PODCAST: How Local Entrepreneurs Are Responding to a Global Pandemic

By Kayla Sosa

Listen to the full podcast this story is accompanied by below:

 

With the virus COVID-19 causing a global pandemic, colleges around the country have closed and moved online, including Grand Valley State University. In the state of Michigan, the governor has ordered all “non-essential” businesses to close – all but grocery stores, gas stations, medical facilities and others. Many small businesses have closed, turned to take out only or went totally virtual.

Here are a few perspectives from the West Michigan small business community. 

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Courtesy | James Fry

Vincent Mcintosh, Irie Kitchen

Opened in 2017, Irie Kitchen is a Caribbean restaurant inspired by Vincent Mcintosh’s Jamaican family cooking. 

“I always say, ‘Running a restaurant is the hardest thing to do anyway,’” Mcintosh said. “Add pandemic and… it’s super hard, it’s basically impossible.”

Since the Michigan governor’s order for all restaurants to transition to take-out/carry-out only, Mcintosh said he has definitely seen a drop in business. 

“But delivery and takeout has been able to keep us somewhat afloat,” Mcintosh said. 

As a self described “solution-oriented” entrepreneur, he was planning for possible outcomes and solutions since he started to hear about the coronavirus. 

“The crazy thing is we were planning on dropping delivery in the summer,” Mcintosh said. “A lot of our plans moved up.”

“The amount of support we have gotten has been crazy. It’s been wild.”

Right now, Irie Kitchen is doing dinner-only take out and delivery services, with orders under $50 having a delivery fee. 

Mcintosh said while he’s grateful for any additional support like purchasing gift cards and ordering takeout, he realizes not everyone can afford to continually support, especially right now when people are losing their jobs and sources of income. 

“A lot of industry stuff is on us as owners and operators. Obviously you can’t control a pandemic, but the way we run our businesses,” Mcintosh said. “I see a lot of people asking for help – which is great – and support, but I think the other side of that is people might feel pressure if they can’t and I want to let people know it’s totally okay if you can’t support financially. There’s no pressure at all… A like on Facebook, a share, a text, a call, all can mean just as much as purchasing a gift card or some food for delivery.”

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Courtesy | Laura Armenta

Laura Armenta, Armentality Movement Arts Center

For 22 years, Laura Armenta has taught dance, dance therapy, mobility and yoga out of her center, Armentality Movement Arts Center. Located inside the Grand Rapids Masonic Center, it is also a coworking space for creatives. 

Armenta said her work style has been “evolving” since COVID-19, the rules for social distancing and shutdowns. 

“I have created some videos that I will be doing on my Patreon page, and some other things I’m going to be posting on video for people to purchase,” Armenta said. “I’m also looking into doing some live videos on Facebook or Instagram and those are more like ten-minute tips… and looking also at live streaming through Zoom.”

Those interested can find the latest updates on Laura Armenta’s Facebook Page

Armenta said she feels good about how the community has responded with so much support through such an unprecedented time. 

“It feels like we’re all coming together to help one another and that makes me really happy,” Armenta said. 

“I like jumping into challenges. I know that not everybody responds the same way, but it pushes you to be creative.”

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Courtesy | Mindset Meals

Mallory Malloy, Mindset Meals

As a meal prep company, having people stuck at home is not necessarily bad for business, but now that every restaurant and food service has transitioned to takeout-only, the spike in competition is very prevalent to Mallory Malloy, co-owner and head chef at Mindset Meals

Like many people, Malloy said she and fellow coworkers had a hard time getting everything they needed from the grocery store. 

“There were about three of us, we all had to go to the grocery store at the same time and we had to all get on a conference call and then go down our list of the supplies we needed and if one store didn’t have it, we’d….talk back and forth like ‘Okay, can you check this aisle and see if your store has it?’” Malloy said. “Thankfully, we were able to get all the items we needed but it was across three different grocery stores.”

Because they are handling food and using a shared commercial kitchen space, Malloy said she and her team have been taking necessary health precautions. 

 

“Right now we know that (the virus) is not transferred by food, but we still just wanted to put out a statement to let them know we’re following all the guidelines,” Malloy said. “Our kitchen has upped their cleaning procedures, like before we leave we have to sanitize all the door handles and everything that you touch.”

Right now, Mindset Meals has taken away all delivery fees to help families that are able to purchase meal orders. 

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Courtesy | Sydney Snider

Sydney Snider, Sydney Marie Photography

As a full time photographer since 2012, Sydney Snider is feeling the effects of COVID-19 on small businesses, with weddings being cancelled and rescheduled and the general loss of in-person business due to social distancing.

Amidst all of it, Snider decided to post online to other small business owners with a deal.

“It was just to help other small business owners that need product photos, that they just send me their products and I’ll take photos of them,” Snider said. “So they have something for social media, to do a sale, to generate some kind of income because I know a lot of the craft shows, the spring ones, have been cancelled.”

In return, she said she doesn’t need money, but maybe a sample or product trade for her services. 

“Just trying to help out in any way that I personally can,” she said. “Being a small business myself, I just like helping people and I just think any way we can, we should stick together, create funds and try to help each other out the best that we can.”

 

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