On the Rebound: Small Businesses Are Finding Ways to Adjust to the New Normal

In our new series we spotlight a handful of small business owners across the country dealt a crippling hand by the COVID-19 pandemic and their next steps to right the course

What's the next move? What's the right step? For each of us in the midst of a pandemic these are critical decisions. But to the small business owners looking to pivot and keep their businesses afloat those are just two of countless critical decisions that will mean the difference between survival or shuttering their doors for good.

In our new series 'Rebound,' we spotlight a handful of small business owners across the country dealt a crippling hand by the COVID-19 pandemic and the steps they are taking to right the course. Here are their stories.

Charting Their 'Next Step'

Dwayne Pean, is co-founder of Next Step Training in Weston, Fla., which focuses on life training, physical training and health and nutrition for young adults. Pean said it was mid-March when they were forced to cancel all travel basketball tournaments. "So we knew we were in trouble. But then we got a glimmer of hope and things started to open back up, Pean says. "It seemed like we were trending in the right direction. And then we went in the opposite direction."

His brother and co-founder Gabe Pean says the duo went from setting up practices, preparing for a travel season and setting up tournaments to a full stop. "Suddenly it was, 'OK... you're not doing any of that. Pean says they cratered going from 65 clients to 20 and lost coaches as well because they couldn't pay salaries.

Learning to Pivot

Some 1,100 miles south, Jeannine Cook was having issues of her own. As the proprietor of Harriet's Bookshop in Philadelphia, Cook had fulfilled her dream of opening a book shop that specifically catered to the works of Black female writers.

"I had never been in a book store that celebrated just Black women. I've never been in a book store in the children's sections where you see brown children on almost all of the books. So Cook created it herself, despite those who warned she was focusing on too narrow a market. "People said 'That's corny. Men won't shop there. Men won't give you their money. Why would you be so specific? What about white people?' But I never said we were exclusive or there was someone who couldn't come here. The mission was to celebrate women."

And despite the naysayers Cook found her audience. Men and women...white and Black, all found their way to her doors. But then COVID-19 struck.

"We were told to shut down and I went into a depression," says Cook. "All of the PPP loans that were flying around... we weren't eligible for them."

Will Our Customers Come Back?

Stratis Morfogen, is executive managing director Brooklyn Chop House. When his doors were forced to close in the spring Morfogen nimbly pivoted to serve another vital need, providing meals to those on the front lines.

"When COVID hit we started delivering meals to the hospitals. New York Presbyterian was about two blocks away. So we started sending them meals every night, Morfogen says. "They didn't even know it was coming. We did over 8300 meals in over three months. We got up to 18 hospitals and police departments we didn't refuse even one request."

Now that the crisis in New York has ebbed and restaurants are allowed to have outdoor dining, Morfogen is tasked with drawing diners back to his establishment in a time where many still have concerns about venturing outdoors socially.

For Morfogen, Pean and Cook the COVID-19 crisis may be slowly be abating, but their next steps will decide if their respective businesses actually have a future.

ABOUT REBOUND: COVID-19 has impacted every facet of our lives. For small business owners, those impacts are even greater. To better tell those stories, we decided to launch a series about how small businesses are faring throughout the coronavirus. But a raging pandemic presents some obstacles for traditional journalism. Business restrictions, reduced hours of operation, and social distancing guidelines have changed how journalists tell their stories.
So we flipped the script.
We identified six small businesses across America and supplied them with a camera. In REBOUND, these businesses take you behind the scenes during COVID-19, to show you just how much things have changed throughout the pandemic. REBOUND tells the stories of these small businesses and how they are bouncing back from an unforeseen pandemic.