Cecilia Gonzales’ shop. Photo by Paulina Cruz

Small Businesses Struggle under Covid-19

Starting your own business takes a lot of determination and hard work. It can be nerve-racking starting off on your own and not knowing if your blood, sweat and tears will end in success. Moreover, for the past two years, small businesses have faced difficult circumstances completely out of their control.

Although the press has reported that the pandemic has resulted in the permanent closing of 100,000–200,000 more businesses than in a typical year, that fails to recognize the livelihoods affected. Could things have been much worse? Of course, but that does not take away from the immeasurable stresses families endured starting and losing business during a global pandemic. Not to mention the struggles of people who have managed to push forward, in hopes that things will eventually get better.

Liliana Osorio of Figure Brows attending to a client. Photo by Paulina Cruz

Cecilia Gonzales got a taste of both experiences, losing one of her two businesses during the pandemic. In 2019, after gaining her nail technician license, she began a business, Cecilia Nail Artist, out of a spare room in her house in Visalia.

Things started great, and soon she found herself fully booked weeks in advance. With things going so well, she decided to start teaching other people through the same program she took. Between teaching her own students and working from home, Gonzales was sure to beat the first-year goal without much concern. In 2020, Covid-19 shut down the world and Gonzales’ business.

Indeed, 2020 was a turbulent year not only for her business but also for her family. Her husband caught Covid-19 at the beginning of the year and was seriously ill. She nursed him, making sure the disease did not spread to anyone else in the house.

Unfortunately, this was not the last time she feared for her husband’s life. The following year, he endured two life-threatening accidents at work and was bedridden for months.

Without her husband working, Gonzales became the primary source of income in her family and she needed her business to succeed. However, she was fully aware of the dangers of reopening given that several of her husband’s coworkers had died from Covid early in the pandemic.

“I knew how dangerous it could be, but there wasn’t an option. I needed to work, and I was taking every precaution I could to make sure everyone was as safe as possible.”

Gonzales was unable to return to teaching, not knowing how to shift to online courses with a subject that was so hands-on. It was simply impossible for her to continue with that.

“Everything changes; we as humans need to be ready to roll with the punches,” she noted as she focused on her first, and now only, business. Sales started slow with some of her regulars tentatively returning. Over time, her business began to pick up again although nowhere near where it was before the pandemic.

Gonzales continues to give it her all, taking English classes at night and working or babysitting her two new grandchildren by day. She smiles optimistically when thinking about the future, “You just have to find a way to keep going and things will fall into place.”

Cancer survivor Liliana Osorio opened her beauty studio, Figure Brows, also in Visalia, the week that the lockdown occurred. Osorio was crushed, being stopped before she even had the chance to start. She was desperate to open her business but fearful of getting sick or spreading Covid-19.

While waiting to open, she took more online beauty courses, gaining more credentials for when she could finally open. She explained that her desire to open was fueled not only by wanting her business to succeed but also her financial anxieties. “I was stuck and scared. I was just starting, and I had signed a two-year lease so I couldn’t just take it back or give up.”

The moment the lockdown ended, Osorio was ready to go, carefully following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. She even required masks at all times, regardless of the state mandates. “There’s always a risk of spreading Covid, and I wasn’t going to make it worse.”

Covid had shut down her business, and she wasn’t about to let that happen again. “It’s simple: no mask, no service.”

Osorio has had her ups and downs. Being new, many people didn’t know about her business at first, but she has slowly begun to build clientele. At one point, she caught Covid-19 and had to close temporarily.

“It’s hard, but the bills don’t stop,” Osorio responded as to how she is handling the situation. “Life doesn’t stop. So, neither can we.”

*****

Paulina Cruz is a fellow with the Community Alliance newspaper. She is a Mexican immigrant currently attending Fresno State. She is currently working on an anthropology major with a minor in psychology. She spends her free time writing poetry or painting.

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Liliana Osorio of Figure Brows attending to a client. Photo by Paulina Cruz

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Cecilia Gonzales’ shop. Photo by Paulina Cruz

  • Paulina Cruz is a fellow with the Community Alliance. She is a Mexican immigrant currently attending Fresno State. She is currently working on an anthropology major with a minor in psychology. She spends her free time writing poetry or painting. 

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