COVID-19 Diaries: The Struggles of Small Business
It's. Been it's been tough like it's. A lot of ups ups and downs. Want, to get back to business I want to open I wanna create some kind of revenue so that we can start calling people back to work a. Lot. Of people just yelling. And berating, and swearing. At us because. We're, trying to. Follow. The rules we're, trying to keep our employees safe. We. Started bottling, all, our beverages so we have growlers, bottles. Of all sizes, spam. Yeast, just like really, random things almost yeah just really surprised, that number. People have been ordering dog mannequins, quite frankly our dog mannequins, have increased in sales I. Never. Thought in a million years that I would be, delivering. Food and, you, know creating, my, own produce, bag, I just never thought it would happen. Usually. By the. End of the day here, at Pete's hardware, we're, exhausted, a lot, of people just yelling, and berating, and swearing. At us because. We're, trying to. Follow. The rules we're, trying to keep our employees safe, as well, as the. Shopping, experience, for the customers, to be safe I'm, Linda, Roark I'm the, owner of Pete's, hardware in Castro, Valley Pete's. Hardware's, been in my family now since, in 1926. Every, morning, as we get there there are people that are waiting to come in all, of us are very concerned. About, the. Health risk we take every, day and, and. It is really. Rather scary, my, son and daughter-in-law are expecting. A baby, in three. Weeks and it's. Very sad for me to know that I'm, not going to be able to, go. Near that baby. Until. Like. All this is over because I can't quarantine. Myself. We started, strictly. Enforcing, what the CDC, as well as the Health Department for Alameda, County, was, asking. Businesses, to, do we, have people who have threatened. Us we've, had to ask the sheriff's, to come by and do security, checks, we. Have, people. Who have said, I'm going to call my attorney what, actually, did only, to find out that he did have to have a face covering, on to come into a store, I think, by now most of the people realize. That, they have you, know they can wear a bandana, they can wear a cloth mask they. Can, wear. A mask, without a valve, they're kind of settling.
Into, What, the. Regulation. Is we, have the people that thanked us and that. Just, really helps. So, much to keep us going one, customer, stopped, by this store, with. Little, mini Frosty's, for, every, employee, because. She had been in the store, and. Listening. To others. Yelling. At. Employees. And, she felt so bad close, to Easter, we. Had a customer. Wearing a face mask of, an Easter Bunny and, it just it just brought us in giggle for all of us everybody, who, is out there, trying. To keep everybody's. Life's going, as normal. As possible are, really, heroes, we. Kind of forget about the retailer's, forget. About the truck drivers, forget. About the warehouse people. Be, nice to, the people who, are remaining, open they're, risking, their health, by. Being there and exposed, to the number of people that they're. In contact with, every, day I had, one man running me and right before closing, one, evening, and he. Suddenly had no power in this house and, he had been fiddling, around trying, to fix it you. Know you have to be there for that and so, we, will be. It actually started sailing years ago in, a prompt didn't, want to go work, for somebody else and I. Have been doing catering for 25, years so, I decided. To start. My own company this is Lena Mills and I'm the owner of creative, ideas catering, in San Francisco, two years ago our, kitchen, just became too, tight for us and we started like tuna, business, I mean we were making money we, were you know we were going somewhere I mean so much so that when. I was able to put. All my financials, in place I was able to buy this building that. I didn't, even know I could you know it, was gonna be a very. Look. Like a very successful year. March. 8th. Or something like that we. Started our regular day doing, deliveries and, we. Started getting calls oh I. Need. To cancel my delivery, for today I'm like oh we're already on the way and they're like it's okay you know they usually, people, know that when they cancel a strainer or the, same day you, know they paid full. Price right and so. We. Started getting and cancellations, like that Monday and I was like oh something.
It's It's. About to happen within, a day, our. A, cancellations. Started to come in up to like June I talked. To my husband he is in charge in in the kitchen and I and I told them that we, needed to close it was like why you. Know it's like you know all the cancellations, came through we had really nothing. Absolutely. Anything in the books right now so. That Friday we, cleaned out the fridges. We cleaned out all the fresh. Pradas and all this stuff decade go back you know cuz we didn't know when we were gonna be able to come back and I, just saw everybody you know we don't, know what's gonna happen. I. Did. A GoFundMe. For. Employees. I also, had some donations. Probably. From, you, know my family. Or my friends so I'd been putting all that into, that that fund and that's, how we buy the groceries. We. Won't be, able to make the. Money we were making before but, that's okay as long as we, we. Can hire some. Of the stuff, back and you. Know be, able to keep, going I just trying, to survive you know I've been trying to. Help. Others as much as I can every Monday I go. To the women's, building on 18th, I hope out with the food. Bank and then, the. Other thing that I do is, give advice to other. Entrepreneurs, that are studying in and and. Like I said I was doing this business, course and. There's. Some. Of them that had, not started business, yet but. I I. Think that this is the perfect time for them to finish their business friend, this is gonna won't go away it has to we. Can't we can't leave like this forever so it. Will pass. The. First thing that we did was that within a week of shelter-in-place we decided, that we, weren't gonna have customers, come inside anymore and, in. That first week we we quickly changed to being, like a little. Grocery. Store of offering, groceries. And produce and. Other things that people need like toilet paper spam, yeast, just like really, random things almost we, started bottling. All, our beverages, so we have growlers, bottles. Of all sizes we're. Doing pizza as well you, know what we sell just kind of, changes. Weekly. My. Name is Frank wing I am the owner of academic. Coffee everyone. Is still, with us, we did have one person who, moved. I think we were pretty. Steady, for. A while after we made all those changes this. Past week though. Was probably, our low. Point, since. Shelter-in-place, I'm, not sure what it might have changed this past week you. Know what one thing I think about is like you, know fatigue, it could be, confusion. This this week was technically, the first week, Santa. Clara County required, people. To wear masks and we put up a sign that said, you. Know no mask no service and we've seen like a 20 percent dip since, we put up that sign, the. State entered phase phase 2, where. Some, retail can open in a limited capacity however. In the Bay Area you have six. Counties, that, are falling. Stricter, a. Stricter. Shelter in place order where that. Doesn't apply and. That's. Perfectly, fine but. I think there could have been like, more. Coordinating. Better, messaging, around all of that because it was very confusing, but.
When You hear the news it's. Like okay, I got a filter a state, message, the county message, the. News is reporting on every city but, you know what what applies once it doesn't apply to my city so. Then, you have like an overload of information and. As a small business you're like. Damn. Uh I, got a store through all of this now, the, truth is like we can't be in a rush to, reopen. Because, you, know we're we're talking about public. Safety even, if we were to reopen, today I. Probably. Would, still continue operating. The same, way that I am now I'm just doing a window, takeout service, because. I'm still worried about safety, but, you know I'm trying come up with new ideas like how. Can we deliver. Without. Using a third-party delivery, service that's going to take a huge percentage. How. Can we potentially, ship things how can we. Potentially. Reduce costs, without compromising. Quality. What. Kind of new products, can we do in a cafe environment you know I'm probably going through the, same thing that most people are going through we're where. You start to blend the days in from one, day to the next. I'm just lucky I've got Kathy, and Finley with me I think. I think seeing them every day kind, of resets. My mind a little bit I think. I think it gives me energy to because. You know I have this baby I have to take care of this baby you know we're too small to fail we can't we can't fail because, because. You. Know there's no other alternative right, you know we just have to make it work that's just all there is. Welcome. To manikin magnets, where, our mannequins, practice, social distancing. Mannequins. As far as you can see I'm, Judy, Townsend, the owner of mannequin, madness we, sell, used. Mannequins, that we've recycled, from department, stores we, also are an art space where, we have classes. Where people can take where we use a mannequin, head as a canvas. To create a floral, headdress, we, have a photo studio where, people can take photos of their clothes that they're selling online using. Our mannequins, that we have here we're, not really an essential business you know even if you have a fashion emergency death, I consider in an essential, business.
You, Know devastating. We're a small group I said only four people and we only work a few days a week and part. Time because, people had other gigs but most of those gigs were impacted. As well I still, have ran on a three thousand square foot warehouse virtually, my my landlord, has been very accommodating as, willing to let me pay half, the price but that is something that's gonna have to be made up at some particular point, we. Have, able to obviously cut down on our utilities, because we're hardly here we've, ceased our waste management, costs but I still have costs like my, workmen's compensation my. Liability. Insurance all. Of those the cost are still ongoing still, have to have the phone service so. While some, things have definitely decreased. Most. Things still continue, still, have to store by mannequins. Man. We have just really surprised, that number. People have been ordering dog, mannequins, quite frankly our dog mannequins, have increased in sales but, really the art projects, where people have called in to ask if we're still open if they could come by and pick up something because they're just going stir-crazy we're, showcasing, on our social media the, creative things that people do with man and they're doing mosaic, project so, they're doing a decoupage or. They're making lamps, or furniture out of them we have. Something called a dress form Christmas, tree I have been selling more of those tutorials. This, month, and I probably have sold in. A while outside, of December, I'm, really surprised that people are thinking that far ahead or maybe because Christmas, brings you something joyful, and so I'm just really surprised, that they increase the back because I thought people would be a little bit more concerned about just, bread-and-butter. Issues you know he said we're not an essential business but art, is essential, you know try to be at home with no music, no don't. TV no books all of those are artistic pursuits, and so, it's just as essential as buying, toilet paper. We. Think people are going to want to take pictures, of their dogs to. Thank their dogs for being such great partners during, this time and we have so many unusual props, that really make great Instagram, moments. And so many people their dogs have an Instagram account so we thought we've got this great photo studio we've got these wonderful props. We even have dog mannequins. Why not allow people to come in and take pictures with their dogs that. They can put on their social media account we can wear our masks and be very protected, photographer, is gonna be six feet away from taking the picture we're able to come back we're gonna be ready to go with a lot of new initiatives but, when we can pull the trigger with what's making it so so, frustrating, it's. Scary. Most. Of us that I talk to me whether 9/11, we weather the economic downturn, of 2008, this, is a whole new level, so for some of us it's allowed us to pump find other ways to be creative and resourceful but. It still is uncomfortable, and scary. When. The coronavirus, first hit at first I was very very concerned because, since. I work with seniors all of my, programming, has, stopped hi, I'm Brittany Doyle and. I am the founder of wise health, wise, health is a public, health consulting. Company, and we, focus, on developing. Strategies. And, programs, that. Are designed to reach underserved, population. Seniors. Homeless. Low-income. People. In housing developments. People. That are usually very very hard. To reach. So. Our community pop-up, is our signature, program, we go into a site and we bring in free, health services, free healthy foods and, from a free physical activity, and just to engage the seniors in the housing side to get them to come downstairs in, an environment, where they feel safe now, with our. Seniors being sheltered in place and me having so much access to isolated, seniors, it, was very important, that we get food to them but not, just any food but like healthy, quality food, now we have, a mail. Distribution, program. That's called made with love and it's a weekly produce. Program. That goes out to isolated, seniors that are sheltered in place fresh. Organic fruits. Organic, vegetables, health, education, material, brain. Games herbs. It kind of berries every week. You, know it was so funny it was hard for me to get people, to, come and work with seniors like I used to have to pay people and, beg them but then now I have so many volunteers, I don't even know what to do with them so I'm very very grateful for that the.
Seers Are, very. Grateful to receive the. Produce bags when, we pull up they're usually, either sitting by the door or, looking out the window from, any of the seniors this is their only contact, they, may have is the volunteer. Delivery. Drivers that come to their door so, you, know of course they're some, of them are going to be dressed up some of them are going to be ready to talk since. We knew through our community, partnerships that the, senior centers were staying open not. To provide activities and programs but they were staying open to make food I was able to contract, some. Senior centers to deliver. To their singers as well I. Never. Thought in a million years that I would be, delivering. Food, and, you, know creating my, own produce, bag. That, was not I just, never thought, it would happen and so, now. I found something, that I can stand behind that, you, know encompasses. Everything, that myself. Stands for in one, package, so I really, hope that, you. Know moving forward that I'll be able to grow and expand this long, term I would say that I am worried about keeping. My volunteers, motivated. To keep on. Volunteering. I think. Eventually, you, know people will get tired which, is why it's important, for me to secure, funding to keep the project. Going everything. In the bag you know comes from the community the produce everything. That we add to the bag is from small businesses, and so really this is just a community, package, it's, like a gift to the seniors from the community, is really what it is. The. Motion is adopted. The president, signing off on a two trillion, dollar stimulus the. Cares Act the largest emergency, aid package, in American, history, urgently, needed, relief for our nation's businesses, I encourage, all small, businesses, that have 500. Or fewer people take. Out the Paycheck protection. Program. For. A PPP, oh man a lot got a lot of feelings about that I finally, was able to get applications there like on the day that they not funding right now this small business loan program ran out of money earlier, today. The. World many. Bigger companies, have been able to get funding like Ruth's Chris Steakhouse Shake, Shack and, sweet greens without rage growing, they've given the money back it was not shocking. That. Same. Situation. Is something that we see when you know big funding comes to the city it will always go to you. Know the bigger nonprofits. Or the bigger organization. Obviously. It was frustrating for everybody to hear about all these, you. Know major corporations. And publicly traded companies, getting, the funding these companies are getting millions. Of dollars we're not even asking for a. 400,000. You.
Know We just I just wanted the money just to guarantee the. Payroll obviously. The money ran out so we never got anything, tonight's, the race is on for small businesses, to apply for a new round of government, funding US Senate has approved a four hundred and eighty billion, dollar coronavirus. Relief package three hundred and thirty 1 billion dollars, would go to boost, a small business, payroll, loan program, that ran, out of money last week we're certainly hoping the second, round of funding that. Companies like us who provide a, business. That doesn't even exist on, any other place we hope that they will find that we're someone that needs to be funded I have, applied and I am waiting, now I'm feeling more positive because, cuz in the first round I didn't know anybody, that. Had gone the PPP loan at all and then. Now now in the second round, I, actually. Know a handful people that got it so you know I'm feeling more hopeful now I think it's just a matter of time, I'm. Happy to report that we received a payroll protection. Program, loan so. Excited, we didn't make it on the first round but we made it now we, can pay back our rent or our landlord, was very gracious and allowed us to have two, months, where we were able to pay half of the rent so glad to be able to pay that back but, more importantly, I'm able to bring back all my staff members got, a lot of new things to do now they've got lots of mannequin, heads that we're selling for people who are making masks we're, gonna use our photo studio more where people can come in and take a commemorative graduation. Photo wearing. Our floral, crown headdresses, or, they. Can also choose to take a selfie, with former. President, Obama, all, of these are activities that we can do from 6 feet away so, that everybody's, safe, practicing, social distancing, as we get back to normal thanks so much.