On March 16th, 2020, Governor Wolf of Pennsylvania, ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses to close due to the COVID-19 virus. The shutdown was initially supposed to last two weeks. For most business owners, the general mood was “okay, we can do this for the greater good of public health”. Two weeks turned into four with orders extended another two weeks and again with no plan for reopening in sight. The primary focus at the beginning stages was our health care system and public safety. As the crisis continued to unravel, the Federal Government in good faith, with no precedence to go off of, started to implement financial relief packages for small business owners to weather the crisis and provide some security during the shutdowns. Safe to say, a lot was happening at once; public health was of grave concern and fear of the economy with unemployment demands were mounting.
There are two things in this life we all understand as certain: death and taxes. What a time for a famous saying! The sentiment of “We are all together” did play out with creditors furloughing bill payments, but like everything, this too would begin to come to an end. Bills come like clockwork every month and groceries are not bought “on the cuff”, (an old I.O.U. system), tensions were and still are mounting in fear over the virus. As a small business owner, the process of applying for financial relief through the PPP (Payroll Protection Program) and EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loan) government programs and then moving quickly to fill out applications for any chance of consideration for grant programs was enormously stressful. I definitely experienced my first panic attack. There was a lot of press coverage of chain and larger companies applying for the PPP funds and receiving them. As the fund dried up in a matter of days, Main Street businesses, through their banking institutions, didn’t have a fighting chance. That beautiful business plan and budget for 2020 we had all worked so hard on and were successfully implementing before the COVID-19 crisis was incinerated!
Because this process, we created “This is Main Street” out of pure frustration on my part as a business owner. “Pivot” quickly became the word of 2020. We have to pivot! How?
Also, do it quickly while working to save the business, keep employees working with no work, work from home, everyone is home and keep the kid entertained. Easy! (Being exceedingly sarcastic.) Also don’t leave your house and wipe down all the groceries. Thankfully we were great on toilet paper; no stress on that front!
My curious nature is to document and dive into learning. I needed a creative outlet and a voice in the matter. I needed inspiration from fellow business owners; that I was not alone in this crisis. I wanted to see the faces of the small business owners who staked everything they have on being a business owner, just like myself, which then lead me to the questions:
How were other businesses like mine, and not like mine, faring?
How were they pivoting?
Could they pivot?
Creating statement photographs of business owners quickly turned into my initiative. Through social media channels, such as Facebook and Instagram, we are sharing these photographs and their unique stories. They are powerful in connecting social media users by placing them into peoples feeds and minds with the intention of creating customers. As the community grows, we are supporting small business by sharing, commenting and tagging using the hashtag #thisismainstreet and #supportsmallbusiness. Our end goal is to humanize Main Street, connect you with a business owner who is your neighbor and bring awareness to why it IS imperative to SHOP LOCAL. Save the American Dream by shopping our Main Streets!
Ann Marie Casey