The ‘hush’ in the courtroom was loud in the minds of small business owners when the judge accused Shelley Luther, the Dallas-based salon owner, of being “selfish” for opening her salon.  Her reply was real and pure Texan:  “Judge, I don’t consider it selfish to want to feed my kids” – or something close to this.  At any rate, we don’t need to revisit the riveting response because far too many entrepreneurs have building unrest, perhaps rage, watching public giant Walmart route people into one entrance, elbow-to-elbow, in clear denial of safe practices.  A fabric store owner told me that Walmart was doing Black Friday numbers and was completely sold out of mask fabric, while Ms. Unknown Quilt Shop with her little mask on and only 5 people in her store, had to remain closed, slowly starving to death.

The truth is, no amount of business incentive money can make up for a high percentage of business closures that will occur as a result of this virus.  It may simply prolong the process of death for businesses caught in the too-indecisive measures of counties and cities.  Ironically, it is undeniable that inferior or cloth mask wearing, scientifically, would be more likely to cultivate and spread COVID-19 rather than reduce it.  But we must preserve the jobs of the political establishment, right?  While they collect their salaries and benefits no matter what they decide?

My life is essential to me just like it is to you.  The concepts and terminologies must be changed going forward or we are going to have a massive revolt, a true economic revolution on our hands in this country, on a blistering scale.  My local farmer’s market, which my partner and I were counting on to parlay our vintage and handmade items, has decided 6 weeks in advance not to include nonfood vendors, and to only allow people to order and pick up vegetables they did not even get to pick out, during a one-hour period each week.  This action exposes the tendency towards cluelessness of city/county governments.  What’s truly crazy is that Disney World will be open 2 days after the first market.  There is plenty of city-owned open ground in which to socially distance tents 6 feet apart here in the sunny UV-ray laden air here in Colorado.

What is sure to happen is that the local farmers WILL figure out an alternative, and so will the artisans.  Order-takers and committees can’t run business which will inevitably run circles around slow and visionless paper-shufflers.  I was born on the 4th of July in Pasadena, Texas.  I ‘get’ the intrinsic need to turn the tables on bureaucracy and stalemating.  I truly adore small business; it has been a passion my entire career.  I like “moving revenue” for small entities, especially when I have a tiny, impossible budget.  For those of us who consult, we have an opportunity to ‘up our game’.

Truly, we are ALL ‘Essential Businesses’ in playing our respective parts in the economy in which we buy bread, energy drinks, and postage stamps in.  Without us and our millions of like counterparts participating, it makes a dent very quickly.  A community’s economy does operate like a smart and organic machine.  Without the machine oil that insulates the parts, that is the cash flow that supports all the tanning salons, the dog groomers, and the boutique owners – our surroundings start to look at little grim; a little less than what we work so hard for.

All I can say to my fellow businesspeople is to observe very closely what your city/county officials are doing – are their actions reasonable and responsible, or are they self-serving?  Are they at least attempting to protect small businesses?  If the answer is yes, great!  If the answer is no, start making a list of who can be voted out and how quickly.  We small businesspeople can’t stand around in our daily lives and say “Oh, this was something we couldn’t predict or control,” because guess what?  We don’t get that luxury in any business scenario, ever.  It’s a cop out and we know it, deep down.  I do predict a lot of local city/county governments to flip whenever elections allow, based on how they have handled their respective areas.  Certainly a fair number of governor flips will occur as soon as elections allow (hello, Michigan). 

This virus has been devastating, but it’s possible that it will illuminate some areas of inefficiency and bad governing that needs to be drained or replaced.  It’s acted as a good filter for separating what we used to call in Biblical terms ‘the wheat from the chaff’.  It’s definitely set up a distinct and monumental challenge for determining whether we as businesspeople pivot well.  There is going to be a wall of new opportunity out there for those who are determined to survive.

As for me, I’m feeling more essential every day.

Jennifer Moore is the owner of consulting firm Yellow Pug Ltd. (www.yellowpug.com) and an artisan/creator for her new venture Meander of Colorado (www.meander.shop). She can be reached at jen@yellowpug.com or meandercolorado@gmail.com.