Opinion | Small business are taking big hits due to COVID-19

Illustration by Karly Andersen

Gabriel Thomas, Contributing Writer

As college students, we’re all very frustrated about how COVID-19 has put a pause on our lives. If I could describe how I feel during this crisis, it would definitely be: stuck. 

The reason I feel so stuck isn’t what most of you are actually going through right now. I’m a 19-year-old sophomore who works two part-time jobs on VCU’s campus and runs two self-made businesses from home. I know I sound crazy, but being busy makes me smile. 

However, now my businesses are sinking. 

My first business, Grabbed by Gab, is an online business that offers hair extensions, lip gloss and eyelashes. We had a major turnaround in sales, specifically because all my inventory comes from China. Usually, I’m able to do online sales for my out-of-state customers and in-person sales to my VCU customers. Well, now I can’t do either. I only planned on being home in Maryland for a week, but now I’m forced to stay inside because of this virus while all my products are in Richmond. 

On the other hand, my non-profit organization, The Prom Fairy DMV, provides prom dresses for juniors and seniors who are less fortunate. Unfortunately, their dresses aren’t going to be put to use this prom season. Grabbed by Gab is an online business, so I have no doubts about bringing my sales back up after this is over. However, The Prom Fairy DMV is suffering from a lack of time — time being spent with my mentees, time getting ready for prom in April and time for students to develop into the strong young women they desired to be before senior year ended. 

This really hurts both my heart and my efforts because I spent countless hours creating business plans, communicating with advisors and collecting dresses to make their prom night one to remember. Students that benefit from my non-profit predominantly live in poverty. My team members and I were mentoring their outlet, but now those connections are lost.

I’m not the only entrepreneur suffering from this crash in sales and business. Many state officials, including Maryland and Virginia, are asking non-essential businesses to close their doors for the foreseeable future. Local beauty stores, cafes and other businesses are losing profit on a daily basis. COVID-19 might be stopping our income, but it’s not stopping rent and bills. These businesses, like mine, aren’t making money until further notice. Yet, we all have bills to pay with no income to pay them with.

I was just getting started with my organization in Richmond. Armstrong High School was the first school I served. These girls and their futures are important to me, and I wanted them to be inspired and witness themselves grow within the upcoming months. It kills me inside knowing that COVID-19 has affected that.

Alright, enough feelings, and back to being a businesswoman. These girls need me. Instead of dwelling on the past, I’ll use this time to make my businesses better. With this virus halting our lives, it’s easy to feel like there’s no end in sight. But we need to stay positive. I know, it’s corny, but the reality of the matter is: We are stuck here until further notice. We can take that time to sulk or we can become innovative with our businesses.

Grabbed by Gab needs new inventory, packaging and brand ambassadors. The Prom Fairy DMV needs verification from the state and grants to help better assist our students and their families. I’ve got some work to do. All businesses do. But success comes with preparation and opportunity. Maybe COVID-19 will give me the push I needed.

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