Small Black Businesses Adapt to Survive Through Covid-19

Jordan Deloch
Data News Weekly Contributor

A month ago, business was booming. Today, with the spread of Covid-19, small Black business owners said they are having a hard time finding the light at the end of the tunnel. With constant restrictions being placed on certain businesses, the term “essential” has been the determining factor of whether businesses stay open or not and survive.

In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards has placed a mandatory stay at home order for residents. Within this mandate, citizens are required to stay indoors, except to purchase groceries and supplies, exercising, going to the hospital, and tending to love ones. Employees of essential businesses, such as grocery stores, hospitals and some public services are still expected to attend work if they are not sick. As a response to this, many local small Black businesses said they’ve been having a difficult time keeping their services running under these conditions.

“This virus has impacted my business drastically, because we’re no longer able to operate. I cannot even adjust to accommodate my business at this time,” said Kevin Joseph Sr., the owner of Fade Game Barbershop in Kenner, LA. “When all of this is over, I hope that my customers will return. However, in the meantime, make groceries from the small essential businesses and support them,” Joseph added.

For cosmetic businesses, such as barber and beauty shops, these small businesses have been determined to be of higher risk due to the close physical contact between clients and owners. The need for social distancing also limits the amount of people in businesses at the same time and spacing out customers when completing transactions has meant less business overall.

Creators and other people in the entertainment business have also been hit heavily as the city has postponed festivals and cancelled events. Local artists have begun broadcasting performances from their homes, either through social media or on television.

“Before quarantining, I would have around fifteen gigs a month, however, now it’s impossible to do that with no business,” said Patrick Walker, also known as DJ PJ from Harvey, LA. “I’ve actually taken the time to go live on Twitter and Instagram just to help people get through this tough time. Just to DJ for free helps me, by allowing me to practice and get to people on a one on one basis. They can reply, comment, and watch, and I am able to promote my business,” Walker added.

For some businesses, the Internet has been very helpful in keeping both customers and business owners satisfied. People are able to practice social distancing and still purchase the goods that they want and need by visiting business websites to place orders. To some small business owners, this has presented both positive and negative results.

“I’ve really been focusing on e-commerce instead of doing in-person transactions. I usually do pop-up shops, but I know that that cannot happen right now,” said Kobie Lofton, the creator of Neighborhood Flexer, a clothing brand in New Orleans. “I planned on releasing a spring collection next month, but because of the virus, it’s looking like it will have to be a spring and summer collection. I am willing to make sacrifices and changes to my business if I have to, to ensure that my business is successful,” Lofton added.

Local eateries and catering companies have been drastically affected by Covid-19 in many ways, owners said. While restaurants are able to offer take-out and drive-through options, catering services are having a harder time maintaining their prior volume of customized orders.

“I’ve had to adjust my business to accommodate to the new rules of the government by almost completely shutting my business down. It is hard to cook for people if we cannot be around them,” said Stacy Nelson, the owner of Creative Flavors Catering with Chef Stacy in Donaldsonville, LA. “My catering business is very hands-on, and it is impossible to provide the customer service I have worked so hard to build with my clients due to no weddings, funerals, and social gatherings. I cannot continue to operate under these conditions,” Nelson added.

Nelson believes that although it is hard to keep clients during the pandemic, small businesses can still be supported.
“To support small businesses, I would suggest buying gift cards and saving them for later, ordering food and other items ahead of time to avoid waiting in long lines, shopping online, and sending nice notes or some kind gestures to show your support and dedication. We’re all in this together,” Nelson added.

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