Running a Small Business in a COVID-19 World
Sitting at the edge of a sprawling parking lot in the West End of Atlanta lies a 23ft Airstream covered with socks. Seven days earlier, that Airstream was parked just a hundred feet south at Wild Heaven Beer, the center of our first socks with stories pop-up store here in Atlanta. It was scheduled to be one of 14 pop-ups over a three week period. Now, a week later, it seems like the only responsible reaction in the face of an unfolding pandemic is to cancel all of them.
These pop-up stores are the economic engine driving our toe-to-toe tour, a 16 month national initiative to donate socks to children in hospitals across the country. Cancelling them turns off our engine. And yet, it’s undoubtedly the right thing to do.
Given the spread of the disease the lack of available testing, I’m onboard wth CDC recommendations of social distancing to keep our immunocompromised friends and family safe while we #flattenthecurve. But like many businesses, face-to-face interactions are the foundation of what we do. Sure, we can manage the loss of revenue for a two week period, but in this environment of widespread uncertainty, when do we begin rescheduling? After all, the bills won’t pay themselves.
Feeling a wave of frustration come over me, I pause to reflect on the people living with compromised immune systems and pre-existing conditions. Having lived immunocompromised during rounds of chemotherapy just a few years back, I cringe at the thought of navigating a corona crisis in such a state. Quickly, my gut reaction is enough to provide perspective that physical well-being takes priority over economic well-being.
From the stoop of our Airstream on this Saturday, March 14th, we can see a wedding reception underway and at least a hundred people soaking up a warm 78 degree day here in Atlanta. It feels at odds with the never-ending news reports of closures and runs on basic pantry items. I pause again, would I cancel my wedding if there were only 13 cases reported in my county? Would you cancel yours?
As a 26-year-old entrepreneur, this is undoubtedly my first experience making any decisions of consequence in such an unsettled environment, but sitting in this metal tube at the end of a parking lot, I get the impression that I’m not the only one feeling this way. What decisions are you weighing?
UPDATE: because of how the situation has continued to unfold since writing this on Saturday, we are planning to relocate to the blue ridge mountains. :)