7 months into the pandemic, small business owners don't know how much longer they can hold on: 'We are in survival mode.' (via CNBCMakeIt)
Small business owners across the country have had to pivot and adapt to keep their companies alive in a new world in which none of the old rules apply. Challenges abound.
Source: Patrice GrahamWelcome to theCovid Economy, CNBC Make It's deep dive into how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting all areas of our lives, fromfoodto housing, health care to small business. We're focusing on North Carolina, a swing state that has seen rapid economic growth — and growing inequality — since the last recession to learn how residents are weathering the economic consequences of this once-in-a-lifetime health crisis.
When Patrice Graham openedColors of Yoga Raleighthree years ago, it became the city's only Black-owned yoga studio, an inclusive space for people of color and the LGBTQIA+ community to feel comfortable and confident practicing.Though her space was intimate, and she kept class sizes to 12 or under, it was plenty big enough to serve people who often felt unwelcome in other yoga studios. Graham is proud of the community she helped foster; members would stay for an hour, sometimes two, after classes to sip tea and talk.
Now, the doors of Graham's colorful studio are closed for good. Seven months into the coronavirus pandemic, she has transitioned all of her classes online, and she gave up the lease on the studio. Though many of her core members are still taking virtual classes, they don't tend to stick around after class anymore. No one wants to
spend another hour on Zoom.Patrice Graham owns Colors of Yoga Raleigh in North Carolina. "I'm worried every single day," she says.Source: Patrice Graham"I'm worried every single day," Graham says. "No matter what I do, I'm going to be anxious and worried about if the yoga studio will survive."
Like other small business owners in North Carolina and across the country, Graham has had to pivot to keep her business alive in a new world in which none of the old rules apply. In March, small business owners braced for what seemed like a few weeks of financial pain. But as the coronavirus pandemic — now in its seventh month — drags on, many small businesses are still operating at limited capacity or have shuttered completely.
These entrepreneurs face not only the quotidian stresses of living through a global pandemic, they also are grappling with ever-changing health and safety standards, managingpotentially hostile customersand spending money to restructure their physical stores to be Covid-compliant, all while bringing in significantly less revenue.
All of this has taken a toll: Almost 100,000 small businesses in the U.S. have closed permanently since the pandemic began, according to arecent Yelp analysis."There's so much uncertainty, therapy should be free right now," says Graham. "No one can get any kind of grounding. There's so much going on, so much changing."
Small business owners create their own pandemic guidelinesIt doesn't help that state reopening plans keep changing or getting pushed back with little to no notice, says Joy Currey, executive director ofCorral Riding, a nonprofit outside of Raleigh that works with high-risk girls involved in the juvenile justice system.
A general lack of any guidance from the government on how to keep businesses afloat and clients and employees safe is also frustrating, she says.Corral Riding had its biggest fundraising night of the year planned in the spring, but the dinner, like most other in-person events for the past seven months, was canceled. Still, the nonprofit has actually increased its services during Covid-19, offering a place for 15 teenage girls to do their virtual schooling every day. Currey and her coworkers have had to not only figure out how to provide a safe environment for their charges, but to do so while creating a whole new fundraising strategy and caring for their own families.
It should not be a decision of a small business owner of how to protect people from a worldwide pandemic.Joy Curreyexecutive director of Corral Riding"It should not be a decision of a small business owner of how to protect people from a worldwide pandemic," Currey says. "That was absolutely a failure of our government … we wasted a lot of time coming up with guidelines and safety protocols. That's an inefficient use of a small business's time."
There are approximately 935,000 small businesses in North Carolina, according to the Small Business Administration, accounting for 99.6% of all state businesses and employing 45.3% of the private workforce. Helping them stay afloat is an economic imperative, says Kevin Dick, president and CEO of Carolina Small Business.
Not only do these businesses provide local tax revenue and jobs, they're also critical to the vibrancy and livability of their communities. Losing them would not only hurt owners and employees but would send economic shock waves through entire communities.
Lauren Clements, managing director of Corral Riding's Neuse River Campus, works with a high-risk teenager.Source: Corral Riding"These are places that people gather, they define the character of corridors and communities," Dick says. "Losing small businesses can take the flavor out of what makes the city attractive."
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