‘I Am A Micro-Business’ | Personal Essay

Photos courtesy of Rebecca S. Scott. Bottom photo by Alexandra Rai Adamo.

This appears as it was dictated to Lilly Miman by Rebecca S. Scott, owner of Shepherd’s Run Jewelry. It has been edited and condensed for clarity, style, and length. 

Not even a full week before the outbreak of coronavirus happened in the area, I was supposed to fly to Ireland to settle my mother’s estate. I had a feeling that it wasn’t a good time to fly, and right after that is when the travel restrictions came in. I have a lot of friends in Ireland and with what was happening in Europe, I figured it was a short time before we started here.

There was definitely a little bit of panic already setting in of “how is this going to look?” 

My nine-year-old son Benjamin understands a lot of what’s going on. It’s a little overwhelming and all of my friends felt very much the same as well. When all of a sudden, the adults in the room don’t know all the answers, that was hard for him. 

He was actually sitting beside me as I read out loud that schools will be closed through September. He sat down, he took a deep breath, and said, “Am I going to be able to get my favorite pencil case with my favorite markers?” 

“I don’t know when we’ll get them, but we will,” I said. 

That led to my husband and I making him a workspace in the basement beside me, so that he can build Legos while I’m building jewelry.

We’ve found to keep him on task and focused, it takes one of us sitting down doing his work with him and talking it through. He just is not at a place where he wants to sit and do this work. It’s still taking a lot of our time to instruct and guide him. You really can’t expect for his age group for him to be self-led for more than about 20 minutes.

My husband and myself are self-employed. So, if we don’t work, we don’t get paid. We’re both fairly agile and tend to think on our feet a lot. I started bringing some tools home from my studio, so I could set up a little something in my corner of my basement. 

My husband is a private chef. He’s actually using this time to write all the recipes he’s had in his head for years. He’s teaching some of his clients by Zoom, while I’m trying to update my website and take new photographs. 

For my business, March was appalling. I literally had two sales in March. April has been better online than it had been. A couple of weeks ago, I had shows as far out as September be canceled. Trade shows a massive part of my revenue stream and it’s market research for me. 

There’s a great worry amongst many of us who were pushing wholesale orders out that those orders were going to get cancelled. Stores were shutting down, and if the stores can’t sell the product, then we can’t sell ours either.

It looks like my husband may return to work in a couple of weeks. Up until now, we’ve been able to bounce off each other. My husband will take him for a certain portion of the day, which gives me time and vice versa. But in a couple of weeks, it looks like it’s going to be me providing full-time care for him, teaching him, and trying to keep my business alive. 

Frankly, I’ve been very angry because so many of my friends applied for relief opportunities like the Payroll Protection Program and got squat. One of the biggest things I hope will come out of this is the reframing of how people think of what a small business is. When I learned that a “small business” is defined in this country as somebody with under 500 employees, it kind of made me laugh. 

I haven’t even applied to the PPP or the Economic Injury Disaster Loan yet. I am applying for unemployment this week, but I think my online sales may cut me out. 

Trying to organize all of the paperwork, and be a parent, and be a teacher, and be a business person is just too overwhelming. If I were a little more organized, maybe I’d be more on top of it. But the friends who have done it, almost all of them are ones who do not have children or elderly parents to care for. 

By far the most engagement I’ve ever had online was with my “I am a small business” Instagram post, and I’ve run social media for several different companies I’ve worked for over the years. The idea came from a small business owner Facebook group. 

The realization of a micro-business as a distinct category is something that people really need to become aware of, and I think it’s something a lot of people resonated with. If we come out of this, and most of the tiny businesses have gone, and all we’re left with is big box stores and big chains, people are going to find life really, really different.

Rebecca Scott is one of many local business owners participating in Scout’s Virtual Vendor Showcase on Saturday, May 4. Sign up now to support her and her fellow micro-businesses!

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