The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the day-to-day lives of nearly of all Americans and has forced us to adapt and innovate as we transition into the new normal. One of the most impacted groups has been small businesses who faced the challenge of dwindling staff and customers while implementing new social distancing and public health practices. We interviewed small business owners around the country about how their business has been affected by the coronavirus and found that in the face of adversity, many owners displayed resilience and took the challenge as an opportunity to find new ways to grow their business and continue to provide for their communities.

 Yellow Bike Coffee staff
Shannon Cornelius, owner of Yellow Bike Coffee, and her team in Hermantown, Minnesota. — Yellow Bike Coffee

Shannon Cornelius, owner, Yellow Bike Coffee

"The coronavirus has made me hyper aware of my staff — their needs, mental health and path forward. We are deemed essential, yet we lost 80% of our staff overnight due to them being students, living with elderly parents or needing to take care of kids. This was a huge hit, and the weight of needing to decide what to do was tremendous. But I knew if I closed my door temporarily, we would probably never reopen.

We contacted all our banks and created a plan to buy ourselves time to figure out how people would consume our products during COVID-19. We stripped down our offerings, created healthy options, added some specialty bakery items and added a satellite location of our regionally famous smoked fish shop. We also signed up for online ordering and retooled our website. We are taking risks that we would not have taken pre-pandemic, but this is a season of necessity. Sink or swim. If we are going down, we are going down swinging." Follow Yellow Bike Coffee on Facebook: @yellowbikecoffee.

 Lisa Laliberte-Alle of laliberte interiors
Lisa Laliberte-Alle, owner of Laliberte Interiors in Glen Rock, New Jersey. — Laliberte Interiors

Lisa Laliberte-Alle, owner, Laliberte Interiors

I believe COVID-19 had a positive impact on my business. It provided me with the opportunity to take a pause on client-facing activities and work on project processes and back-end systems.

After two months, the changes I’ve implemented have enabled me greater efficiency by accommodating an even larger amount of projects at the same time and streamlining a lot of the non-creative work.

I’ve managed to keep some income by pairing with another interior designer, with whom I successfully completed a few projects entirely contact-free.

I’ve also adapted my business to accommodate a new line of business, namely outdoor design, for which I saw an increased interest. I’m now getting new inquiries every week and feel much better prepared to scale. Follow Laliberte Interiors on Instagram: @laliberteinteriors.

 Luba Gankin of primavera dreams touching a wedding dress
Luba Gankin, owner of Primavera Dreams in Boston, Massachusetts. — Primavera Dreams

Luba Gankin, owner, Primavera Dreams

My business — an event planning agency specializing in weddings and events in Italy — was affected big time. All my events in 2020 have been canceled or rescheduled (some twice) to 2021, so I’ve had to deal with all the cancellations and rescheduling processes as well as support my clients.

It is a lot of emotionally draining work and it is mostly done on a pro bono basis. I am doing my best to remain optimistic and stay busy, using my free time to learn new things, write blog posts, acquire new skills and reconnect with my colleagues and friends.

Despite the challenges of the past few months, people need celebrations and happy events in their lives. My goal is to provide support and find innovative solutions to create the perfect atmosphere for them to cherish their important moments. Follow Primavera Dreams on Instagram: @primaveradreams.

 co-owners of artemis bistro
Mehmet Coskun and Serpil Gundez Coskun, co-owners of Artemis Mediterranean Bistro in Cincinnati, Ohio. — Artemis Mediterranean Bistro

Mehmet Coskun and Serpil Gundez Coskun, co-owners, Artemis Mediterranean Bistro

My business was affected by coronavirus very deeply. We lost about 60% of our business. We lowered our expectations first, just trying to stay above water. Then, we decided to expand our delivery options by adding online ordering tools to our website and signing up with DoorDash, Grubhub and UberEats. We expanded our wine list and have been promoting our wine sales. Along with all of this, we also offered free delivery to our neighborhood with a minimum purchase order.

Overall, we’re trying everything we can to get through these uncertain times. We all know that we are in this together, that we will have a victory at the end of this fight and are hopeful for the future. Follow Artemis Mediterranean Bistro on Facebook: @artemisbistro.

 David Dolifka of elder pens
David Dolifka, owner of Elder Pens in Boulder, Colorado. — Elder Pens

David Dolifka, owner, Elder Pens

My business selling handcrafted wooden pens online has been completely transformed due to the pandemic, rotating to a new type of customer who is looking to commemorate special occasions with unique and heartfelt gifts.

People can’t go out to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays and graduations like they could previously, so they are turning more towards sentimental gifts. My handcrafted writing instruments give these first-time luxury pen buyers a way to create meaningful memories, even while stuck at home. I’ve expanded my engraving capabilities, so customers can order personalized gifts for their loved ones.

Furthermore, these customers really seem to resonate with my mission of using locally salvaged and recycled woods, which has allowed me to lean into this passion. It’s a long road ahead, and my focus will be on staying nimble to the changing needs of my customers and staying appreciative for their support during these difficult times. Follow Elder Pens on Facebook: @elderpensshop.

For more resources from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Reopening Your Business

Join us Wednesday, August 12 at 2 p.m. ET for our virtual CO— Blueprint: Starting Up and Starting Over During the Pandemic, an audience-driven discussion that combines expert advice with practical strategies from business owners.



Published July 31, 2020