Young entrepreneurs share their COVID-19 experiences running a business

Starting and running a business during times of normalcy can be challenging enough. Yet, business owners today are faced with another set of challenges. The three entrepreneurs from the Epicenter’s Young Entrepreneurs series explain how they are each juggling it differently in today’s environment.

From adapting for doing business online, to budgeting, to planning for the coming months these small business owners have been able to shift and accommodate for commerce in changing times.


Mt. Pleasant School of Dance continues dance education with online curriculum

Adjusting to the current environment, Andrea Purrenhage, owner of Mt. Pleasant School of Dance, has led the development of Mt. Pleasant School of Dance’s new online curriculum in the age of social distancing. The feedback has been wonderful and positive and Purrenhage estimates that nearly all of her ballet students have continued with dance education virtually.

“My primary mission is the commitment to providing quality dancing education within the community,” says Purrenhage. “And to that goal, we’ve continued teaching with a multiple-platform approach.”
 

“One thing I’ve learned is that in your first year of having a business, there is definitely no set, solid routine, or set plan of what to expect. So, for me, this is just what is normal now, but it sure has been a wild year to open a business.”

- Andrea Purrenhage

It also gives families and kids the option to try something new.

“We link to all the teaching combinations, so any of the students at the studio can try any of them if they wish,” says Purrenhage. “And let’s say your seven-year-old is taking class online, that maybe gives the four-year-old sibling the chance to try the routines from home to see if that was something they would like to try.”

Purrenhage starts each class with the students catching up, understanding that the direct, in person social aspect of dance class is lacking for now.

They all get very excited to share what’s new in life, and so we spend time catching up, hearing who lost a tooth, who got a new puppy, and things like that,” she says.

Making the switch to online instruction has been something Purrenhage has taken in stride after opening just last year.

“One thing I’ve learned is that in your first year of having a business, there is definitely no set, solid routine, or set plan of what to expect,” says Purrenhage. “So, for me, this is just what is normal now, but it sure has been a wild year to open a business.”

She has put all of the studio’s content online and estimates a good majority of students have continued with instruction from home. Purrenhage also teaches a weekly free barre class on Monday’s at 6:00 p.m. on Facebook.

“It is so important right now to get and keep people moving in this challenging time,” she says. “So it has been really good to give people options to stay healthy.”

Daria Batzner, a student at Mt. Pleasant School of Dance, practices at home.

Mt. Pleasant School of Dance is classified as a gym, not an institution for education, so Purrenhage is at the whim of when current regulations will open up for businesses like hers.

She still has plans in the works for previously planned dance camps such as the studio’s new Princess Academy, a mermaid-themed camp, and a Star Wars-themed camp, among others. The activities are just awaiting more details on the release of additional information from the state. Purrenhage is also planning on running a scholarship program for future students to help with some of the costs of dance class later this fall.

As for advice for other small business owners during this time, Purrenhage highlighted the importance of getting back to your roots.

“It’s good to take this time to remember why you love doing what you do,” she says. “Find the one small thing that motivates you in your work and, in times like this, be patient.”


Clare’s 500 District draws support from the community as it adjusts to COVID-19 restrictions

With the COVID-19 restrictions, two of the 500 District’s three businesses (The Venue at 501 and the Upper Rooms) are on hold until further direction from the state.

For the 505 Cafe, the team has quickly adapted to accommodate takeout orders, curbside pickup, and, depending on the day, they are able to provide delivery options as well.

“Mostly we are taking orders over the phone, so that part hasn’t been a significant change,” says Kirsten Bauer, manager of the 500 District. “It did take a bit for customers to get adjusted to the changes. As a business overall, it's a very different atmosphere than what we are normally used to and we are working with much less staff than we would regularly.”

The 505 Cafe has quickly adapted to accommodate takeout orders, curbside pickup, and, depending on the day, they are able to provide delivery options as well.

For the rest of operations, they are waiting on the outcome of the executive order.

“Longer term, we're just trying to help our brides the best we can for weddings and events that are booked this fall,” says Bauer. “So, we are working through what some possible options could be if restrictions continue to be in place.”

Overall, Bauer says that one of the big takeaways from this time has been the response, support, and resiliency of the community.

“We have learned that we have a very strong community around us through all of this,” says Bauer. “We see a lot of familiar faces at the café each week, whether that is regular customers or other business owners in town, which has been heartwarming and great to see.”

With the COVID-19 restrictions, The Venue at 501 and the Upper Rooms are on hold until further direction from the state.

As restrictions lift, the team is looking at options for a flexible use of the event space that would allow for additional seating at a distance in the café if required.

“And from the business side, we learned where to put our resources and how to scale back the menu in order to gear it towards takeout orders,” says Bauer. “It’s been a learning curve and we're still learning as we go.”


Explore Chiropractic looks to help fellow business owners recover from COVID-19

Due to offering medical services, Explore Chiropractic has been able to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic; however, it has made some changes to normal operations.

“Of course, we have to follow the CDC guidelines closely and watch our sanitary operations – wiping down tables, providing sanitary wipes for people, hand sanitizer being displayed all over the practice. We’ve had to take out some chairs in our waiting room area so they’re all 6 feet apart. On nice days, we’ve even put chairs outside,” says Dr. Landon Revord, owner of Explore Chiropractic.

Due to offering medical services, Explore Chiropractic has been able to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Explore Chiropractic has also more fully utilized technology that they already had in place to keep as few people as possible in the physical waiting room. The practice has a digital patient portal for patients to use to update their information; however, now, the practice is also using this technology as a virtual waiting room to allow people to wait for their appointment in their cars, if the wish to.

“We were lucky that we had already implemented that without utilizing it,” says Revord.

He admits that business at Explore Chiropractic is, of course, slower than it normally would be, but they are getting through it. As he looks at the months ahead, his thoughts are turning toward the community and his fellow business owners.

Dr. Landon Revord, owner of Explore Chiropractic“All of my hopes and concerns and wants all revolve around the community getting back to where it was,” he says. “We’re going to try to create as many ideas and solutions as we can . . . to stimulate some interest in our local businesses. And hopefully, by building them up, it will build us up as it has in the past.”

Revord explains that, in the past, Explore Chiropractic did an outreach program called “Explore Our Local Gems” that allowed local businesses to set up a small table at Explore Chiropractic to promote their own business. He says the program went over so well the first time around that they ended up doing it longer than planned.

“We’re probably going to bring that back and highlight one-to-two businesses every couple of days to stimulate some interest,” he says.

Information on the local business’s tables will likely include a write-up about the business, some business cards, and other information the business wishes to display.


Read the original Young Entrepreneur series:
Young entrepreneurs: CMU instructor balances work and family opening Mt. Pleasant School of Dance
Young entrepreneurs: Owner of Clare's 500 District proves age is no barrier to success
Young entrepreneurs: Mt. Pleasant chiropractor uses personal experience to motivate life's work

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