Local Entrepreneurs Get Creative and Adapt During Quarantine

People needed groceries. Misti needed a way to supplement her job as a wedding planner during a global pandemic. 

As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention.

Many local businesses have reinvented themselves, or their product offering entirely, to adapt to the changing business landscape that still remains uncertain during COVID-19. Businesses in the Mid-Ohio Valley offered virtual shopping hours, delivery options that went above and beyond the regular, and even more. When the crisis hit, many businesses were left with fight or flight options and the decisions to increase their tech capabilities for virtual shopping experiences and tailor their services to the current needs of the area.

The Grocery Girl

“Since I’m a wedding planner, I knew in March I was going to take a huge financial hit because I wasn’t going to be able to work. I had to think outside of the box to still have an income. With my entrepreneurial spirit, I thought to myself, ‘what do people need right now?’ I quickly realized people would obviously need groceries, but wouldn’t want to go out and get them,” said Misti Sims, owner of The Grocery Girl.

With the growing concerns over spreading the virus by contact, Misti capitalized on her previous experience as a food handler and her organizational skills to put consumers’ minds at ease. Their groceries are handled by someone who goes great lengths to maintain a safe environment. 

“For me, I’m always in a mask and gloves when drop-off begins. I also use hand sanitizer like a crazy person. The vehicle has a hot/cold blanket in it and the bags are on that, not on the actual back of the car. All cold food gets bagged together and stored in cold bags and/or two yeti coolers with ice bags. The other items are stored in net bags. After each delivery, the bags, blanket, and cooler get wiped down with disinfectant wipes or disinfectant spray before the next customer’s order goes in,” Misti said. “I mean, I even have a particular way I handle things when I get home so my family doesn’t come into contact with anything I have had on until I have showered and changed.”

Along with groceries, other needs were going unmet as shoppers shied away from physical contact – particularly in the beauty industry. In such an industry, practicing strict social distancing is nearly impossible unless you’re innovative. 

Adapting in Style

Jess McRobert, from Yahss Claws & Cuts, had the idea of offering at-home, salon-quality, press on nails when one of her loyal customers was getting married toward the beginning of the shutdowns. Jess was unsure if the business would be open or closed during her wedding, so she designed the nails as a backup plan for her customer. After she posted those nails, other clients reached out to have the same option.

“It took off quickly! Like blew up! I talked to Sam and got the rest of the girls on board immediately. One because there is no way I could do it alone, and two because we are a family. I wanted us all to make it out to the other side of this together,” Jess said. “It’s been so successful that we plan to continue after the stay at home order is lifted. Of course once back to work, it will slow down. We plan on still providing custom sets as well as keeping our Facebook group running and offering some premade sets in the shop once we get caught back up on in-person appointments. I know this way is convenient for a lot of people in more ways than one, even after the order is lifted. So we will continue to provide them as we can.”

For Jess, it wasn’t just about maintaining her business during tough times, but also bringing a sense of stability to women who include nail care as part of their monthly routine.

“It really makes my heart full to know that we were able to bring that normalcy back to women during this. I feel like getting your nails done, for a lot of women, is not just a luxury, but a sign of confidence – a self boost and just something we do for us. So to be able to continue to bring that small pop of character, that individuality, or something that just makes them happy, is really humbling. It’s been an amazing experience,” she said.

Time for Creative Growth

It seems that the desire for art extends into physical pieces as well. Abigail Gedon, of PWDR Beaute and WyldeR, had to move the focus of her main business from professional makeup artistry to resin art to abide by social distancing protocol.

“I started my “revamped” Etsy shop in January and realized it was super niche. Not everyone wants to wear bone or dried plants as jewelry. Then, I was asked for a custom order of earthy coasters in early March. I knew as the pandemic started setting in, it would be hard to fulfill quick orders; shipping was so slow,” Abigail said. “But once I created a few I was hooked. The methodical steps it takes to create and produce a piece was the exact outlet I needed to curb the anxiety I was having trying to provide for a family of four – especially since this pandemic also halted my full-time makeup artistry business.

Abigail believes that people need art now more than ever because “this pandemic has forced us to appreciate the things we take for granted – like a beautiful mural on front street, the artistic simplicity of a local latte, and the friendly greeting of a shop owner. Art is important right now because it connects us all in a way we don’t have the chance to do,” she said. “I knew the Mid-Ohio Valley was full of small business supporters, but seeing the support during a pandemic makes me cry happy tears every day. I want to convey to my customers how much they truly are supporting my family! You’re keeping my lights on in my heart and home.”

Another local artist, Meg Rataiczak, from Monkey’s Uncle Tattoo made the abrupt switch from tattoo ink to watercolor when the pandemic hit. Pre-pandemic, Meg worked as a full-time tattoo artist. Now, she paints watercolor commissions as she pulls back to her classical art training.

“I create art for myself, but I find a way to turn it into something I can benefit from. I illustrated a tarot deck and I sell the prints from that along with the commissions. The paintings have helped me keep a steady hand, too. I’ve been advertising mostly through Instagram and selling from my Etsy shop,” she said. 

Going Virtual

The switch to virtual sales happened quickly for many businesses. Courtney Smith of Randomosity 740 offered in-home style therapy where she walked people through ways to reinvent their wardrobe. As people purge their closets during the quarantine, many are seeing her services as necessary.

“I’ve had to really focus on the virtual side of my services. That means coming up with different services I can provide as well. I’ve also lowered my pricing for virtual services because I felt that was the right thing to do for people right now. I honestly feel like the services I’m offering right now aren’t considered so much as splurges, but the perfect solution for putting their time and energy into themselves for just an hour with me,” she said.

With a not-so-certain end in sight, business owners continue to learn and adapt their businesses to fit the needs of their clients. However, they’re learning as humans as well.

“It’s taught me a great deal – never take anything for granted. It showed me how much can change in a single day. If you would have told me that I would go from an award-winning wedding and event planner to hustling groceries, I would have laughed at you. It’s taught me I’m a hustler who never gives up. I’m resilient in ways I never knew. It’s shown me the kindness and gratitude of total strangers who have helped me stay afloat financially when I had to pick up the pieces of a nonexistent business. It’s been humbling,” Misti said.

Oh, and the most requested item in the Mid-Ohio Valley from The Grocery Girl?

“Cheese! 100% Cheese.”