Coronavirus was declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020. Since then, it has spread quickly, causing thousands of deaths globally.
The virus has also resulted in a brutal decline in economic activity that is hitting many Black owned businesses and professionals hard.
In this series, we will be sharing personal stories from Black entrepreneurs and professionals about how they are dealing with this new Coronavirus reality.
What were your initial thoughts when you learned about the outbreak?
When I heard about the outbreak in China, I don’t think I connected it to a future in America. I empathized for the people who passed or were quarantined over there, but, as someone who doesn’t follow news closely, I kind of left it at that. It’s crazy that we watched this virus initially affect just one region in China, and now it’s here in all 50 states and all over the world. I am constantly bouncing between worry for my family and business, and just being in awe over experiencing something on this scale for the first time.
How has it affected your business?
Our storefront is closed, so that feels surreal. We are usually open 7 days a week. Our shop is located right in the heart of Chicago, and in a week, because of the heavy foot traffic, anywhere from 70-80% of our customers are first timers. So, right now, we are doing anything we can to encourage our repeat customers to buy something online and gain new followers who will hopefully buy from the site too.
How has it affected your lifestyle?
We have 2 young children, and we are all home together, so there’s a lot going on right now! My husband and I are just trying to keep the kids healthy, fed, and entertained. They require a lot of attention, and we are giving it to them. As the weeks go on, we will see what kind of small business relief we are able to get. Only time will tell how this thing will affect our business and our lifestyle as a whole.
What new strategies have you implemented or do you plan to implement in your business?
We usually have a weekly story time and a variety of other classes and events in the shop. Right now, we are experimenting with offering some of them online. It’s very hard, however, to be productive with a 2- and 4-year old at home. We are also offering free shipping right now, and we may step up the ads on Instagram and Facebook.
If you had one ask of your community right now, what would it be?
Spread love and shop small! Our network of families love us because of our events and things we do to bring the community together, but those things can’t happen right now. In order to keep our doors open, we need our supporters to buy a gift card, book, t-shirt, or a toy, so that when this is over, we have somewhere to get together again.
-Tony O. Lawson