Small Businesses and the Coronavirus

By Samantha Cantrell

While the COVID-19 outbreak has presented everyone with unique and unexpected challenges, small business owners seem to have been hit especially hard.  In Pennsylvania, where a stay-home order is in effect, business operations have either been strictly limited or stopped entirely.  As a result, entrepreneurs have had to try to adapt to their constantly changing environment to stay afloat and to continue to serve their customers.

Many restaurants remain open for delivery or take-out only, since all non-essential businesses have been closed to the public in order to encourage social distancing.  Some businesses have set up makeshift take-out windows to allow customers to pick up orders without physically entering, while others offer curbside delivery.  While it is wise to avoid contact with other people to stay healthy at this time, this also takes away what many business owners enjoy most: talking to their customers.  Their opportunities to keep in touch with regular customers has been greatly limited, which has proven difficult for many who consider their customers to be their friends.  With that being said, many are simply grateful that they are able to remain open to serve their community for as long as they possibly can.

On the other end of the spectrum, some businesses have had to close their operations entirely.  For most retailers selling clothing or decorative items, there is no way to remain open to the public.  This means they have had to come up with creative solutions, such as online shops that deliver to customers’ homes, or that allow customers to make purchases online and set up a time for curbside pickup, at which point the seller leaves the merchandise outside for a transaction free of physical contact.  Social media has also been a powerful tool, with many businesses hosting sales on Facebook or Instagram livestreams or by posting photos of merchandise that customers can comment on to claim.  While some businesses have suffered the complications of utilizing the Internet for the first time, many are thankful to be able to remain in contact with their customers to continue operating on at least a small scale.

All in all, while there have been many challenges through this difficult season, many entrepreneurs have seen the positive side of the many changes they have faced.  Many have started projects in their down time that had been postponed during busier seasons and have used the time to expand into new territory that they had not explored before such as new sales methods, subscription services, heavier usage of social media, and more.  Many have also seen a rise in support from the community as people search for ways to support local businesses rather than large corporations, and other business owners have been increasingly supportive of each other as well.  Overall, while nothing is certain except for uncertainty, many business owners are still committed to serving their customers to the best of their ability, because the most important thing is to be able to continue to improve the community by doing what they love.

For more information about how the Coronavirus is influencing small businesses, watch this video created by the owners of Nerdvana Outpost in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania:

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