07-09-2020 Keeping viable during a global pandemic;

Keeping viable during a global pandemic; the toll on local small businesses

By Angela Widdis

As Michigan struggles with how best to recommence business, some small businesses are fighting to keep viable from the COVID-19 pandemic’s forced shutdowns that continue to be in place or the ones that have just recently been lifted.

Like many households, small businesses are known to work paycheck to paycheck.

According to the Small Business Administration, in 2010 there were 27.9 million small businesses that make up about 40% of the economy.  Yet, these are the businesses that are experiencing some of the most challenging times to continue “business as usual” during this global pandemic.

The Tri-City Record, over last week, contacted many local small businesses to talk to owners whose blood, sweat and tears have been poured out into the businesses that they are trying to save from the pandemic fallout. This is what they had to say.

Beauty business bounce back

Rochelle Ulleg’s hope for 2020 business was looking good before this pandemic struck. In mid-March, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order that forced facilities that perform non-essential personal care services be temporality closed. Businesses that were affected by this order are places like hair, nail, tanning, massage, tattoo, and piercing service providers.

The owner of Robert Michael Salon and Spa LLC., in downtown Watervliet, has spent the 12-week quarantine studying and documenting all Executive Orders, CDC guidelines, along with the Michigan Department of Licensing guidelines to ensure all guests a proper and safe opening of the salon.

The stylists at the salon are now filling their appointment books with clients that were scheduled to get their services done but got canceled due to the shutdown in March. Once those people have been serviced, they will open their books to those that have called in over the past few weeks.

The new normal for the salon includes their COVID-19 procedure posting upon entering the salon, consent for services form, and no walk-ins per the State of Michigan licensing department.

Keeping up with social distancing protocols, appointments at this time do not allow more than one guest per appointment unless they are accompanying a minor or the elderly.

This pandemic was difficult for Ulleg even though she knew it was inevitable. The Governor’s timeline from closure (announcement made March 21 at 3 p.m. that the industry was closed by 9 a.m. on March 22) to the many possible reopening dates was never promising.  She quoted saying that she was “hopeful the industry could be opened by Independence Day,” so she was not set for the June 15 opening, thinking she had a few more weeks to get ready.

Ulleg applied for multiple forms of federal relief from MEDC in March to the Small Business Administration (SBA) at the beginning of April, and then the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). She would it so far in the application process and then “all funds have been exhausted” would appear on the screen.  Rochelle was even told after making it through three of the five steps of the PPP application that “all government loans aren’t for everyone.”

After numerous emails to SBA as to where her April 4 application was in the process of approval, she had no reply so she emailed the corporate office for an additional follow-up. Thankfully, her application was found and processed and approved on June 19.  This helped cover the past 12 weeks of rent and utilities only. However, Ulleg said, “It is definitely a bittersweet moment to get this news during the week we are re-opening!”

Going digital with dance

On March 13, new “Stay Home – Stay Safe” directives mandated Fusion Center for Dance – Coloma, at 6777 Paw Paw Avenue, to take a new look at their delivery of services to keep the beat going in their dance studios. Christine Waterhouse and Jennifer Loy, both co-owners of two dance centers in Berrien County say they stayed functioning during the entire crisis.