Small Businesses Try to Pivot Around COVID-19
By Dianne Anderson
Pivot took on a whole new meaning this past year.
Businesses have closed up shop across the nation, leaving those remaining in survival mode hoping for enough to hold them over until their customers return.
Some are now slowly starting to reopen their doors, although limited to 25% capacity. If next month goes well, it could be open to 50%.
For local business owners like Lorenzo Griffin, opportunities came in a different form that he expects will continue far into the future.
“We were affected exponentially when the Governor closed down barber shops and salons three times over the last 12 months. It literally shut us down, but we’re survivors and thrivers,” he said.
He and his wife own a professional haircare company that sells exclusively to Black salons and barber shops. At one point, they realized they had to think fast and redirect resources. They moved toward an online model with webinars to sell to their clients.
He said they had just purchased their building suite on Orange Show and Arrowhead in 2019, when just four months later, COVID-19 hit.
“We turn lemons into lemonade and we keep moving,” he said.
The only help they received from a governmental agency was the Small Business Administration, which paid half their mortgage for about six months, and another half mortgage covering two months before their location had to shut down once more.
Their bank lender also deferred the mortgage payment, tacking it onto the backend.
Other than that, he said it’s mostly getting creative in the way they do business.
“We used to do seminars at the big hotels in Ontario. We’d have 125 stylists pay to get the education, but we’re doing webinars now. You’ve got to know how to pivot,” he said.
As an industry, he points to global revenue outlook reports that hair, weave and wigs will pull about $10 billion dollars a year in the five-year period ending 2023. About 70 percent of that expenditure comes from the Black community.
Griffin, who started Laran product line right before the last 2008 Great Recession, has seen tough times before. Since then, they have expanded with multiple streams of income across several western states.
His business model helps keep Black dollars in the community, and he said their stylists have benefited.
He also has other timely advice. His business had dropped in sales by about 20% last year, however, he looked closely at his expenses and saw where they could trim the fat to cut back by 30%. It still left about 10% profit wiggle room.
The trick is staying on a budget. It’s the way he was raised.
“That’s basically what they have to do. You’re talking to a young man raised in the projects,” he said. “I know how to survive on a little if I have to. We’re pretty frugal, not flashy, no fancy cars.”
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Kim Calvin said that she reached out to the city for information on assistance programs for small businesses and micro business loans.
“Currently, we are not directly administering any funds. However, the City of San Bernardino is providing information for all small businesses who are able to receive assistance through the County of San Bernardino’s website for COVID-19 RELIEF. Non-Profits are able to apply as well. During these trying times, it is essential for all COVID-19 assistance to be made available to our community members. As businesses begin to re-open, I encourage all community members to shop local to support our local small businesses,” she said in an email.
Recently, Gov. Newsom’s Administration announced four new rounds of funding support for small businesses and nonprofits negatively impacted during COVID-19. New grant funding rounds are available from $5-25,000.
Newsom’s administration also recently announced that Tara Lynn Gray will lead the California Office of the Small Business Advocate (CalOSBA)
“As California continues in its recovery, it’s crucial that we recognize minority, women, and immigrant small business owners across the state and the need for connection that is authentic,” said Jay King, President/CEO of the California Black Chamber of Commerce. “Tara is a one-of-a-kind advocate making her exceptionally well-positioned for this new role. Her dedication to all of California’s small business owners will ensure that inclusivity and equity absolutely remain the cornerstone of our economic recovery.”
For more resources, see:
To Support Laran black hair products, see
Councilwoman Calvin recommends business owners check out:
At the county level,
At the state level, learn more about grants and deadlines available through the Office of the Small Business Advocate, see https://careliefgrant.com/