2020 has been quite a year. It’s been tough on many people who are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, fires, and social unrest. How have solo businesses been fairing? We reached out to a few Better, Smarter, Richer alumni, and ask how they are doing.
Artist Susan Currington
Thanks for reaching out and sending you some good thoughts. We just built a house, moved, built an art studio, trying to get landscaping in before the rains, landed a HUGE contract with the wood business, looking to hire someone, elderly in-laws need help, etc. Happy to be well and healthy! www.susancurington.com
Stephen Moellering, hand-thrown planter creator
In March I was actually down about 30% from 2019 at the time the pandemic was announced. However, I had just filled 3 large orders and was in process of filling another when all my customers closed their doors. I like to keep a substantial inventory of finished and unfinished work available so orders can be filled immediately. The business was in reasonably good shape but low for that time of year.
March thru July 4 is always the height of my season and I was worried. My 13-year-old son was out of school and I had nothing to do so we started hiking in Forest Park and I started walking in the neighborhood just to have something to do to keep from overspending. My modest cash reserve helped, but I had a few things that had to be done. I was preparing to install a larger kiln that was already paid for but needed a structure to house it as well as the actual transport of the kiln. The seller had assured me he would remain flexible to my needs.
When the PUA was activated I applied and started waiting. I started calling, sometimes over 200 times a day. Then finally got thru. By the time I got payments, two of my local customers were open and doing curbside pickup and deliveries. Orders weren’t big, but I was getting something. Things are continuing to improve. I’ve been trying to keep my PUA claim open but I have had to spend several days on the phone to accomplish that.
I slowly put up a building to house the new kiln and after some false starts and much research, I moved it myself, saving over 50% on that job. At this point, I have been doing business with 4 of my 5 active accounts. As long as that continues to improve, as we all learn new tricks to compensate for this downturn and limitation I’ll be ok.
The things that I feel have helped me the most: I have no employees, my home is paid for and I have no business debt except for one credit card. I have tried to limit my production so that I always have a complete selection but no more than that to save on materials and fuel. I have made similar cost-cutting decisions in running the household as well. Hopefully, things do continue to improve, although an incremental improvement is the best thing we can realistically expect. I’m afraid this winter could be very hard. After being trapped in the house for 8 days with the wildfire smoke, I’m finding it very hard to get motivated to do anything. This too shall pass.
My business slowed down substantially, but I have been able to retain my clients. I am now doing a full-time contract job in addition to my business. Lots of hours, work full-time during the day and do my consulting projects at night and on weekends. My business has not grown as my as I had envisioned. But grateful that I have had the opportunity to balance out the income with my contract job. Appreciate having the opportunity to learn new skills for my toolbox.
Eric Norberg, Editor of THE BEE
As the Editor of THE BEE, I work alone and home, so things haven’t changed a lot in that regard; our news coverage has continued about as usual, but the sales have dropped off a bit. We have kept most of our regular advertisers, but have had much less success getting new ones during the pandemic. But we’re hanging in there.