One Year Later

How the Pandemic Made Us Pivot A

How the Pandemic Made Us Pivot

This month marks one year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not an anniversary to celebrate per se, but it is a wonderful opportunity to applaud the creative solutions our local business owners, many of whom are our friends and neighbors, have devised in an effort to keep their livelihoods alive. 

Denise Coleman | owner, Black Cat Wax, Gainesville

Tell us about your business and how it was impacted by the pandemic.

I own Black Cat Wax, a full body waxing studio for women and men. I’m also the mother of a nine-year-old boy. Balancing work life and home life during the pandemic was incredibly difficult. At the end of March, I had to close my doors for about six weeks per the Governor’s order. In between relocating from Manassas to Gainesville in early April, I spent most of my time during quarantine keeping in contact with my guests while homeschooling my son. 

It was so tough on the personal services industry. What changes did you have to make?

Sanitation has always been paramount for me as an esthetician so when it came to disinfectants and proper cleaning protocol, I was ready! Eventually, those disinfectants became in short supply as their demand increased which posed quite a problem. Additionally, I was not able to provide all of the waxing services I offer, such as lip and chin, as my guests had to leave their masks on at all times. I also had to structure the timing of my appointments differently to limit the number of people in my room.

So you had the double whammy of trying to work while homeschooling your son. What has that been like for you?

As a single parent, my son relies on me for everything. Consequently, I had to severely cut my working hours so I could be home to assist him with virtual learning. This has been a struggle at times and quite an adjustment. But keeping him safe and healthy is my number one priority.

Despite how difficult the past year has been, are there things you’ve learned that you feel will help you now and in the future? 

As difficult as this past year has been, I feel that I have come out of it more confident and self-assured. Because I am a solopreneur, I struggled with the idea that I was a “real” business owner. But seeing so many different businesses struggle just as much if not more than I did taught me that we were all in the trenches together just trying to stay afloat. I also learned how amazing this community is about supporting small businesses. So many new guests have come to me because they wanted to uplift our local economy and shop small. It’s a beautiful thing and I’m so thankful for it.

Ashley Gray owner, Ash Salon and Spa, Haymarket

Oh wow, a hair salon. How did you hang on? 

Yes, I own a hair salon and spa so obviously my personal services business was directly affected. We were mandated to shut down for ten weeks and ever since we have reopened, we have had to adhere to strict guidelines from the CDC to keep our guests and our staff safe. Covid hit our industry hard, but I am happy to report we stayed afloat and in a way, clients appreciate their hair and skin more now than ever. I can’t tell you how many women have said, “You are essential!”  

Tell us about the modifications you’ve had to make. 

We have had to undergo several changes and alter our whole cozy/close “barbershop” vibe that clients really did love. We space out every other chair but on the occasion we do need to sit beside each other, we use mobile protective screens in between stations. We also rearranged the salon to make room for two new stations so we’d have more space between stylists. We had our staff adjust their schedules to avoid overcrowding the salon. We were always super clean, but now we’ve taken it to a whole new level (and our cleaning supplies costs rose significantly!). Upon entering, every guest is asked to fill out a Covid waiver to ensure no careless behavior and we also provide our guests with masks. Another thing that’s changed is we now have clients call before they come in rather than overcrowding the waiting area. 

Do you have children you needed to homeschool while trying to keep your business afloat? 

I had my first child in January, so I didn’t have that challenge but several of my stylists did and my heart goes out to them! It’s hard enough being a working mom, but to then add “teacher” to your plate… I can’t imagine. 

 Despite everything, are there things you learned that you feel will help you now and in the future? 

Absolutely. We all had such a challenging year but I think we all took the time to reflect and realize what’s important. Relationships are so important, especially in our business. We have some really close bonds with our guests and it was challenging not being able to see them and then when we could, to not be able to hug them. It made us value that bond so much more. Overall, my team really grew and got stronger because we gave a hundred percent to get through and survive this together. 

Kim Johnson owner, Evermore Fitness, Haymarket  

Tell us about your business and how it was impacted by the pandemic.

I own an in-home post physical therapy/fitness training company. We specialize in geriatric, Parkinson’s Disease, spinal injury, and overall health, fitness, and wellbeing for seniors. Initially, the pandemic impacted us by drastically reducing business because the majority of our clients are high-risk individuals who had to quarantine.   

What changes did you have to make to keep your business going?

We’ve taken steadfast precautions with personal protective equipment and are hyper-vigilant about social distancing so that in-home training can begin to be reinstated. At this point, seventy-five percent of our clients are virtual. While business dramatically decreased, creative options to continue training have been a result. Unprecedented times require unprecedented innovation. I call this my “Covid-19 silver lining.”  

Despite how difficult the past year has been, are there things you’ve learned that you feel will help you now and in the future?

Absolutely. It’s crucial to have faith, inner strength, and an open mind in order to persevere. 

Nancy Powell | principal designer, Powell Brower Interiors 

Tell us about your business and how it was impacted by the pandemic.

We have a full-service turnkey interior design firm that normally is hands-on every step of the way. Often we design spaces for our clients that are not lived into the fullest but this is no longer the case. Since the pandemic, clients want more functionality in their homes and more beautiful rooms to reside in, since they’ve never spent so much time staring at their walls!  Since more people are working from home and homeschooling, we’ve been turning living rooms into home offices and designing beautiful, well-thought-out workspaces that are multi-functional. 

What changes have you had to make over the past year? 

We have adapted our process to provide more Zoom presentations and porch drop-offs of swatches and samples. This has not hindered us much and our clients appreciate that we keep projects moving along. Our work crews have not missed a day and are as busy as ever. It’s the supply chain that’s been the most difficult. Stocking and shipping delays along with rising costs of materials is the Covid norm, unfortunately. I have a client who ordered new chairs in May of last year that still haven’t arrived. Extra doses of patience are required at this time. 

Despite how difficult the past year has been, are there things you’ve learned that you feel will help you now and in the future? 

Most certainly this has been a learning year for all of us. We are more grateful for our business and for the opportunity to work with wonderful people, and continue to put customer care and satisfaction above all else. It has taught us to take time to appreciate even the smallest things, nurture relationships, and take better care of ourselves. 

Lesley Salman | principal broker/owner, Salman Home Realty 

Tell us about your business. How it was impacted by the pandemic?

I own a real estate company and a property management company. Due to the low inventory, both businesses have been very steady.  

Showing homes had to be tough. What changes did you have to make to keep your business open?

We have taken more phone appointments and made showing homes Covid compliant.  

Do you have children who need to be homeschooled? If so, what has that been like for you?

I put my son in a daycare facility that has allowed him to flourish and me to work the hours I need to. 

 Despite how difficult the past year has been, are there things you’ve learned that you feel will help you now and in the future? 

Yes. I’ve learned so much about myself. I’ve completely changed the way I view the world, myself and others. I’m so much more in tune with my core values and have totally rearranged my life. I have started painting, meditating, and doing yoga. I’ve healed relationships with my children and parents, changed how I parent, and have deeper and more meaningful relationships with almost everyone I know. Now I look for ways to serve others and today my life is filled with passion and meaning. 

Susan McCorkindale
About Susan McCorkindale 19 Articles
Susan McCorkindale is a mom, autism and mental health advocate, and the editor of Haymarket Lifestyle and Gainesville Lifestyle magazines. She is also the author of two books, "Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl" and "500 Acres and No Place to Hide, More Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl". When not editing, writing, or reading, she enjoys painting furniture and sampling new Chardonnays. Just not at the same time.

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