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This Small Business Owner Got Creative to Support Her Family During the Coronavirus Pandemic — You Can, Too

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When Quinn Vise first opened her salon, Quinn Vise Hair Design & Co., in Holland, Mich., in 2014, she never imagined a global crisis would threaten the livelihood of her family and nearly two dozen employees. But six years later, her life and business were drastically impacted as the coronavirus pandemic swept across the United States.

Upon learning that she would have to close the salon temporarily due to her state’s stay-at-home orders, Vise felt numb. “I didn’t have any answers for my employees or guests or my landlord,” she explained.

Since the pandemic hit the United States in March, close to 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment, with industries like retail, food service and personal care being especially hard-hit. With most states implementing lockdowns or stay-at-home orders at some point, the country’s more than 30 million small businesses also faced a new level of uncertainty. According to an April survey of nearly 1,000 small business owners by the National Small Business Association, 80% experienced decreased customer demand and almost all were concerned about the economic impact of COVID-19.

When the pandemic threw Vise such an unexpected curveball, she had to quickly change course in order to protect her family and her business.

Learning how to stay flexible in times of crisis

A week before her salon’s closing was imminent, Vise wondered how she would pay for the business’s rent and utilities with no revenue and not enough of a buffer in her savings account. While she would apply for government relief programs, she knew she didn’t have time to wait around for the relief to come through. And rather than applying and waiting for unemployment insurance, which Vise worried wouldn’t bring in enough money, she began searching for other jobs.

She applied for positions with her local hospital, home health care agencies and even manufacturing factories, but the only offer she received was from grocery delivery company Shipt. She accepted the job and planned to work as much as possible delivering groceries until government relief arrived.

Vise threw herself into the role, working six or seven days a week to bring in as much income as possible. It was taxing on her body, she said, but it provided the flexibility she needed. Four of her five children still live at home, so she needed to balance taking care of her family with bringing in income to support them.

She had her two salon managers take over communicating with her team so she could focus on working for Shipt to cover the salon’s bills. “I just kept thinking, ‘I have to save my business and employees; I can’t wait on unemployment and possible loans,’” she said.

While she wasn’t able to pay her staff during this time, most of her team members were able to receive unemployment insurance, and the rest lived at home and got by with the help of family, Vise said.

The new job with Shipt was exhilarating at first given Vise’s love for challenges and entrepreneurship, but it began to take a toll on her. “The stress was breaking my mental state,” she said, “and averaging 15 to 20 grocery orders per day was breaking down my body.” Fortunately, Vise’s salon received a Paycheck Protection Program loan from the Small Business Administration in the second round of funding, which allowed her to let go of her hectic temporary job.

“At that point, I discontinued Shipt, got unemployment for myself, focused on schooling my children and brought the saving of the salon back into sharp focus,” Vise said. If Michigan’s phased reopening goes as planned, Vise’s salon should be able to resume business in mid-June, though she’s prepared to be flexible if the timeline changes.

If your accounts are dwindling, don’t panic

When the pandemic hit and her salon was forced to close, Vise didn’t have enough savings to keep her family and business afloat. If you don’t have enough money in your checking account or emergency fund to get you by during a period of unemployment, here are a few tactics you can try.

1. File for unemployment

Unemployment insurance is handled on a state level, though during this current crisis, the federal government has provided additional funding and new guidelines that make it more accessible and with a higher payout. If you’ve been holding out hope for finding a new job or being rehired by your old employer, consider filing for unemployment in the meantime to help you get by.

2. Deliver groceries

With fewer people leaving their homes, demand is up for grocery delivery service. While shopping for and delivering groceries eventually took a toll on Vise, it helped her get by financially during a time of uncertainty. “It was vitally important that through this awful situation, I could face myself and my employees and my community — that I have done everything possible to care for my responsibilities while following health guidelines,” she said. Delivering food might not be ideal, and you could be overqualified. But if you need money now, Vice found that it is a flexible and in-demand way to make some cash.

3. Look for online opportunities

The internet is rife with at-home money-making opportunities. Know a musical instrument? Offer online classes. Quick at the keyboard? Become a transcriptionist. Have a friend who’s trying to work at home while corralling kids? Tutor or entertain and “babysit” the kids via Zoom while the parents are in conference calls. From becoming a virtual assistant to teaching a new language to managing social media, with a little digging you may just be able to find an online outlet for your skills.

4. Take on temporary work

If you don’t want to make deliveries, numerous other businesses are hiring for jobs that don’t require driving. Many grocery stores, plus retailers like Amazon and Walmart, are hiring workers due to surges in demand. Or if you can’t risk the potential exposure, check out job postings on sites like FlexJobs to find remote work opportunities.

5. Get creative

These are weird times, and thinking out of the box could help you earn some extra cash. Maybe a housebound neighbor would be willing to pay you a little cash to walk their dog or do their shopping. Or someone in your neighborhood who’s trying to undertake an outdoor home or gardening project might be game to compensate you for help from a safe physical distance. Ask your friends and neighbors if they need any assistance, and consider posting on Facebook or Nextdoor and sharing what services you can offer.

6. Sell your stuff

If you’re really hurting for cash, why not offload some items you no longer need and sell them for some extra money? There are apps like letgo, or easy tools like Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor and eBay. You can even sell unused gift cards that have been accumulating in your desk drawer at websites like Cardpool. You can still sell items face-to-face as long as you follow social distancing guidelines (like have the person set down the cash, and you set down the object). However, make sure you take the appropriate steps to protect yourself and others, and consider leaving sanitizing wipes for the people buying your stuff.

7. Reduce your spending

Now is also an ideal time to take a close look at your budget and figure out how you can cut down costs to make your money go further until you have stable income again. This could mean canceling some streaming or subscription services (or switching to a cheaper plan), cooking from scratch instead of getting meal deliveries or putting a pause on discretionary online shopping. Retail therapy can feel comforting during tough times like this, but it can also add up fast.

8. Look for emergency grants and relief funds

If government funding and extra gigs aren’t enough to help you survive the pandemic, many organizations have started to offer financial assistance to people on a local level. Many of these are grants that don’t require repayment. For example, in the San Francisco Bay Area, several organizations have formed relief funds to help creatives and artists who have lost income in the pandemic. In another example, in San Antonio, Texas, The Center, which is the city’s LGBTQ+ community resource, created an emergency fund for locals in the LGBTQ+ community who have lost income and are struggling to pay for essentials.

9. Consider cashing in your points

If you’ve been accumulating credit card points, now may be the time to cash in. Instead of saving up for a vacation that may or may not need to be canceled due to pandemic-related travel concerns, you can redeem points for a cash buffer to help cover immediate needs.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced us all to adapt quickly, and it has put many of us in a tough financial spot. But Vise’s story shows that if you’re willing to pivot and learn new skills, even if it feels like you’re overqualified, there are ways to get by and earn money until things stabilize.

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