Three small business owners creatively try to survive in COVID-19 economy

(NEW YORK) — At least 46 states have shut down businesses to slow the spread of COVID-19, and in the last three weeks more than 16 million Americans lost their jobs.

For many small businesses, which comprise 47% of private-sector payrolls in the U.S., according to the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, the sudden economic downturn has created to a full-blown crisis.

The big-picture concern shared by economists is if businesses don’t survive, many Americans won’t have jobs to return to after the pandemic. That’s why experts have said it’s so important to support local businesses, which are struggling to generate reliable income.

Now, salons, restaurants, florists, fitness instructors and more are creatively adjusting to the new realities of the coronavirus economy, pivoting to bring parts of their business online, connecting with communities directly on social media or launching creative side hustles.

ABC News’ Good Morning America put out a call to small businesses and service workers to see how they’ve responded to the economic downturn, and is sharing some of their stories below, along with ways Americans can support their small business:

Larisa Minerva of Bewilder Floral

Business: Wedding Florist

Larisa Minerva of Bewilder Floral, a Bay Area wedding and event floral company specializing in locally grown flowers, had almost all of her weddings from March through June cancel. The shelter-in-place mandate to stop the spread of coronavirus was enacted in the Bay Area on March 17, just as Minerva’s company was headed into peak wedding season. Roughly 15 weddings were canceled or postponed, hitting her business hard.

“Weddings are 99% of what we do,” said Minerva, who has been a florist for a decade. “I had to do a complete shift. … You never expect to come to this point when literally all of your weddings are canceled.”

Minerva said she made the difficult decision to lay off her staff of one full-time employee and the freelancers who were commissioned for weddings.

With everything canceled, Minerva turned to social media and started offering daily “how to” videos on her Instagram page for free. Topics range from floral centerpiece design to how to make boutonnieres and corsages and more in hopes of helping people heal through flowers. She said the response has been “amazing.”

“I wanted to share what I learned over this decade, so I kind of sprung into action,” she said. “You’re stuck inside and you have this anxiety about your financial future and what’s going on. It’s kind of a calming experience to watch the videos … to engage with nature.”

To put her flowers to use and salvage some business, Minerva set up a “little flower stand” at the end of her driveway. Her neighbor gave her the idea to create bouquets for local medical professionals who are putting their lives on the line. Each bouquet is $30 and can be delivered anywhere between San Bruno and San Jose with a custom note. She’s asking medical professionals to sign up to receive them or be nominated by someone in the community.

How you can support the business: If people want to support her, place orders for bouquets for medical professionals who are working on the front lines. Each costs $30. You can learn more on her website. You can also donate to her on Patreon at patreon.com/bewilderfloral.

Camara Aunique of Camara Aunique Beauty

Business: Makeup Artist/Beauty Entrepreneur

Due to the coronavirus crisis, Camara Aunique, a makeup artist and beauty entrepreneur based in the New York City area, hasn’t been able to book clients. It’s impossible when your craft is entirely focused on touching people’s faces. Sales for her popular eyelash line of products have also plummeted.

In addition to no longer getting paid, the stress of not knowing if she will ever be able to work again has been daunting, she said. The economic stress coupled with being away from her family and dealing with everything alone has become increasingly tough for her, she told GMA.

Still, she said she’s “pushing through.” Aunique started sharing her talents online for free on her Instagram account to help women learn how to apply makeup as well as teach the business of makeup. She hosts classes on Instagram Live Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 5 p.m. ET.

“It’s fun, laid back and teaches everyday women how to do makeup,” she said. “I’ve been blessed to meet women from all over the world impacted by this crisis.”

How you can support the business: Aunique said people can help her business by following her on social media, joining and sharing her IG Lives, booking her for a private one-on-one makeup class or supporting her eyelash line at www.camaraaunique.com/shop. Use Code “ava” to save 10% on sales of $40 or more.

Ron Rudolph and Kristy Boike of Rudolph’s Bluebird Houses

Business: Birdhouse Kits

Rudolph’s Bluebird Houses sells homes for birds in various forms, from fully assembled and pole-mounted aviaries to unassembled kits for those who are a little more hands on.

The foundation of the business was laid shortly after the death of Pat Rudolph, who died of cancer in January 2018. Her husband, Ron, coped with the devastating loss by channeling his 45 years as a carpenter into a project that kept his hands busy and mind distracted.

“Building bluebird houses became an outlet for him,” his daughter, Kristy Boike, told GMA. “It helped him keep his hands busy and be creative.”

After crafting a dozen of the houses, Ron Rudolph asked Boike to clear them out of his workshop so he could make more. It was here that Rudolph’s Bluebird Houses was born, with that first batch selling out on Facebook in just a half an hour.

Now, with four generations of the family involved in building the birdhouses, Rudolph’s Bluebird Houses has gone on to sell 4,000 items, helping others touched by loss work though their own grief and continue to move forward.

What’s more, the business carries on the legacy of Pat Rudolph, who Ron made a bluebird house for each spring. Each year, on Pat’s birthday, the family donates half of its proceeds to Our Lady of Peace, a hospice where Pat lived during her battle with cancer.

How you can support the business: Rudolph and Boike tell GMA: “We would normally be doing community pickups and events to mark nesting season, but haven’t been able to due to coronavirus. But we want to help those who want to build on their own to still make a connection and pay tribute to their loved ones. Our mission is still to give back to the hospice where our wife/mom passed away by donating half of our proceeds at a time when it is most in need. If you’re local, there’s also a ‘no-contact’ pickup option.”

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