“Take What You Need” – NNY Small Business Owners And COVID

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December 2, 2020

Well, I said it. I closed my eyes and cringed a little when I hit the post button on Instagram, but I said it. SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS ARE NOT OKAY RIGHT NOW. I’m assuming you’re here because you heard my battle cry on Facebook/Instagram. I feel compelled to share this because this is some major shit, and instead of continuing to be and feel stagnant, I’m going to open my big mouth, in hopes that it might make you feel a little better, feel heard, and known.

First off, I recognize that there isn’t a single life that this pandemic hasn’t impacted in some way shape or form. Your pain, worry and struggle is no less important or relevant than mine or anyone else’s. I am choosing to focus on the impacts and struggles that I, and many of my fellow SBO’s (small business owners) have faced, because that’s the point of view that I can speak from.

My intention is not to offend or negate anyone, and it’s definitely not intended to thrust my political or social opinions on you either. We don’t need anymore of that bullshit.

I thought that I was watching my business slowly disintegrate. I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, frantically hoping on Facebook Live, trying to reassure my small online audience that things would be OK. That this would all be “over by mid-summer.” “No need to reschedule! It’s totally fine!!” I wasn’t feeding you bullshit, everything that I said was exactly what I believed to be true at the time. I had a lot of brides asking me questions that I didn’t have the answers to. I learned hard lessons and had really difficult conversations. I was burned and I was pissed. I spent a lot of time and money beefing up the grey areas in my contract. I endured a lot of uncomfortable shit, I broke a lot of my own rules and I hated every minute of it.

Every day it seemed that I woke up to another email, another text, that went something like “Hey, so what happens if we need to reschedule?” Don’t get me wrong, I totally understood where many of my brides were coming from. I didn’t and don’t blame them one bit. In many cases, I would have definitely done the same thing if I were their shoes. So please don’t be misunderstood, this is NOT my clients’ fault, it’s nobody’s fault. There IS NO fault to be placed or ill feelings to be had. The amount of stress and anxiety my brides have gone through is immense, and I don’t forget that. I felt horrible for my brides and I hated the tough decisions they were being forced to make.

On multiple occasions, I’ve seen people on social media trying to negate other’s hardships. “Well, I’ve lost a loved one, how can you be upset over a postponed wedding?! That’s nothing!!” Negating someone else’s struggles will never make your’s any less of a burden. It’s something I’ve seen a lot throughout this pandemic and to be honest, it’s exactly why I was cautious to even share this blog post.

So hear me when I say that you have the right to mourn the loss of business, the loss of profits, the loss of ego, the loss of clients, the loss of purpose, the loss of a particular wedding date that you picked out, the loss of whatever you lost. I don’t mean to offend anyone when I say that it’s all the same. Pain is pain, and unless you’re God, you can’t to make the call.

It hurts me to see so many people around me suffering. It hurts me even more to see the SBO’s who’s industry wasn’t included or recognized, and who were never actually given any “rules” to follow or “phase of re-opening.” So what do we do? What did we do? We wore a mask, followed what rules we assumed applied to us, we were thankful for the revenue we were able to generate and we prayed Cuomo wasn’t going to shove his foot up our ass.

This year I saw a lot of pain and a lot of struggle. There wasn’t a single wedding that I attended that wasn’t either missing a loved one, or scaled back drastically. Most times it was both. It was hard not seeing another vendor, who I knew was originally supposed to be there, but who’s services were no longer needed due to the cut back.

So where do we go from here? Quite frankly, the thought of having to endure another season of this is gut wrenching. I don’t feel like I have any of the answers to the questions I was asked almost a year ago. There are times that I felt it was a miracle that CFP managed to crawl through the 2020 wedding season. For that I am thankful, but it didn’t come without a price. As I mentioned in my Insta/Facebook post, this experience has obliterated me. That’s the best word I can find at the moment to describe how defeated and lost this season of life has left me. I’m a person that always likes to have a plan. And if there’s not a plan, I’m always the first to make one. It’s been hard to feel so out of control over my business, my finances, my life, etc. Things that I have always been so intentional and particular about.

In May 2021, CFP will turn 10 years old. Ten years!! And while that is a huge accomplishment for any SBO, there were times this summer that I wasn’t even sure we were going to make it until then. “Maybe this is the universe telling me that CFP has run its’ course.” Or, my favorite, “This is perfect timing to gracefully make my exit while CFP is on top” These were some of the things I blubbered to Dustin during a post-wedding meltdown this past summer. A little dramatic? Yes, but very real.

Yes, CFP will still be around in May to blow out candles, and I am very much looking forward to joining my brides next summer. I’m not done yet, but I do need a minute. I think we all need a minute. The pressure to be “on” 24/7 to continue pushing that needle forward can wear on a person – especially while trying to be “on” frantically throughout a pandemic. The colder months are commonly a slower time for many business owners of all kinds in the North Country, and this year, I think we need it more than ever. I’ve seen/heard many people playing with the idea that maybe this year’s intent was to in fact stop us in our tracks. A chance to pivot, a chance to reflect. A chance to change. I’m not totally sure if I buy into that idea yet, but I want to encourage you to take what you need right now. If you need time, take time. If you need a social media hiatus, take a hiatus. If you need to collect unemployment, collect it. If you need to hustle harder than you’ve ever hustled, then hustle. If you need a minute, take a fucking minute. Right now, I needed to write this. So I wrote it.

Now, I want to give YOU the opportunity to say what you’ve wanted to say. Share how you’ve felt, what you’ve experienced. If the biggest revelation that you’ve experienced throughout this pandemic is how much you despise Google Classroom, then great. Write it. Stop being afraid that your struggle is up for comparison. If you feel inclined, comment, share or even write your own post. In the meantime, my camera will be collecting some dust for a little while, but I’ll be on the couch, always cheering you on.

Your honest SBO, Cristina