Lacy, Staff Writer

As we all know, Covid-19 struck the U.S. and just about everywhere else this year. What was thought to be a small dilemma that would be over in about a month, proved to be a big deal that would go down in history as a tragedy that stopped the world in its tracks. As a student, I was relieved when schools were closed but did not foresee it persisting until it impacted my summer, senior year, and growing photography business.

As a junior, I realized it was crunch-time for my future: “Everything I do now will either help or delay me in the end,” I’d say to myself.  As I’d think of my senior year and all that it would potentially include, I realized all had one thing in common, money:  Prom, application fees, activities, the horror stories I’ve heard about student debt, and just the growing strive to live a comfortable life. With all of this on my mind nonstop, I pitched myself the idea to grow as a photographer and work as much as I could all throughout the summer. With AAU basketball, track,  as well as prom and graduation season right around the corner, I thought for sure everything would fall into place. Little did I know, all would be canceled or limited along with my part-time job shut down for the summer. The amount of potential clients were cut in half or more. And not just for myself, Economic strain shook the US. I’m sure big-business and the corporate world suffered some as well, but the effect on new and small businesses had to be substantial. CNBC describes small business owners as being in “survival mode.” 

A good chunk of small shops closed temporarily during the lockdown and never opened again, as they could not economically recover. However, another portion of businesses did better than ever despite or even because of the lockdowns. Deciding to further inquire, and interview owners of local small businesses, I received mixed news. 

“My brand 23kVisuals, a social media platform highlighting athletes in Illinois mainly football players through videography started in 2019 a year prior to the pandemic and up until March when it had grown 3000 followers . Since then I’ve only gained 1000 more followers. You would think with everyone being at home and on their devices it would be a good thing, but with me being a business dependent on sports in a time when there are no sports it definitely had a negative affect on my brand. The good that came out of it was that with sports being cancelled in our state there were a lot of teams and organizations going to other states to play sports and have these events. So when the world began to open back up a little I got a lot of calls to travel to different states and film. The bad was not having the financial support of my business for long periods of times because of the lack of work and  also having very limited content and not being able to give a lot of kids in our area that opportunity to showcase their talents to everyone during this time because of restrictions by our state on sports.” -Blake Lee @23k.visuals, videographer/photographer

“I feel like the pandemic helped a lot due to the fact that people were home shopping out of boredom which gave me more visibility but what helped most is the BLM protests that pushed people to support more Black-owned businesses. Those two factors really made it easier to grow compared to pre-COVID times. The good was I had a lot of time to work on my brand and decide what I wanted to do and experiment without much commitment but at the same time because people were on their phones constantly it was more pressure to keep putting out content to keep their attention which is hard when everything is coming out of pocket and you don’t have a big audience.” -Elizabeth, owner of @arcane.angl, fashion designer

“The pandemic affected me in a good way with my business because a lot of people were supporting small businesses & on top of that Black businesses! I also had no choice but to do all the research & idea-making during this time since I had so much time! However, I felt limited as I had second thoughts of if people have the extra money while the pandemic is going on to buy clothes & also the manufactures had less clothing in stock than before the pandemic.” -Aareyon Munir-Jones, owner of @ballndabrand, clothing designer

As you can see, there were ups and downs to the halting of normal life. All interviewed shared like yet still different perspectives. Personally, as a photographer and model, I had a lot of time to assess, create, and learn. I’m coming out of this pandemic new and improved with a better business understanding and tactics. However, I do feel majorly setback as I did not get to work and move around as much as I planned. No money to upgrade equipment, slow growing clientele, not many events able to happen. My usual revenue definitely decreased, and I was forced to reassess everything that I had already planned and find new routes.

I wanted to go into 2021 with my business already thriving as I know many did and that just wasn’t ideal within the circumstances. Major bummer. Yet still, I think it’s safe to say small business owners gained a new pair of lenses this year, learning to navigate through the obstacles, some with the best yet to come. Stay tuned and look out for them.

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