How COVID-19 is impacting small businesses

Many businesses were forced to close or entirely change their way of business when the shelter-in-place mandates were put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. Local small businesses have been severely impacted because of this.

Dean Siracusa, founder and president of both Orange Coworking and Summer Hawk Optics, said his businesses have been impacted in different ways.

“With Orange, we’ve had to remain closed to the public as a requirement by the city of Austin (Texas). We will be hopefully opening back up very soon, but that’s significantly affected us,” said Siracusa. “Additionally, a number of members got laid off from their jobs and had to cancel their memberships.”

“With Summer Hawk Optics, the difference is that we still sell online through our website and we sell to the military,” Siracusa continued. “Our retailers aren’t open, so we aren’t getting a lot of those sales and that’s affected us dramatically. Fortunately we are still open and making those other sales.”

Siracusa said the Small Business Administration loan was granted to Summer Hawk Optics, but with Orange only having one employee, it does not qualify as a priority. He said he’s working on getting a similar loan from the city of Austin.

“The SBA’s view of small business, I believe their official view, is anything less than 500 employees or something like that,” said Siracusa. “We don’t even rank in their metrics of what a small business is. We are far too tiny.”

Siracusa said he is concerned people may not understand how businesses are run and what their hardships mean for the community.

“There are great expenses to running a business that most non-business owners have no idea about. Most businesses don’t have the reserves to remain closed for months at a time,” said Siracusa. “Same with many employees, even if they’re doing well and saving some money. To be closed — whether you’re an individual or a company — to be not working for months at a time is devastating.”

Monah Euresti, the owner of Aura Botanica, runs a business that focuses on wellness mainly through the use of CBD.

“We help people who have inflammation, cancer and numerous other diseases,” said Euresti.

Euresti said her clients stopped coming into the store since about the beginning of January because they were part of the at-risk community and began to practice social distancing before the majority of the population did.

“I also have auto-immune diseases, and we are the part of the community that’s more afraid or cautious because we don’t know how it’s going to affect us,” said Euresti. “I definitely think that the people who need CBD the most are the ones staying home the most.”

Euresti said she had also tried to apply for the SBA loan, but has had no luck. She’s had a similar misfortune with unemployment.

“I wake up every day at five in the morning and start calling at 6:30 (a.m.) and it’s busy. I have not been able to get through to it and the website is so overwhelmed that it’s crashing,” said Euresti. “I haven’t been able to put an unemployment application in at all.”

Euresti said it’s more difficult for her to sell online because many of her clients rely on her educating them on the products and that’s difficult to do online. She also said she can’t ship anything because she doesn’t feel safe going to the post office.

“I hope that this is over soon and that people get back to normal, but in the meantime it’s important that we all support each other in our small businesses,” said Euresti.

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