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Dreams in peril: A small business owner’s story in the wake of a pandemic

Posted on: June 30, 2020

Imagine your worst case scenario as a small business owner, and you will be transported into the world of Ebony Davis. Davis, a hair stylist with over 22 years of experience, worked hard, enough to realize the dream of opening her own salon in the Lyn Lake area of South Minneapolis 3 years ago.

All was well until the double gut punch of Covid 19, and the murder of George Floyd.

When the pandemic hit, she was given less than a week’s notice by the college her daughter attended in Virginia all students had to pack up and leave. She hit the road, and on her return, news from Minneapolis hit that Governor Waltz would be implementing a shelter in place order requiring all but essential Minnesota businesses to cease operation. With the unexpected expense of getting her child home barely behind her, this development was devastating. Panic mode immediately set in for Davis, as rent was due in just days. A choice had to be made to pay rent or feed her family.

Once her initial shock subsided, Davis did all the things a small business owner would do. She applied for unemployment, Emergency Assistance, a Small Business Administration Loan, and attempted to make a payment arrangement with her landlord. The landlord refused, and threatened legal action if rent went unpaid. The MN Peacetime Emergency currently in effect prevents Minnesota tenants from being evicted right now. In spite of this, the landlord’s indication he intended to engage in hardball tactics to obtain what was owed was  disheartening to say the least.

Davis tried to keep things upbeat. She provided  encouragement and moral support to colleagues through a Facebook page exclusively for stylists. Even when the shelter in place order was extended, and a Stay Safe Order put in place keeping her salon closed, she did her best to remain positive.

She became discouraged by mid-April after her Unemployment claim was denied, and no stimulus check was in sight. It became difficult for her to remain cheerful enough to keep others upbeat.

Davis got a break when her credit union came through with a Recovery Loan at 0% interest for two years. She was finally able to pay rent, and Emergency Assistance soon followed. After some time, she also received Unemployment after initially being denied.

With things on the upswing and salons finally set to service clients again, George Floyd was killed.

Everything changed.

The building housing her business was damaged in the unrest that followed, and her resolve broke again.

Damage to the business was minimal, but the same cannot be said for the business owner. Keeping it all together for herself, her business and her family had ultimately taken its toll. Davis had to postpone her salon re-opening and engage in some intensive self-care. With the embers of the disturbance still smoldering, she got her kids safely to the protection of their Dad’s house, retreated away from the city with friends for a few days.

Since the well-deserved respite, she has been able return to work. Following the Phase II guidelines since re-opening has presented its own unanticipated challenges, some of which seem insurmountable at times.

Having to wear a mask throughout the day has proved cumbersome, and uncomfortable. Lightheadedness and dizziness from the inability to breathe freely are a new feature that make Davis’ every workday at her dream job difficult. Also, her space will not allow for the distancing required for her to start servicing one customer, while another is under the dryer for example, which was common pre-pandemic. In addition, the sanitizing that must take place between clients, takes time that previously would have been used to start service on a new client.

These are not complaints. They are simply realities of the “new normal” for one small business owner. With all of the unfathomable scenarios that have played out for her over the last few months,  Davis admits she is seriously considering giving up her calling to pursue a profession with no customer contact. After 22 years as stylist, what will that be?

In the mean time  Davis’s best thoughts on how to best survive as a  small business owner right now are wise.

  • She feels that it’s ok to not be afraid to take care of your mental health when things are overwhelming. There are tons of resources available if needed. 
  • Also, do not fall for temporary coping mechanisms may take the edge off for the short term. Most of these are not sustainable, and will not help in the long run.
  • Finally, reach out to peers, who are a support network that is invaluable.

The Twin Cities cannot afford to lose their small businesses. This is what is currently taking place. What is it that gives a city its flavor if it’s not its neighborhoods, and the small businesses that anchor them? What can be done to stop this from happening?

It is unknown exactly how many Twin Cities businesses that were damaged or destroyed in the wake of the turmoil we are still living through. The same can be said for Twin Cities small business owners.

Twin Cities small businesses and small business owners need our support and patronage during this unprecedented time.

Please support Twin Cities small businesses and small business owners.

Stacey Tyler – Twin Cities Writer and Podcast Host

Note: We always ask what help a business needs and in the case of Ebony we are looking for ideas about wearing a mask all day – are their better masks for breathing and working as a stylist all day? Send any ideas to Stacey Tyler

Posted in Member Stories

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