Business as (un)Usual: Celebrating One Year of Business During a Pandemic

On April 1, I celebrate the first anniversary of my business, Current. Yes - I launched on April Fool’s Day and no that isn’t a joke. However, if you told me 6 months ago I’d be celebrating with a solo glass of green juice in ‘social distancing’ after a 12-hour workday and homeschooling my three children, I’d laugh at the absurdity.

Yet, here I am.

Living life in quarantine isn’t much of a deviation from my normal schedule as a small business owner in their first year. I typically work from home glued to my screen for long hours, I have a limited social life, and I connect with people via phone and video conferencing – maybe in day pajamas, maybe not.

The curve ball is a full societal lockdown. So, now I’m forced to make my own coffee instead of having my local barista do it for me. The sacrifices we make, right?!

It’s tough. It’s weird. It’s challenging. But those are words that resonated before the pandemic.

The last year has been a wild ride of exhaustion, freedom, tears, laughter, expenses, worry, relief, pitching, winning, losing, learning, failing, success, humility, and just a few lowballs of Tito’s and soda. When I embarked on this journey, I didn’t have a typed-out plan or a road map. I certainly didn’t have a global health pandemic clause. I just knew without question the timing was right for something I’ve always wanted to do – steer my own ship.

Unexpectedly, I didn’t have any fear or anxiety. As a professional over-analyzer, I remarkably didn’t hesitate. I didn’t discuss with anyone what I was going to do. I just did it. And, so far, I don’t regret a single step.

That doesn’t mean doubts didn’t (and don’t) sneak in at times. There were (and are) fleeting moments of panic, of being overwhelmed. There were many days I questioned, “am I doing the right thing for my future…for my kids’ future?” And, the answer is still a simple – I think so.

Even under duress of a shaky economy due to an unprecedented global virus scare, I have to trust I’m moving in the right direction. This setback is only temporary, and failure is not an option.

Extreme social distancing on the Appalachian Trail at Roan High Knob.

Three weeks ago, the economy was booming and so was my business – February and March were my best months yet. And, then during a planned hiking trip with my family to a semi-remote section of the wilderness (we self-isolate on purpose), the world fell apart. I came back to the grid wondering what this meant for the future of my business. How could so much change in just a matter of days? How would this impact me? My kids? Would our health be jeopardized?

I’d be lying if I said I am not a little worried about the days and weeks to come – for many reasons. A health crisis combined with a nose-dive in the Dow will signal uneasiness in just about anyone. But panic yields unsavory reactions. Thinking critically is something we all must continually exercise, especially in history-changing moments like these.

Thankfully, I’m healthy and so is my family. I’ve been able to maintain my clients and even secure contracts in this crazy and volatile situation. I feel so fortunate to work with customers whom I value and respect, and I am honored they consider me part of their extended work family.

Being an agile, small marketing company affords me the ability to negotiate terms and adjust marketing strategies on-the-fly. That might translate to working 20-hour days or offering reduced rates so we all stay afloat. But a business never works unless we all do. Together - with tenacity, intention and resolve.

It would be nice to go out and celebrate this milestone with a few drinks and laughs and a meal I don’t have to prepare myself. All restaurants and bars are closed, and instead I’m watching Tiger King with my cat over a bowl of pretzels. Don’t worry; I’ve changed into my night pajamas.

Kidding aside, it’s a sober reminder that not everyone’s situation is promising and many people would gladly work my long days. They’d gladly work at all. Businesses have temporarily stopped, and some may never recover – financially or in health. I know that fear; I know that worry. To question your future and to live in such uncertainty is a frightening place to be.

I firmly believe we will recover quickly from this strange time, and we will emerge even better. Come May 1, people are going to be insane with social withdrawal and craving interaction - ready to watch every sport, go to every festival, eat at every restaurant, and consume massive rounds of shots.

Cinco de Mayo will be off the chain this year. Mark my words.

In the meantime, we owe it to ourselves, our neighbors and our communities to keep the economy going amidst our new, yet temporary, normal. If you can shop, do so local. Don’t be afraid to continue to sell your own business while being mindful of situational sensitivities. Offer value to your customers, and support if you can. Be open to changing your processes or offering new services/products to help accommodate the uneasiness so many feel, for employees and consumers.

As for me and Current, we’ve found a way to help our friends in the restaurant industry while keeping our business moving. Instead of celebrating with a steak and in honor of the lost revenue in the restaurant industry, we’ve come up with some food-themed t-shirts that play on the words of our new coronavirus glossary of terms.

20% of all proceeds will go to the The James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Industry Relief Fund. The purpose of this fund is “to provide critical financial assistance to small, independent restaurants that, due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) national disaster, have an immediate need for funds to pay set operating expenses and keep from going out of business.”

Every little bit helps, and we are all in this together. My hope is this time next year I will be drinking a martini (dirty, of course), supporting my local neighborhood bar, and celebrating 2 years of business with friends and strangers alike. Not in my day or night pajamas, but appreciative of my fully-stocked bathrooms of toilet paper, and reminiscing on how all of this was just a tiny blip in our amazing stories to come.

Make waves. Be well.

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© CURRENT 2021

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