Like many small business owners, I am working very hard to keep my business viable during this pandemic. I do not want a business that has taken me ten years to build to disappear due to Covid19, however, with the current restrictions it is really tough as the services I provide are usually face to face. I am a First Aid instructor, Birth Doula and Baby Massage instructor. Out of all these services, the only one I have been able to convert to completely online have been my Baby Massage courses. Which has meant my income has diminished to a third of my earning potential.
There is no doubt that being forced to take a face to face business online has led to immense creativity and I have personally seen some wonderful examples, my youngest daughter’s dance school being one of them. However, how viable is it to have classes online long term, when part of doing extracurricular classes for children is the social interaction?
In the first three months of lockdown such online services were working as everyone was inside with nothing to do- demand was high. But now that restrictions have started to lift and people are able to resume outdoor activities many do not want to be cooped up inside anymore, so naturally demand for online services (especially those served face to face) are naturally dropping. In the first 3 months of lockdown, I exercised with a personal trainer religiously. But one day I woke up and completely lost my mojo, because it felt like such an isolated activity and what I was missing was the vibrancy and motivation I felt from going to the gym.
Many businesses have had to go to great expense to get their premises and staff Covid19 ready, ensuring social distancing, PPE and extra sanitising. This, not surprisingly, has been at a financial cost which ultimately has led to increased prices and judging by comments on social media lately this is much to the displeasure of many customers.
A prime example is the Hairdressing Industry. Salons are forced to limit customer numbers due to social distancing guidelines which also means that staff numbers also must be limited. My eldest daughter, for example, is an advanced hair stylist and is currently working two days on, two days off. The salon has had to split their staff into two teams which work shifts in order to keep the salon going whilst keeping everyone safe while they do so. Basically, this means everyone is working less hours- less hours, less pay!
How can salons and such businesses survive in this current climate if they do not put their prices up? I am sure no-one wants their favourite Salon or the like to close.
What prompted me to write this is not only because of my personal experience as a small business owner but also seeing so many fantastic businesses close. A very popular children’s café in my area has closed as the main bulk of their business was running various classes for adults and young children and hosting birthday parties. It just was not sustainable for them to keep open and pay rent for the space when unable to host the number of children required to stay viable due to social distancing measures.
So what can we do?
How can you help your favourite small business survive this pandemic?
I think it is key to remember that behind every small business is a person, and often that person is supporting staff. Many have families like you- home schooling issues, mortgages/rent, mouths to feed. I suspect if you book their services then they are very nice people or else you would not have chosen to buy their specific services. They have probably taken some of their businesses online and therefore have given you a big discount? If their service must be face to face, they may have had to reduce their numbers due to social distancing, has this been cost effective for them?
Here are three simple steps that I try to adhere to - Maybe you could too?
(1) If you book, commit to that booking.
Do not ask for a refund just because you have changed your mind. Try not to miss sessions or ask to transfer to later ones without notice, as I guarantee you that the nice person behind that business will do anything to accommodate you, often at their own cost.
(2) If you are happy with their service please recommend them.
Do not underestimate the power of ‘word of mouth’. Recommend on social media; tag them in a post and follow them. This will be appreciated more than you know.
(3) If you are a small business owner, support other small businesses.
Recommend them, use them, tag them, and if you can advertise them.
We are in this together!
If you use a small business that you love, do all that you can to support them.
Once they are gone, they are gone!!