When covid-19 arrived in the U.S. and lockdown protocols were put into place, businesses closed their doors for what they hoped would be a few weeks of lost revenue. But nearly a year later, local economies are still struggling.
Small businesses were hit hard, with some economists projecting that nearly 100,000 of them have closed permanently in the US alone. Women-led businesses, in particular, have been disproportionately hit. Women are more likely than men to own businesses that rely on foot-traffic or brick-and-mortar business, like hospitality and retail establishments.
For some, the challenge of closures and social distancing inspired a renewed drive to not just stay afloat, but adapt. For these three women-led small businesses, it was not just an opportunity to pivot their business models, but give back to their communities in an unprecedented time.
NAME: Nicole Jordan, Owner of Nicole Jordan Catering and participant in JPMorgan Chase’s Founders Forward mentorship program.
LOCATION: Chicago, IL
Like many people in the food services industry, Nicole Jordan faced a sudden drop in demand during the covid-19 pandemic for her catering company based in the South Side of Chicago. “It happened pretty quickly. The first week in March, I’d gotten a couple of cancellations. And then in that second week it flipped on a dime—it was an avalanche,” said Jordan. In mid-March, as her staff prepared to fulfill one of their few remaining orders, the client cancelled. She donated the food to a shelter and sent her staff home for the foreseeable future.
“That evening, my corporate brain started going,” said Jordan. “My initial goal was just—how do we get through this? How do we get to the other side?” Determined to adapt her business and take care of her staff, Jordan pivoted her company’s focus to prepared meals. “There was a missing need…that home cooked meal. You got parents who are working, kids, online meetings—and your day is full just navigating all that’s happening in the world, plus still trying to manage some semblance of normalcy in your home.” Working quickly, she created a menu of nutritious, home-cooked meals and an online platform for placing orders.
In addition to adapting to change, Jordan continued her path as an entrepreneur by connecting with alumni networks and working with JPMorgan Chase mentors through the bank’s Founders Forward program. “Entrepreneurship can feel like a very lonely path. Sometimes you feel like you’re toughing it out alone. But you’re really not…there are those who have insight, experience and guidance to give.” Through mentorship, Nicole strategically focused on new marketing and branding needs to navigate the new space of meal service.
Of course, these tactics aren’t the only takeaway from the last year. “This experience has definitely taught us that we have to take care and have a level of appreciation for the life we have. That was a huge lesson, and I’m pulling that forward,” Jordan said.
NAME: LaChena Clark, Owner of Sudsy Water Laundry & Dry Cleaners and Mia’s BathHouse for Pets and Chase for Business Client
LOCATION: Harlem, NY
When LaChena Clark lost her job in the 2008 recession, she knew the moment was right to launch the business she had long planned, Sudsy Water Laundry & Dry Cleaners in Harlem. Since then, her entrepreneurial success has allowed her to open her second business—Mia’s BathHouse for Pets—and become President and Senior Business Advisor of Bradhurst Merchants Association in Harlem, advocating for minority owned businesses in the city.
When covid-19 began to spread in New York this spring, business came to a halt. “Everyone felt a little bit of fear because we didn’t know what was next,” she said. But despite facing a loss in her business during the pandemic, LaChena was determined to give support to the community. “After the initial shock I thought: ‘Well, we’re not so bad off. We should lend a hand to others.” LaChena’s laundromat began doing free or discounted laundry for elderly communities, since they were the most susceptible to the virus. And, in partnership with Doctors Without Borders, her business began offering laundry services to homeless New Yorkers.
In the meantime, LaChena is feeling optimistic about her business in the future. While pivoting to meet the new demands during a pandemic, she has started a few new practices—like no-contact pickup and delivery and transparency about safety procedures—which she hopes to keep in place in the future. “We’re hoping, once the city reopens, it leads to a new standard and a level of convenience” she adds. “I hope that we make long lasting changes.”
NAME: Adrienne Gordon and Rana Farshoukh, Owners of Pound Cake Society and Chase for Business Clients
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
Adrienne Gordon and Rana Farshoukh, founders of the high-end clothing maker Pound Cake Society were just a year into their business when California announced a statewide shutdown in late March. Gordon and Farshoukh had to make a decision on what would be the next step for their small business. “You feel frantic, and everybody’s looking at their families and themselves like what are we going to do? How’s this going to work out?” said Gordon.
Their plan? Apply their clothing expertise to make high-quality face masks for essential workers nationwide. Gordon and Farshoukh created a crowdfunding page with a goal to raise $100,000 towards creating face masks and opened a business account with Chase for Business to help manage an increasingly online business model. They quickly gained attention from hotels, companies and schools in need of masks for their employees. As of today, they’ve donated over 5,000 masks to hospital and frontline workers across the nation, and make nearly 30,000 facemasks a week.
Gordon appreciates the human connection she’s gained from interacting with customers more closely. “You hear the stories of single moms, out-of-work dads or parents whose children are nurses and are afraid for them,” she said. “People are just vulnerable. These are vulnerabilities we all share and you get really exposed to that when you get to talk to so many people on a regular basis.”
Small businesses play a critical role in sustaining healthy neighborhoods. These three stories demonstrate how supporting small businesses, in good times and bad, can have a positive ripple effect on entire communities.
Chase now offers Navigating Your Cash Flow, a suite of free interactive tools and digital resources designed to help business owners manage their finances. For more information, visit cashflow.chase.com.
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