Necessity and inventions: How these entrepreneurs are adapting to a pandemic
From bookstore shopkeepers to cafe owners to disc jockeys, entrepreneurs across America have been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Small businesses in the U.S. employ nearly 60 million people, and 57 million are self-employed independent contractors, gig workers, temporary and part-time workers. Benefits like health care coverage or sick paid leave are not guaranteed for all of these workers and many rely on their income to handle these expenses.
With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to limit the social gatherings and local governments mandating the closure of nonessential businesses to help curb the spread of COVID-19, these business owners have a major challenge: Find creative ways to adjust in a time of crisis.
Here are seven entrepreneurs who are innovating and reinventing their businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
A BOOKSTORE ALL TO YOURSELF
Even before Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered all restaurants, bars and gathering places in the District of Columbia to be shut down, the owners of Capitol Hill Books had been preparing for a new chapter in its business.
Foot traffic had slowed during the March 14 weekend. Usually on weekends, the cozy, three-floor used book store gets quite packed.
"Things were slowing down, and we also anticipated there would be some orders coming down from local government to close," said Kyle Burk, one of several co-owners who purchased the store in July 2018.
That led the store's operators to consider how to keep the business open while keeping "social distancing practices and reduce contact with our employees and the public," he said.
The book store closed Monday, March 16, but they began taking appointments for groups of customers of four or less. "When they come to the store, they knock on the door. We unlock it and we immediately have hand sanitizer and gloves for them to put on," Burk said. "Once they have sanitized and put on the gloves, we ask just that they keep 6 feet apart. They have the store to themselves for an hour, and after the hour we charge them for whatever books they buy."
The book store, which is just about six blocks east of the U.S. Capitol, also began another service for customers: custom book selections.
Book lovers can call or email them a book genre, topic or author they are interested in, how much they would like to spend and the store's employees will select a collection of books for them. Capitol Hill Books will ship or, if the customer is local, curbside pickup can be arranged.
So far, the store hasn't had to lay off any of its five employees, Burk says. While these new strategies do not replace the traditional walk-in customers, they may "allow us to remain viable as a business," he said. "That is our main goal right now."
Curling up with a good book can be a way to cope. "It sounds like it is going to be a long hard slog to get through this and people are going to need books to get through it," Burk said.
— Mike Snider
SOCIAL MEDIA BRINGS THE MONEY
He has done hair for Ashley Graham, Hailey Bieber and Chrissy Teigen. But with no events to attend, his celebrity clientele has no need for his at-home services right now.
David Lopez is a hair and makeup professional whose main source of income is in an industry that requires physical proximity to his clients. During the coronavirus pandemic and directives from the government to close all nonessential businesses, the beauty industry finds itself in a predicament.
Lopez, 35, is also an Instagram influencer with more than 48,000 followers. That has been his saving grace.