October 1, 2020
If you had asked me how business was back in February or even early March, I would have said “fabulous!” And that was being truthful, as we were entering into our best year yet. We had recently downsized from five stores to four, finally being able to close an underperforming store after several years. (That’s actually a great subject for a whole other post!) Our remaining four stores were producing at anticipated levels and our staffing was the best it’s ever been. We projected 2020 to be the year of successes!
The back half of March proved to be one of the scariest times I could have imagined as a small business owner. One by one, our stores in Colorado and Hawaii closed within a matter of one week. We went from four healthy stores in the middle of “Spring Break” high season, to complete closure. That’s zero income, but the bills do not stop. And of course we were not alone. According to PNAS, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, the impact on small businesses like ours was, and still is, devastating. To learn more about The impact of COVID-19 on small business outcomes and expectations, I recommend this article for a deeper understanding of the immediate and lasting impacts.
I can tell you that my husband Steve and I had many conversations in our living room as we were soon in a state mandated lock-down in Hawaii. They went like this… “What are we going to do?”, “How long can we pay the business expenses and our own expenses?”, “How long can we keep our employees on the payroll?”, “Do you think it will be gone by summer?”, “Do you think there will be a resurgence in the Fall/Winter?”, “Will we be closed all year?” “How long can we survive?” Friends, we must have asked and answered these questions a million times over.
When I look back now, I am grateful for many things, but mostly that my husband has kept our business and personal finances solid and encourages our family to always be fiscally responsible. It may seem that we live an extreme life between Colorado and Hawaii, but those who know me best, know that we live simply in both locations. We Airbnb our small historic home in Estes Park, Colorado when we are not there, Rock Nook Cottage, to offset expenses and it took us eight years to purchase a home in Hawaii because we saved for a substantial down payment. Even with our conservative lifestyle and my husband’s steady savings (ok, I MIGHT have called him cheap a few times, but now I am grateful) we were nervous. So I truly feel for all my entrepreneurs out there as I know first-hand what you were, and still are, going through.
But one of those conversations led to, "What If…” With all our physical stores closed and on-line shopping exploding, we started imagining what the Mary Jane’s on-line shopping experience could be. We decided to pivot and actually invest in our business, instead of shrinking it.
We transitioned one of our current employees, Janelle, into a new role to assist us in getting our on-line store started and to continue to manage and grow our presence. Janelle has been amazing (I’m not saying that just because she is my sister) and I was thrilled with the launch of our new site, in June 2020. Janelle also spearheads our new social media outlets, Facebook and Instagram, email campaigns, and is taking over all the buying responsibilities for all our stores. With her influence, our sales have grown in the stores that have re-opened in Colorado, and our on-line site has taken flight and grows each month. Of course there are several people behind the scenes pulling, preparing, and shipping those goodies, and I think I will leave that for a whole other blog post!
So I guess in a roundabout way, I am grateful for the unexpected effects of Coronavirus on our business. Without it, we might never have taken the leap to an on-line platform and we might never have realized the amazing talent we had already working for us! I think everyone would agree that I am a “glass is half full” kinda gal, but today I feel like my cup is overflowing! 2020 has been challenging, but it is STILL the year of successes!