The coronavirus pandemic has unquestionably affected small businesses in a myriad of ways. From working remotely to dwindling revenues, regular processes are becoming a thing of the past as COVID-19 has forced business owners to significantly scale back their operations.
While the federal government recently rolled out a $2 trillion economic stimulus plan intended to aid US business and the American public, small businesses and entrepreneurs are currently struggling to make ends meet. While designed to slow the spread of the virus, social distancing has stripped small businesses of their in-person customers and all but shattered their cash flow. For many independent business owners, from photographers to hairstylists, the effects of the global pandemic can be challenging, if not devastating.
While undoing the effects of the coronavirus will be a much larger job, not all hope is lost. There are several ways that we can help still support our local businesses. We asked a variety of small business owners how people can aid their companies while we power through these tough times.
Jane, Founder of Nolaskinsentials
"Nolaskinsentials is a millennial, plant-based, cruelty-free skincare brand. We offer a variety of skincare products that cater to all types of concerns as well as skin types. To help provide our customers with accurate/personal recommendations, we also offer free skincare consultations as well!
"We're an e-commerce brand, so it's nothing out of the ordinary for us to continue shipping packages to our Nolababes. In terms of getting orders out in a timely fashion — that has been delayed due to the pandemic. However, we're still trying our very best to make sure everyone receives their items as safely and as quickly as possible.
"Our main concern right now is the safety of not only our customers, but everyone that this pandemic is currently affecting. With that being said, we feel the best option is to stay home and shop online for the things you need, skincare included. The safety risks are significantly lower than having to go out and publicly shop. With so many shortages of products from bigger brands, this is practically the best time to shop small businesses — we're fully stocked and ready to push out orders!
"In terms of remaining positive, I've been able to spend more time with my family for one. I also make it a point every morning to meditate and listen to my body and find out what it is I need to continue pushing through. My customers motivate me as well, they give me the extra 'umph' I need to get through the day. Because, well — acne doesn't stop just because we're in shambles. They truly keep me going, without a doubt."
Gabrielle McBay, Chef, Entrepreneur and Content Creator
"I provide private chef and boutique catering services. My business has definitely experienced unexpected change. As a chef, I work with people and events and now that everyone has been ordered to stay at home, all of my events for most of the year have been cancelled. I'm not sure when the next time is that I'll be able to work...and that's something that I don't think anyone can plan or be ready for. People can patronize small businesses during this time by supporting or sharing their products and services. Many businesses are trying to find new ways to reach customers online.
"Along with being a chef, I'm also a content creator. When COVID-19 started, I wrote a cookbook in 10 days with my followers on Instagram. I wanted to give people an easy cooking guide that will help them feel more comfortable in the kitchen, especially during this time. Patrons can support me by purchasing my new digital cookbook,You Have Food at Home.
"To be honest, it's been challenging to be calm and positive every day. I'd be lying if I said I haven't had my moments or been scared of what the future looks like. One thing I've been doing is giving myself grace to feel. It's OK to be sad or frustrated. But it's not OK to be consumed by fear and sit in worry. My faith motivates me to keep going. I trust God, above all things."
Dr. Alison Mitchell, MD, Founder and CEO, Renewed Hair Co.
"We provide clinically proven restorative hair care products that are 100% organic, non-toxic and yield results in the first 30 days. Our pioneer product, the Renewing Hair Elixir, combats a plethora of hair issues including hair loss, scalp irritation, balding, stunted growth and overall hair health.
"Thankfully, our products are made in the US, so we have been able to stay stocked. We have intensified many processes with our manufacturer and fulfillment company to ensure the utmost sterility and safety for our customers. We have, however, incurred delays in shipping times and processing of orders due to minimum personnel working at our centers. This pandemic has prompted us to be intentional with communication to customers and offering relief with reduced pricing during this time.
"There are many ways to support small businesses like ours during this time -- outside of making a purchase. Sharing a story about our products, liking and commenting on our social media pages and telling others about our hair care products are great ways to support. Also, when considering personal care while at home, giving thought to using Renewed Hair Co is hugely supportive.
"This company was founded on faith, and that same faith is what we are standing on to get through this difficult time. We began with a mission to help others solve devastating hair issues and through this pandemic our desire will remain the same. Though times are tough, our loyal customers still deserve to keep their hair healthy and flourishing. We know that this will pass, and we are determined to weather the storm until it does."
Kia Marie, Owner and Lead Event Planner for Kia Marie Events
"Kia Marie Events services includes event planning, event design, event management and one-on-one mentorship in event planning. It's the home for exclusive events for people who love to be elegantly entertained.
"We all are going through some form of change. I'm encouraging my clients to postpone their events instead of canceling. So far, we've postponed two events and two weddings into the fall season and the summer of 2021. The positive change is that I've been able to look at my business as a whole. I'm in the process of a rebrand and this has given me some time to enhance the Kia Marie Events experience for our clients.
"During this time, it's important for small businesses to let their past, present and future customers know that they are still in business. We can support small businesses by purchasing gift cards, online shopping, supporting local meal delivery services and sharing business offerings through social media platforms. If you have income coming in, invest in your business by signing up for memberships, coaching and industry educational courses. As for Kia Marie Events, we ask that clients support by postponing their events instead of canceling them. We are here to help our clients navigate and manage this process.
"When it comes to staying positive, I read daily affirmations, check on my circle daily and invest in my business. I also take breaks when needed. At first, I was bogged down with making sure my business was OK. But God has already confirmed that He has that part covered. So, for me keeping my head high, spending time with my family and keeping in touch with like-minded people keeps me calm and balanced."
Miriam Milord, Founder and Creative Director for BCakeNY
"BCakeNY is a custom cake studio located in Brooklyn, New York. Founded in 2009, we are dedicated to creating specialty cakes for all occasions. Our mission is to transfer our clients' vision into extraordinarily unique and delicious cakes. Our store front in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn is a community staple and we have been serving our clients over a decade now.
"BCakeNY has been majorly impacted by the pandemic. We mainly create cakes for large events like weddings and birthday parties and to keep people safe it was necessary to implement social distancing and ban large gatherings. For us this meant massive cancellations and layoffs. We had to immediately adjust to the new customer need of small cakes for at-home celebrations and virtual parties. We are working with a small staff now, from 18 down to five. It has been a tough adjustment, but we appreciate that we can still provide a service and jobs for a few employees.
"We support our neighborhood businesses by ordering in from restaurants or purchasing gift cards for friends and family. Small businesses are suffering, and we are trying to support our community as best as we can. We are offering smaller-sized custom cakes that can be ordered online for delivery or pick up. We also ship and deliver cake jars. When you order on our website, you can also donate a cupcake to our healthcare workers which we deliver to our local hospitals every week. Times are difficult for everyone and if you can't purchase from your favorite small biz right now, you can always support them by simply liking and sharing their social media posts.
"My employees and clients keep me motivated, we want to continue to provide jobs and joy. Birthdays still happen every day and smiles and joy are so needed right now. We work hard for that every day, despite the uncertainty of these times."
Fatima, Makeup Artist, Content Creator and Beauty Influencer
"I offer beauty services to clients for weddings, fashion shows, photo shoots and special events. With this being prom, graduation and wedding season, my appointments have been postponed until further notice.
"Some of the most effective ways to support small businesses during this time is to like and share their social media content as well as purchasing their products. Being home more allows me time to work on my craft, brainstorm and research different things that inspire me.
"What really keeps me motivated is the people who are still reaching out to me and letting me know when this is all over, they still want me to be a part of their most memorable moments."
Mecca Gamble McConnell, Photographer
"My company, Mecca Gamble Photography, offers brand photography for women of color. Due to the stay-at-home orders, I can't shoot, and I've had to cancel, reschedule and refund a number of shoots and upcoming events.
"Customers can support my business by rescheduling or booking future dates on the calendar. Right now, I am really leaning on my faith and my family. Professionally, I have a group of colleagues who support me and keep me encouraged. During this time, I am enjoying the opportunity to learn new things."
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Featured image via Mecca Gamble McConnell/Instagram
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When Megan Thee Stallion dropped “Hiss,” a shift happened. From the audacious lyrics to the striking visuals, there was no doubt that the song and video would go viral. The opening of the video shows the H-town hottie rocking a barely there Shibari red dress, showing off her voluptuous frame. It was a sexy moment created by Timeekah Murphy of Alani Taylor. The designer exclusively tells us how the opportunity came about and what it was like seeing her design on Megan for the first time.
xoNecole: How did the opportunity to create such an iconic look for Megan Thee Stallion's "Hiss" video come about?
Timeekah Murphy: The opportunity came from a DM from celebrity stylist Zerina Akers. She asked for a unique Shibari piece for Megan, and I needed to get it done in two days. So, of course, I did everything in my power to make it happen. I've always wanted to design for Megan, so this was an awesome opportunity for me.
xoN: What was that initial feeling of seeing the dress on her for the first time?
TM: I was shocked because, at first, I thought it hadn't been used. I saw Megan's last video and thought, damn, maybe it didn't fit. So, to see it on such an amazing video was breathtaking. I was beyond excited to finally say I designed for her.
xoN: Did you meet her? If so, how was that moment?
TM: I didn't meet Megan during the shoot, but during my time in LA, I got the opportunity to meet her at LA Pride with Tiffany Haddish, Common, and EJ King (stylist). Megan is such an amazing person, so it made it even better to know that my designs were going to be worn by her. I was shocked because, at first, I thought it hadn't been used. I saw Megan's last video and thought, damn, maybe it didn't fit. So, to see it on such an amazing video was breathtaking. I was beyond excited to finally say I designed for her.
"I was shocked because, at first, I thought it hadn't been used. I saw Megan's last video and thought, damn, maybe it didn't fit. So, to see it on such an amazing video was breathtaking. I was beyond excited to finally say I designed for her."
xoN: Walk us through the creation of the dress. How did you come up with the look, and how long did it take to make it?
TM: I was the co-designer for a brand called Deviant in 2018-2020, and we used to make custom Shibari pieces. That's how Zerina knew me. So I'm very familiar with making these types of pieces. We made plenty for Beyoncé, Cardi B, Tiffany Haddish, Tyra Banks, and so many others. So Zerina knew exactly what she wanted.
To get it done, it took me a day and a half. It's very intricate and time-consuming, so I spent about six hours making it then I sent an image of it to Zerina, and she didn't approve the first one, so I had to start from scratch again after getting my guidance and understanding of what was needed. The next day, I went to The Lab and created another version, and she approved it. I had to get it shipped overnight so that she would get it in time and fast forward to seeing it on the big screen.
xoN: What's next for you?
TM: Everything. The sky is not my limit, so the Alani Taylor brand is expanding into so many different avenues. We are getting involved in the community more, offering sewing classes to the youth. I've opened up a store for my brand in Atlanta and now preparing for fall/winter Fashion Week.
Megan Thee Stallion "Hiss" video/ YouTube
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A few days ago, while talking to a male friend of mine who has been dating someone for a few months now, I asked him if he was excited about Valentine’s Day. What he said is what I’m used to most men saying some variation of — unfortunately: “For what? Even when I was married, I can’t think of one time when a woman did something special or actually bought me something. And no, sex doesn’t count.” And before any of you get triggered by that last part of what he said, there are many people who agree with him, 1000 percent, including myself. Oh, and this married couple. LOL.
Sex is not a Valentine gift, please #love #valentinesday #valentine #ghanatiktok🇬🇭 #kokuitv
When it comes to commemorating special occasions, I will forever support the fact that sex is not a present. Not because the act isn’t special or intimate; it’s because it’s a mutual thing that two people actually benefit from (if that’s not the case for you, you and your partner have some serious discussing to do) — and so, if women can expect birthday, anniversary, Christmas and Valentine’s Day gifts outside of copulation…men should definitely be able to do the same.
So, what if, when it comes to Valentine’s Day this year, what you had in mind was coitus and not much else? The good news is I have 12 to put a smile on your man’s face this year so that he can know that a day that’s supposed to celebrate love is one that has him in mind, too. Ready?
1. Speak His Love Language(s)
If the news is your thing, you may have seen some relatively new articles stating that the oh-so-very famous five love languages aren’t scientifically based. Gasp! Say it isn’t so. LOL. Being that Dr. Gary Chapman (the creator of the concept) is a counselor and a Christian, I’d venture to say that he wrote it more from a spiritual angle than anything else. And since it’s simply about how people like love to be expressed to them most (words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service, quality time, or gifts) — I really don’t see why science is so bent out of shape over it…all these years later.
And that’s why I still support the notion that you look into what your man’s top two love languages are and then that you do something special for him this year in those ways. By the way, if you have no clue what his love languages are, please don’t guess…ask him. That way, you don’t go through all of the effort to do one thing when he would’ve preferred something different.
2. Cash App Him Money for Lunch
I don’t have social media accounts, so I don’t see how apps shift from day to day — oh, but I’m hoping that people are taking their Cash App out of their bios, even as we speak. It really does come off as hella entitled, and that’s…off-putting. However, when it comes to the person you’re seeing, I’m thinking that you probably have their Cash App account details. So, why not treat him to lunch (or a haircut) on Valentine’s Day by sending him a few bucks along with a heart in the memo? I talk to enough men to know that simple gestures like this totally make their day because rarely does it happen to them (if ever).
3. Have Flowers Delivered to His Job
I don’t know who came up with the idea that floral bouquets are a “woman’s thing” because there are studies to support that men like to receive them just about as much as we do. Not only that, but when flowers come their way, research says that it makes them happier, more appreciative, and more communicative as well. So, why not make your man’s entire day by having some flowers delivered to his job? Although the signature flower of Valentine’s Day is the red rose (which means “I love you”), if you want to be more creative or convey a different type of message, you can check out what different flowers mean here.
4. Make Him a Gift Basket
The main thing that I like about homemade gift baskets is that you can customize them any way you’d like (including theme). Plus, no matter how big or small they are, the person on the receiving end is always going to find them to be super thoughtful. As far as your man goes, you can make him a gift basket that’s centered around his favorite sport or hobby. You can make him a gift basket that focuses on his favorite foods. You can make him a gift basket that is filled with some of your favorite memories of the relationship. You can make him a basket that is full of sex-themed treats that will get his imagination going. The options really are endless, and that’s what makes gift baskets an awesome idea.
5. Give Him Something with Your Handwriting on It
Along the lines of what I just said, another special gift that you can give him is something that is personalized. The kind of personalization that I dig these days is the one that features a person’s actual handwriting. One example is a whiskey glass (that I found on Etsy), where you can put a message at the bottom of it. You can check it out here.
6. Write Him a RESPECT Letter
Sometimes, I’ll watch a series of IG or TikTok posts on men (from women), and I get why the Bible says that husbands should love their wives and wives should RESPECT their husbands (Ephesians 5:33). Sometimes, we need a reminder that, not only is respect important in a relationship, many men don’t feel loved well if they aren’t respected. And by respect, I mean how the Classic Amplified Version of I Peter 3:2 breaks it down: “…you are to feel for him all that reverence includes: to respect, defer to, revere him—to honor, esteem, appreciate, prize, and, in the human sense, to adore him, that is, to admire, praise, be devoted to, deeply love, and enjoy your husband].”
That said, even if your bae is not yet your husband, if that’s where things are headed, think about how floored he would be to receive a letter that talks about all of the things that you appreciate, adore, and admire about him. Out of all of the suggestions in this piece, I can’t think of one man who wouldn’t be moved, beyond measure, to receive something so thoughtful (and probably totally unexpected) than a letter that articulates how much he is respected by the woman he cares about.
7. Brag About Him Online
There are PLENTY of posts out in cyberspace where people are constantly complaining about their partner (le sigh). This Valentine’s Day, go the road less traveled and brag about your man instead. Talk about the reasons why you enjoy him, the things he’s done for you over the past year, and the reason why you think he’s one of the most wonderful people on the entire planet. Even if his primary love language isn’t words of affirmation, it will make him feel great about himself and the relationship. Don’t take my word for it; science says that compliments elevate moods and contribute to our overall health and well-being. Bragging is free. Give it a shot.
8. Send a Hotel Reservation to His Inbox
Several years back, HuffPost published an article entitled, “You're Right, Hotel Sex IS Better Than Regular Sex. Here's Why.” It mentioned that a part of the reason why hotel sex is so bomb to so many of us is because it’s sensual, the lighting is good, and it feels indulgent (plus, we don’t have to clean up before we leave like we do at home). If sex is on the menu for Valentine’s Day, your man is gonna revel in it wherever you choose to have it.
Still, imagine the look that will be on his face if he sees a hotel reservation pop up either in his email inbox or in a text. Even if the two of you have to wait until the weekend to make it happen (since Valentine’s Day falls on a weekday this year), it’ll give him something special to look forward to — and since anticipation is one helluva aphrodisiac…well. #wink
9. Get Some Lingerie in His Favorite Color
Speaking of surprises, another nice touch is to pick up some lingerie. This year, though, make sure that it’s in his favorite color. If you’ve ever wondered where color preferences actually come from, I once read that it’s based on the objects that we associate with the color along with how a particular color makes us feel. Yeah, I don’t know many men who would frown at seeing their woman in a sexy lace teddy or a seductive sheer baby doll get-up. And if it’s in his favorite color? It will be hard to not associate you with the color in the future. A pretty smart move, if you ask me, chile.
10. Offer a Head Massage, Facial and Beard Pampering
Next time you want some inspiration for how to cater to your man, go to TikTok and put “pamper your man, Black man” in the subject heading. Not only are you gonna see some fine bearded wonders over there, but you’ll also get some tips on how to give a proper head massage, or facial and how to pamper a man’s beard. Head massages are dope because they relieve stress. Facials benefit men just like they benefit us when it comes to improving the texture and quality of their skin.
And as far as beards go, there’s research out there that says we women actually prefer men with some (well-manicured) hair on their faces. So, if your man happens to fall into that demo, get him some beard oil from a Black-owned company. Three are Rucker Roots, golden, and Sons of Hollis. Then get to grooming, sis.
11. Prepare Him His Favorite Meal
Not too long ago, I was talking to someone who said that men don’t care about restaurants like women do; they go because they know that their lady likes the experience. What guys enjoy is the love that is felt through a home-cooked meal. Listen, there are countless social media posts that like to debate this topic, yet honestly, at the end of the day, if what men like is meals that are made from scratch, that is their preference, and everyone has a right to what they prefer. That said, I can’t think of one man who is gonna not thoroughly appreciate a woman who makes the time to prepare his favorite meal from scratch. So, whether this Valentine’s Day is going to be your first or 50th time, consider making him something delicious to eat.
12. Be His Dessert
Sex is not a proper gift. I stand on that. Still, that doesn’t mean that I don’t cosign on it being a part of Valentine’s Day. Since dessert literally means “the sweet, usually last course of a meal” — present sex in an outside-of-the-box sort of way. Bring in some sex condiments (check out “12 'Sex Condiments' That Can Make Coitus Even More...Delicious”). Try some new sex positions. Intentionally fulfill some of his sexual fantasies. Play some sex-themed games. Have sex in an atypical location.
Bottom line, at the end of whatever else you have planned, offer him up something sweet (you) in an unexpected way. It’ll be the perfect ending to a day of reciprocated romance.
As for Long-Distance Relationships…
Plan a virtual date. If the two of you can’t be together this year, do the next best thing and plan a virtual date. Although virtual dating is something that was big during the pandemic lockdown, long-distance couples have been partaking in virtual dates for years. Thanks to the power of technology, you and your man can prop up your phones and cook together, watch a movie together, or slow drag (kinda-sorta) to 90s R&B together. Is it as good as being together “for real”? No. Yet is it better than just talking on the phone? Definitely.
Send him a Southwest gift card. Several years back, Glamour published an article entitled, “My Two Long-Distance Relationships Made Me Broke.” Listen, anyone in a long-distance relationship knows that it’s not a cheap situation to be in. So, if the two of you are a plane flight away, take some of the burden off of him buying a ticket by getting him a Valentine’s Day card and putting a Southwest gift card in it. Even fifty bucks will remove some of the stress.
Mail him your favorite perfume. There is a lot of data out here to support that scent is tied to memory. So, if you want to cultivate certain super fond memories of you while you’re away from your guy, send him his favorite scent that you wear. He can spray it on his bedding or a comfy blanket and feel closer to you until the next time the two of you lock eyes (while in the same room).
Sign him up for a lingerie subscription. Wanna build some serious anticipation until the next time the two of you are together? Sign him up for a lingerie subscription. That way, he can pick up pieces that he would like to see you in, free of charge, and hold onto them until the two of you are able to enjoy them — together. Cratejoy has a list of some lingerie subscription services that are worth looking into here.
Have dessert delivered to him. Did you know that there is something called “dessert stomach” that is scientifically based? Long story short, the pleasure that sweets provide can make us desire them even if a meal has already made us full. This is definitely a heads-up to practice moderation in the sweets department, yet who wants to do that on Valentine’s Day? On the holiday, whether it’s at work or his house, hit up a food delivery service, and have his favorite dessert delivered to him. It’s a sweet way (pun intended) to honor the day and a wonderful way to let him know that he’s on your mind.
Happy (Almost) Valentine’s Day — to you and your man, y’all!
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Featured image by FG Trade/Getty Images