How 3 Millennial Small Business Owners Are Adapting To The Pandemic

Despite the avocado-hued reputation that millennials get for
resisting adulthood or spending too much money on pressed juices,
they are statistically
more business-minded than any other generation
before them.
According to a 2017 study by America’s SBDC, millennials already
own more small businesses than Boomers, and at least
50% planned on starting a business
within the next three years.
But the pandemic changed a lot for
millennial small business owners

Paige, 29, a writer-turned-baker, spent the last two years
finalizing business plans for a wedding cake company that would
launch this spring. With a dozen couples already on the waitlist,
she was looking forward to a successful first year. Now, in-person
weddings are on hold indefinitely and Paige’s business is back to
being just a dream again. Without the foundation of a slow-baked
customer base and community embrace, many
new small business owners will not survive
or even begin.

And now, just as some established small businesses are starting
to getting the hang of running their modified operations virtually,
shutdowns are beginning to lift around the country.
It’s great
news, but it’s also complicated. Depending on the business and its
ability to
enforce social distancing
, reopening will either save them, or
further complicate an already delicate situation. Bustle spoke with
three established millennial small business owners about how
they’re adapting in the face of the pandemic.

Emma Straub, Owner Of Books Are Magic, Brooklyn, New

How have you had to adjust the business model to keep
operating, and what struggles have you come across in the

We are very lucky because the things that we sell don’t spoil,
and they are things that we can easily send to people’s doors.
Before the pandemic, web orders were like 10% of our business and
now it’s 100% of business. Business is OK.

The hardest part is keeping up with the demand. Before we had a
staff of 13, and all but three have been home for months. Day to
day, it’s gone from a chatty job that requires very little
physicality to an entirely physical job with no chatting. We are
trying to figure out how we can translate bookselling online to be
more interactive. It’s a lot, and we’ve never worked harder or been
more exhausted than we are right now.

How has the community supported you through this

The community has been showing up for us. We got the
small business loan
, so we haven’t had to lay anyone off yet. I
recognize the extreme privilege that I have, we are healthy, the
store will survive.

Can you envision what business will look like,

We tried curbside pick up at the beginning and it made our
employees anxious. We will try to organize a good way to do that
again. I assume that we will require masks and that we will have a
limit for how many people can be inside at once and events will
continue virtually for some time. Even if we are able to again in
some way, it won’t be the same.

Kyly Zak Rabin, Owner of Zak. Eyes, Los Angeles, California

How has your small business been effected by shutdowns?
As an essential-ish service, there must be a lot of gray area with

The pandemic has not decreased the need for sight. Our patients
have been reaching out and are eager to receive eye care. We’ve
been able to support our community by fabricating glasses and
providing contact lenses all with free shipping. Those without
prescription needs are showing support by purchasing Zak. frames
with blue blocking lenses, which help protect our eyes from screen
fatigue…which we’re all experiencing more than ever!

What does it feel like to have a business on your
shoulders right now?

Emotionally, it’s a rollercoaster. I feel overwhelmed, lonely,
focused, defeated, surprisingly at times inspired and truly
exhausted. My workload coupled with the anxiety of the unknown and
heartache for the world leaves me feeling generally chaotic.

Most of my team has been furloughed, so the work falls on me.
I’m spending my time dissecting the
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
process and advising my team
on relief opportunities. Plus, I’m strategizing the most efficient
ways to pivot so we can generate some revenue, while simultaneously
continuing to take care of our patient and customer eye needs

As a newer business in town, how are you

We opened about a year and a half ago. Our focus has been on our
physical location but the shutdown has forced an opportunity to
shift focus and give our website and social channels more
attention, which has resulted in online sales growth.

What’s the new normal for Zak. Eyes?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and [L.A.]
Mayor [Eric] Garcetti recently authorized routine and comprehensive
eye exams. We’ve been strategizing our updated operations to ensure
the safety of our staff, patients and community. We will be open
two days a week by appointment only. From patient temperature
checks and sanitation protocols to service updates that will
minimize patient visits thanks to telemedicine, our goal is to
provide quality care while limiting exposure. My goal is to create
a safe but very calm and comfortable environment.

Emily Mitchell, Owner of Half Pint Farm, Burlington,

As an essential business, what’s your primary

We are here to feed people. This crisis has shed light on a
broken, unsustainable national food system. I guess I never really
took the time to look at the pandemic in the context of me and my
family because our lives are relatively unchanged. We work 80-90
hours a week, pandemic or not, and people still need food.

How will farming, and selling vegetables change for

We take all Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
precautions at the field with employees (masks, hand washing,
required signage). Our CSA members normally get reusable bags,
which is definitely not the best practice amidst a pandemic, so we
have switched to recycled paper for now.

Has the community been able to support you?

We have had to pivot from primarily restaurant sales to a
Supported Agriculture (CSA) driven model
. Our community has
humbled us with their support by choosing our itty bitty farm among
giants who have been farming for 10 times as long. We have more
than doubled our CSA membership from last season to this season.
It’s amazing! We feel more cemented into our community than ever

We are shining a spotlight on some of the millions of
small businesses now challenged by COVID-19. This is part of an
ongoing commitment our parent company, Bustle Digital Group, is
making to support small businesses throughout the entire month of
May. Tell us about your favorite small business on social media
using #SmallBusinessSalutes.

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How 3 Millennial Small Business Owners Are Adapting To The