With more than 38 million people unemployed and businesses shut down in nearly every state, COVID-19 has taken a crippling toll on America's economic health.
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 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 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.
"GMA" put out a call to small businesses and service workers to see how they've responded to the economic downturn, and we'll share their stories here, along with ways Americans can support small businesses.
Check back each week to meet more small business owners.
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Anemone V. Mahadeo of Fun Time Pottery, Inc.
Business: Paint-your-own pottery studio
Anemone V. Mahadeo has a background in finance and held a mortgage broker license until 2009 when the housing market crashed. She alternatively pivoted into the arts and crafts industry, as she enjoyed meeting people and thought it would be fun to create art and help others at the same time. Shortly after, her paint-your-own pottery studio, Fun Time Pottery, Inc. was born.
Unfortunately, Mahadeo’s studio has been impacted by New York-ordered shutdowns on nonessential businesses due to COVID-19. Much of Fun Time Pottery, Inc.’s success depends on walk-in customers as well as events such as birthday parties, fundraisers, private paint nights and more.
"Since the shutdown, we were only able to offer take-home projects, which are far and few," Mahadeo told "GMA." "Our customers enjoy sitting in the studio and working on their projects since they have access to all materials in addition to the ambiance."
While the physical location remains closed, Mahadeo has built Fun Time Pottery, Inc.’s website in a way where arts, crafts and pottery supplies can now be ordered online. She also began putting together packages for virtual parties and classes.
However, Mahadeo does admit it has been a challenge to convince customers to purchase items online. Additionally, packing all of the items to ship on her own can be a tedious process.
Monthly bills are still due for the pottery studio and Mahadeo has continued to look for new ways to generate enough income to cover them.
How can America support your business: "It would mean a great deal to support by purchasing and ordering DIY craft kits or custom-made pieces on Fun Time Pottery, Inc.’s website," Mahadeo says.
Emily Clarke of Curb Appeal Party by Emily Clarke Events
Business: Elaborate yard decorations for celebrating amid coronavirus
Coronavirus did not stop this tight-knit events team from celebrating special milestones -- safely.
Emily Clarke, owner of Emily Clarke Events, has pivoted to creating elaborate yard designs made from balloons and ready-to-order signs. The in-person installations of Curb Appeal Party cater to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but national customers can order a Curb Appeal DIY box straight from the Emily Clarke Events website.
Starting at $100, this "Celebration in a Box" includes 300 balloons in your choice of up to three colors, digital files for three print-ready graphics from the Curb Appeal design collection, and fishing wire to create your own loopy arches and sprawling balloons. A balloon blower and custom graphics can be added for a little more.
Founded in 2010, the event company prides itself on being a close knit-team of hard workers who aims to meet the highest standard of joy no matter the event.
"We send you a prototype of what it's going to look like, we engage with you on the phone, I myself am taking any of the calls and design calls, and I want them to still have that sense of ... professionalism," said Clarke.
The coronavirus pandemic has hit the events business especially hard, but Clarke said her business recognizes the hurt that everyone feels when canceling a special occasion. The company has even donated two hospital Curb Appeal projects and a retirement home project to spread light in their community.
"I was devastated to see the cancellations," Clarke says. "Curb Appeal is a way to sow seeds in our community, stay connected as a team, stay connected to our clients and give back where we can."
It was the support from her community that inspired Clarke to start the Curb Appeal Party and now has done upward of 80 installations across the country.
"Joy is our priority," said Clarke.
How you can support the business: America can support Emily Clarke Events and Curb Appeal Party by purchasing an installation and ordering the Curb Appeal DIY box and sharing the work with the #CurbAppealParty hashtag. "If [customers] are local, we serve the DFW area," she says. "If they're national or international, they can always support us by ordering the box and taking our video tutorial, and then of course, the biggest thing to help us [would be to] share your celebration. We love seeing our hashtag ... people can come on and tell us what they're up to," said Clarke.
Victoria Collette of POP SCENTsation
Business: Virtual perfume parties
Victoria Collette gained an interest in making fragrances and learned about the art of perfuming from a master of the craft about 10 years ago. But things really took off for her business, POP SCENTsation, in 2018. After she and her husband moved from New York to North Carolina, she redirected her small business’ focus toward young girls and offering them the chance to create their own scents.
"I was always passionate about empowering girls," Collette says.
With POP SCENTsation, Collette encourages participants to "let their personalities ‘P.O.P.": to be playful, original and powerful. And they do so with Collette’s perfume parties. At these parties, each girl learns how to design their own perfume, blending elements of creativity and science. Some of the themes of the kits include Fruit Smoothie, Witches Brew, Glamp It Up, Flower Power and It’s Party Time.
After being unable to host in-person parties around the Charlotte, North Carolina, area after the outbreak of the coronavirus, Collette pivoted and began hosting online parties.
"By the end of April, I was promoting Virtual Perfume Parties for girls and it has been amazing!" she says. "We’ve done private birthday parties, parties for Girl Scout troops and now, most recently, started our public POP-UP Parties.
At all of the parties, along with creating a one-of-a-kind perfume, they get to "dance their hearts out" and "discover their hidden power when they pop open their confetti box to reveal what makes them so amazing and special," or as Collette says, "a POP SCENTsation."
"When I did this a month ago, we had girls from 13 different states for our first public POP-UP Party, which was so amazing," Collette says, noting participants from states such as Colorado, California and Florida. "These were all girls that I didn't know … this is out of my network and were just word of mouth, so it's getting out there."
"They're actually seeing all these new friends that they're making from across the country, which is really cool," Collette adds.
How can America support your business: You can purchase a virtual POP-UP Party ticket for your daughter, niece, etc., on the website. "We could really change the world by lighting girls up," Collette says, "so I think this is a fun way that we could do it, especially with everything that's going on now."
Melissa Wedman of Mollycoddled Hash Slinger
Business: Artisan candy company
If the taste of Mollycoddled Hash Slinger’s confections don’t draw you in -- and they will -- you’ll definitely be intrigued by its name.
"Mollycoddled Hash Slinger basically translates to ‘Spoiled Chef,’" says Melissa Wedman, the "Head Sugar Slinger" at the Oklahoma City-based business. "It was originally the handle I used when I had a food blog many years ago. Since I already owned the dormant domain when we were still making our candies in our home kitchen, we continued with the name and it stuck as we launched into a commercially producing artisan candy company."
Wedman got into the business of making candy when she began creating treats for gifts she gave to friends and family in memory of her father.
"My dad passed away about nine years ago and his favorite candy was caramel and in just about any form he could get it," Wedman said. Over time, the foodie kept experimenting with her caramel recipes until, with some help from her husband who is a pharmacist, she perfected Mollycoddled Hash Slinger’s signature Salted Whiskey Caramels.
Wedman points out one of the reasons why they’re so popular: the caramels many of us eat can be made up of as much as 90% corn syrup. "We let sugar, cream and butter do what they are supposed to do. There's just no flavor in most commercially produced caramel," she adds, "which is why most caramels are rock hard."
As more people began to appreciate the chewy, artisan quality of her candies, which are hand-cut and hand-wrapped, Wedman’s product line grew to include toffees. And her line became available through a variety of ways: business-to-business corporate gifting program, wholesale to locally owned boutiques, trade shows, vendor events and directly to customers who ordered online. Plans were also in the works for a brick-and-mortar location.
Those plans are now on hold amid coronavirus, as Wedman says her business has seen a drop in orders from its B2B clients who are themselves hard hit by the pandemic. To adjust, Mollycoddled Hash Slinger has been getting products to local customers through contact-free free porch delivery, since not having a store means no curbside pickup. "We've organized alternating weeks for pre-orders and deliveries across various zones in the Oklahoma City area to maximize our coverage while minimizing delivery costs on our end," Wedman said.
How can America support your business: "Shopping on our website is probably the easiest way," Wedman says. "And we're still reaching out and making connections with small business owners that need to send gifts for referrals or employees working from home and they want to send a little sweet treat."
Brittany Katz of Terra Running Company
Business: Running store and coffee shop
During the coronavirus pandemic, you may have turned to running, walking or some other form of movement to get off your couch. If you’re looking for the right pair of shoes or some post-run advice, look no further than Terra Running Company.
Brittany Katz, owner of the Cleveland, Tennessee, specialty running store and coffee shop, says she aims to foster a sense of community, but due to coronavirus, the store -- which also hosts a variety of charity race events -- had to temporarily close.
"A big part of our business is timing events," said Katz. "We had a calendar full of races for the spring … we lost 100% of our race revenue for the spring." Katz adds that her shop was closed completely for a few weeks, leading to a loss of 90% of revenue from sales of running gear and 100% of coffee shop revenue.
Amid the closures, Katz said she still wanted to keep in touch with all of her customers, which have become her community. She has since begun to host a weekly Facebook Live event with one of her employees, Sue Joyner, called "Terra Girls," where the two casually chat about running, healthy meal prep, and share overall advice and fun stories during quarantine.
Founded in 2016, Terra Running Company has since become a cornerstone for runners in their Tennessee-based community. Due to reduced store hours, Katz said her company has begun to sell shoes online. Although the shoes are now available nationwide, Katz said that she and her staff are still readily available to add the personal small business feel and answer any personal shoe questions to find the best fit for any foot.
"As an independent local running store, we can meet the needs of the people, and [we] have a lot more flexibility and adaptability than a big box store or an online website," said Katz. "We want to remind people that these are your neighbors that run this business."
How you can support the business: You can shop directly for shoes and gear on the website, which is currently offering free shipping nationwide. You can also tune in once a week to "Terra Girls" on Tuesdays at 2 p.m. ET on Facebook Live to chat about any running, shoe and stretching questions. You can also find your new running fam by following the Terra Running Company on Instagram for more updates and fun.
Xavier Cruz & JP Gomez of Barba Men’s Grooming Boutique
Business: Men’s grooming boutique
Xavier Cruz and JP Gomez are the co-owners of Barba Men’s Grooming Boutique in New York City. It’s a full-service salon offering everything from haircuts to highlights in addition to beard trimming.
The coronavirus pandemic has led state governments to order the closings of non-essential businesses indefinitely. As a result, Cruz and Gomez’s shop has been closed for the past two months. The business duo admits that this has been a difficult adjustment and "the bills don’t stop," Cruz told "GMA." About 90% of the shop’s employees had to be put on furlough as well.
"I truly miss opening my doors and being in a place where I’ve worked incredibly hard for the last five years," said Cruz. "I miss my ‘Good mornings’ with my amazing staff."
He adds, "I worry about them every single day. I’m looking forward to seeing them again."
While there has been no hard date on when New York will start to lift lockdowns, Gomez and Cruz are trying their best to make sure they are fully prepared with safety precautions in place for reopening.
In the meantime, the Barba salon has continued its mission of making people feel handsome by launching Quarancuts Virtual Hair School. It’s a complimentary one-on-one video session where Cruz walks people through the steps for getting a trim, cut or buzz at home.
"As a passionate stylist, I wanted to help the community, so with the help of our advertising agency, Terri & Sandy, we came up with this great way to do so," said Cruz.
He continued, "I told the world, ‘Go ahead, DM me for a free haircut,’ and people did! My phone hasn’t stopped for a moment. A month and a half later, I’ve hosted 140 virtual haircuts through Zoom and Instagram Live. It’s such a blessing to interact with my clients again and meet so many others." The campaign also kicked off featuring loyal clients such as Billy Porter and his husband Adam Smith-Porter.
How America can support the business: Authentic acknowledgment means a lot to Cruz and Gomez, as well as those they support. Cruz says by simply patronizing their business and following along on Instagram and YouTube are the best ways to support them during this time.
Erin Gloor of USA Twisterz
Business: Gymnastics studio and classes
Need a way to get your kids moving?
Erin Gloor, owner of USA Twisterz, has pivoted to hosting virtual gymnastics classes three times a day, six days a week. The Fairfield, New Jersey, gym hosts events such as birthday parties and caters classes to all ages, beginning from a "Mommy and Me" class through a grade school program for kids in first grade and up.
Founded in 2014, the gym prides itself on teaching strength, flexibility, and confidence, both physically and mentally.
"Gymnastics definitely challenges you, not just physically, but also mentally. I think we’ve really helped our kids work not just physically, but also getting tough and strong, mentally, because it doesn’t really come easy to everyone," said Gloor, who supports an all-female team of 13 instructors.
Due to the coronavirus crisis shutting down her gym, Gloor quickly shifted operations online by hosting virtual classes through Zoom, Instagram and Facebook live.
"My instructors really jumped in and started teaching classes virtually, that says a lot -- we really want to keep engaging with the kids," said Gloor. "It’s more than just gymnastics, but also socially keeping the kids talking and communicating with other people outside their own home."
For a $10 Venmo charge, people from across the country can sign up for the Zoom classes through a link on their website that can be found on Facebook and Instagram. USA Twisterz will email and post all of the scheduled class time so that the information can be easily accessible, no matter where the gymnasts are.
"We’ve had people from all across the country take these classes," said Gloor.
How you can support the business: America can support USA Twisterz by dropping into one of the three daily virtual gymnastics classes. The schedule is posted daily through its website, email blasts, Facebook and Instagram. The $10 drop-in charge helps pay for instructors and covers the expenses for the gym, said Gloor. Once a week, on Sundays, the gym offers personal one-on-one, 40-minute coaching sessions with an instructor. "Every little bit does really count and if we all work together, at the end of the day, we’re going to rise up stronger," said Gloor.
Kurt Halls of Caribeque Seasonings & Rub Co.
Business: Cooking seasonings and rubs
Kurt Halls always had an interest in cooking, but it wasn’t until after a hunting trip where the inspiration for Caribeque Seasoning & Rub Co. struck.
"I had brought along some seasonings for wild boar and someone asked me if I sold them," Halls, who was born in Trinidad but grew up in St. Croix, says. "And on the drive home I'm like, you know, why don't I sell this? I really love creating flavor profiles."
Soon, Halls launched his company, which features an array of seasonings and rubs that are low-sodium, gluten-free, MSG-free and low-to-no-sugar. Halls says the launch came at a good time, especially when he decided to pivot the business away from being just for meat lovers to being inclusive to vegetarians and those with dietary restrictions.
"We were doing a lot of grilling," Halls says. "But I made a mental switch to us being a flavor company," noting that he started highlighting the healthiness of his products because of keto diets growing in popularity, but also the seasonings and rubs’ usability for indoor cooking, and for vegetables and other foods.
As coronavirus spread, Halls says Caribeque’s supply chain was disrupted, from the bottles that packaged his products to some of the ingredients not being available.
"I had to take 80% of the products off the website," he says, adding that things are slowly picking back up for the business.
But in the meantime, Halls has pivoted again, taking to Instagram and YouTube to host videos in which he cooks up recipes that are only five ingredients or less. He admits that he does include Caribeque products within those recipes, but will also share substitutes viewers may have in their homes. The clips are a "huge hit," he says, pointing out the joy he gets from others sharing on social media that they’ve made the recipes from the website and from his videos.
Additionally, Halls takes pride in teaching people how to cook for their families -- a more affordable option for many families.
"I think a big part of cooking is planning ahead and preparing so that you can spend more time with your family and less time with the kitchen," he says. "I'm really big on that. We only have so many hours at night with your children."
How can America support your business: "Come to the website, not only to purchase from us but go to recipes, which are also on our YouTube channel," Halls says. "The recipes are not as hard to make as people think and only use up to five ingredients."
David, Adam and Noah Belanich of Joyride Coffee
Business: Office craft beverage company
Brothers David, Adam and Noah Belanich established Joyride Coffee in 2011. But over the years, their humble beginnings as a single food truck operation in New York City have evolved into their status as a premier craft beverage company serving business not only in New York, but San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and Boston, too.
While they work to get local roasters’ products into the hands of coffee connoisseurs, they’ve also found success with their cold brew "Kegerators."
"Iced coffee used to be second-class, chilled hot coffee," Adam says. "But it’s getting better and better ... in winter, people wanted hot coffee, but more people are drinking cold brew all year round."
"We’ve been converting people who historically only drank hot coffee. People who didn’t drink coffee at all who have now become coffee lovers," said David. "It’s opening up new consumers."
But when millions stopped heading into the office -- either because they opted to work from home during the pandemic, or because they were furloughed or let go from their jobs entirely -- Joyride had to adapt quickly.
Just weeks ago, the company launched its Boxed Cold Brew Coffee, which is produced in the New York City borough of Queens. Thanks to it being able to be shipped anywhere in the U.S., Joyride is getting its beverages directly into the hands of its customers regardless of where they work or their employment status.
When asked what it’s like to work with family -- who they often see on the weekends in addition to the work week -- Noah says it works because "we’re very different."
"If we were more alike, we’d probably butt heads, but we do very different things [for the business], we’re complementary, not antagonistic," he adds.
How can America support your business: America can support Joyride by placing an order or creating a subscription on our website. You can choose coffees from our local roaster partners or our new boxed cold brew. If you love our coffee, you can help us by sharing the joy with your friends!
Leanne Wyatt of The Burlap Cottage
Business: Personalized anniversary gifts, holiday decor and keepsakes
Leanne Wyatt launched her Etsy shop, The Burlap Cottage, in 2012, making the kind of homemade gifts, including personalized anniversary keepsakes, decorative pillows and decor, that family and friends had always encouraged her to sell. Since selling her first Christmas tree skirt, the San Antonio-based mom turned entrepreneur has scaled her business to become an Etsy standout.
The Burlap Cottage has been favorited more than 4,000 times on Etsy, according to the platform, and during busy seasons, Wyatt said she normally hires fellow sewers in her neighborhood to fulfill orders in her dining room turned full-time studio.
But when COVID-19 hit in mid-March, Wyatt didn't want to expose her family or her team, so she's been "doing everything" herself. So when Etsy's CEO put out a call to sellers to fulfill the urgent need for masks, Wyatt thankfully had stocked up on fabric before the pandemic and was able to pivot. "I have a lot of fabric on hand and it was kind of a natural fit," she told "GMA." "I was able to very quickly shift."
Her colorful reversible fabric masks have been a bestseller. Wyatt said she's made over 600 and seen traffic to her Etsy store spike along with an influx of positive responses from customers.
"Since the mouth is covered, next to smiling, a great way to bring a little happiness to others is through creative expression. My mask provides a way for people to do that," Wyatt wrote. "Also, because they are reversible with a different coordinating fabric, it is almost like having two masks for an entirely different look."
Wyatt said she's been grateful for other Etsy suppliers during this time who have helped her source fabric, elastic and supplies to keep up with mask demand.
How America can support my business: Wyatt told "GMA" to "buy handmade" and support small businesses in the handmade industry and local businesses in your area.
"Buy handmade because the customer will get to interact directly with the maker and the designer of their product and have a personal connection to what they are buying," she said. "Etsy shops have been hard hit ... Think about buying handmade for a gift or any item."
Christina and Brad Cowherd of Infusion Tea
Business: Vegetarian restaurant and tea business
In Orlando, where the company Infusion Tea, is based, more than 1,000 homes have been "tea-p'd" over the past month.
Christina and Brad Cowherd -- who founded the vegetarian restaurant and tea business in 2004 -- along with their school-age kids, started delivering a few dozen yard signs that said "You've been tea-p'd" and included a space to write in the giver's name before the words "loves you." They attached two rolls of toilet paper and a bag of loose-leaf tea to the sign and placed them in front yards of some of their longtime customers.
"Christina really wanted to start a little thing here in our neighborhood where we were spreading joy to people," Brad Cowherd said. "We thought how can we brighten people's days? Everybody needed toilet paper and we have so much in the restaurant, we thought let's go give it out."
The idea caught on, leading to more than 60 orders from customers after the first day of deliveries up to around 1,500 signs being distributed in the Orlando area and more than 1,200 of those packages shipped across the U.S., according to Cowherd.
"It's been our COVID miracle," he said. "This really didn't start as an idea to save our business. We thought we would do 30 or 50 signs in the neighborhood as a nice gesture and they took off."
Cowherd said the company's gross sales fell drastically when restaurants were ordered closed in Florida in March. The success of the "tea-p'd" initiative has allowed Cowherd and his wife to rehire their employees and give them close to the same number of hours per week they were working pre-coronavirus.
The initiative is also helping local vendors, such as the Orlando sign maker the Cowherds hired to make their yard signs.
"In this time, to get something that says so-and-so loves you, people are really into it."
How can America support your business: By visiting the website and purchasing tea care packages to be sent anywhere in the U.S. or, locally, by purchasing signs, food and tea from the restaurant.
Tara Sutton of Everything Done To a T
Business: Personalized gifts and decor
Tara Sutton's Everything Done To a T Etsy shop primarily focuses on creating special accessories for events such as weddings and bachelorette parties.
Since many big events have been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sutton told "GMA" sales from her business have come to a "screeching halt." Additionally, many partnerships she relies on have suffered. "A lot of my marketing and social media images came from large-scale, styled shoots, which are no longer happening, or wedding photographers who would share shots of my products after an event," said Sutton.
Sutton has had to purchase some lighting, backgrounds and styling props as she has had to learn how to take her own photos and market them on her own. She is also based in a home office with one employee who has not been able to work with her due to health concerns. Sutton further explained, "So where I was accustomed to delegating some of the projects, they are now all being 100% fulfilled by only me -- on top of balancing time for my full-time job, husband and two young boys."
To creatively adapt to these new circumstances, Sutton has begun creating new products that could best serve people during this time. She's started making personalized trace boards to help children learn how to spell their names that also include trace letters and numbers they can use while away from school.
Additionally, Sutton has also started making ear savers, which help relieve tension put on your ears from wearing a mask all day, and donating them to nurses and front-line workers. She's also started making lots of custom Mother's Day gifts such as cutting boards engraved with family recipes and mugs featuring their children's artwork.
How can you support the business: America can help Everything Done to a T by following the business' social media accounts and sharing items posted. "My hope is that even if customers don't see something they need right now, they can help me gain exposure with those who might," said Sutton. Also, word-of-mouth referrals are the best compliment, and completely free for those who cannot afford to make a purchase. "This will also help to keep me in mind for when their next special event comes up in the future," she says. Another great way is to purchase small gifts for others such as brides-to-be, friends or new moms to spread some joy during this challenging time.
Do you have a small business that has been impacted by the coronavirus that you've adapted to stay afloat? Tell us how America can support your business here.