March 17, 2020

I’m a Small Business Owner: COVID-19 is Destroying my Livelihood.

Relephant Read: The Coronavirus is already feeding these Bad Things. Let’s use it for Good. ~ Waylon 

While we are shouting at others to “stay home,” please consider those who do not have salaries or corporations to rely on at this time: business owners, freelancers, hairdressers, fitness professionals, therapists, massage therapists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, and on and on.

I, too, am in favor of staying home and socially distancing and isolating. It made me angry to see foot and vehicular travel fundamentally unchanged today in my city. We have clear public health mandates to the contrary. So I’m with you, I support you.

But the reality is: I also worked for 12 hours today and earned $0. Zero.

I paid staff. I paid rent. I paid corporate rent. I paid for food. I paid for my car and gas. I paid for child-related expenses that are cancelled.

I am a single parent. I do not get child support. My household income is my lone responsibility.

And in two weeks, both my personal and corporate rent are due.

I am a movement specialist and have almost no clients remaining.

Because: stay home.

The answer to this is to pivot. To go online. I’ve been working my ass off with all the work ethic and optimism and mindset I can muster.

I currently have six online offerings available. And I also have close to $0 revenue for all my hustle and heart on those.

Half of them have been in progress for months, so they are not a panicked pivot, but have instead been part of the long-term plan all along.

But at the present moment, my long-term planning on these matters makes no difference.

It’s hard to even communicate the level of panic when there’s not one dollar to support this “stay home” mandate for small businesses and no clear plan in sight for one coming.

“Stay home!”

Yes, I agree. But at some point, please consider that this is also a personal economic freight train disaster for many, many families and businesses, such as:

Those of us who do not have aid packages coming in, because we are either contractors or self-employed and do not get included in government aid.

Those of us who are not quarantined are deemed as “still able to work” and therefore are not included in aid packages or unemployment programs.

Those single parents who don’t get support, or those who have just lost it (my friend’s reality today because her ex now has no income), and those who are vulnerable as all hell with one income and no net to catch a fall.

So, while we are collectively screaming at people to #staythefuckhome, consider what your life might be like if you suddenly had no income this week, if you still put in a full week of overtime work, and if none of your expenses have changed.

This is the situation most business owners are in including many contractors and many service providers.

Earlier this week, I saw social media trains tagging small businesses. Hundreds of people on social media “supporting” small businesses.

Let’s not beat around the bush here. Social media tags are not enough anymore.

When we say “support your small business,” it means not taking the free yoga class online, but instead paying for it—because your $25 makes a difference.

If you are still getting paid by your company right now, please pay your yoga teacher for their expertise.

When we say “support your small business,” it means we are laying in bed sleepless at night not knowing how to pay the landlord for rent for the next three months. We can probably pay April’s rent (maybe) but this situation isn’t changing anytime soon, according to all public health data. Imagine if this were you. All of us who care about the public health messages we are reposting on social media must petition for mortgage and rent stays. This needs to happen now.

When we say “support your small business,” it means considering that repetitively shouting “stay home!” is something we probably agree with. Please recognize this is a currently a balance for those of us who are focused on avoiding almost certain impending economic disaster and business failure—while simultaneously trying to heed best practices and public health guidelines.

For some, it’s almost impossible to do both. Shouting louder doesn’t make this conundrum easier. How would you balance social responsibility versus personal responsibility? Can we show compassion for this dilemma? Can we currently support a small business in a way that’s different than simply sharing the same messages on social media over and over? For those of us in this position, we 100 percent actually already know about the need to stay home, so we need more help and different support and action to truly do so.

When we say “support your small business,” it means put yourself in our shoes. What would help you? Please: do that for someone else. What would you want done for you? Please: do it. Actions matter over words when it comes to support.

When we say “support your small business,” we need money to pay rent and staff and expenses, not social media tags. Those are nice and thank you. Now please also call the government and rally for us. Help us with your dollars and time, not just your @ signs.

(Hell, share some of your TP or food hoard).

If your public health message matters, this underlying issue must be solved—for everyone’s sake.


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