Of all the possible areas to focus on during the pandemic and recession, why is so much emphasis on small businesses? Things like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), loan advances, debt relief, and more are all aimed at small business. It is because the financial services industry, as well as economists and government agencies, understands that helping small businesses endure is absolutely essential for allowing our economy to recover.
Small businesses are the backbone of America. They account for 99.7% of US employer firms, 49% of private sector employment, 43% of high-tech employment, and the list goes on. In a recent volume of our Financial Services COVID-19 Market Research Perspectives, we focused on small businesses. We took a closer look at how small businesses are being impacted by COVID-19, including my specialty: the qualitative human perspective. I’d like you to meet the owners of four small businesses from across the country, and see how they’ve been affected by, and pivoted during, the pandemic.
Meet Rebecca Hall and Laura Macris, Owners of Crush Boutique in Boston, Massachusetts
“We are childhood friends who always dreamed of owning our own boutique and eventually opened Crush here in Boston in 2007.
COVID was a big blow to our daily business, and we’ve had to scramble to establish things like ecommerce and virtual personal styling. We’ve also had to initiate more sales than usual in order to maintain some liquidity—and really, this process means month-by-month hybridization. For safety, our stores have incorporated mandatory sanitizer and masks along with a six-person limit and checkout shields.
We applied for and got the PPP loan, but it was a rat race, and since the interest rate was so low, banks dragged their feet on granting them. We also applied for a PPE loan through the city to help cover the costs of our safety materials.
Going forward, ecommerce will certainly continue for small retail, and we don’t expect a return to normal until a vaccine is available.”
Meet Michael Chambers, Owner of M|C Law in Hartford, Connecticut
“My utmost priority is to support and represent the community located in the Greater Hartford area. No case is too big or too small for our office, and we will not stop working until we are satisfied that we have done absolutely everything in our power to bring resolution to a case.
I had a client who needed me for an arraignment. I admit, I had concerns about COVID. So, I put on my mask and gloves, and headed into the court. For me, this is just going to be one day for a few hours, and it’s stressful. For thousands on the front lines, this is their daily routine.
Financially? Lord knows we pay enough taxes, so if a small business needs PPP, then by all means do so. Who could have imagined? A lot of people had their business model shattered overnight. I don’t envy any of them. Fortunately, although my business slowed, I always try not to overextend myself, and have instead further pared back (e.g., subcontractors on a bi-file basis rather than hourly staff).”
Meet Nicole Mehelich, Owner of Nicole Mehelich Photography in the Metro Detroit area
“I photograph portraits and real estate. I am also an FAA-licensed remote pilot, which allows me to fly a drone commercially for my photography.
Typically, I photograph 1–2 large corporate headshot sessions each month, as well as individual headshots …. I also photograph families, high school seniors, women … and babies. Since mid-March, I have been unable to do any portrait photography. The governor opened up some of the limitations to be able to photograph people outside … but it will probably be quite a while before I’m back to my normal volume.
The real estate market was allowed back to work beginning on May 7. So, I have been able to make up a lot of my lost portrait income by doing more aerial photography work for realtors. I will be focusing much more this year on services that I can offer with appropriate distancing, such as real estate photography, aerial photography/videography, and portraits taken outdoors.”
Meet Pierre Mikha, Owner of New Inception Mortgage in Sterling Heights, Michigan
“2020 has been an interesting year! Our business has been growing and being more active on both purchase and refinance loans. I noticed that as the COVID-19 pandemic started to spread and businesses started to furlough employees and/or temporarily shut down to comply with Governor Whitmer’s requests, that mortgage lenders started to tighten up their lending requirements so as to not have a repeat of 2008’s market fiasco. And there are also many investor requests on helping with payment deferment.
With the interest rates being this low, lenders are starting to relax on the guidelines and are slowly reverting back to requirements that were in place prior to the pandemic as businesses are opening back up. It is unfortunate that there is such a large unemployment rate at the moment, and we are hoping to have everyone bounce back as soon as possible.”
I take heart as I interview people through my role as a qualitative researcher, and I get to hear so many stories of small businesses’ ingenuity and ability to pivot for survival in these tumultuous times. Not all will. But, while the news media reports one dismal statistic after another, the more granular human narrative tells of resilient people who are just waiting for the chance to “bounce back as soon as possible.”
For all of the latest COVID-19 insights from our financial services team, click below to read all of our Financial Services COVID-19 Market Research Perspectives.