Your job right now is to help
By the end of August 3,061 businesses had closed in the Seattle metro area, with 59% marked as permanent closures.
Depending on what report you read, between 35% and 75% will face closure by the time we return to ‘normal’. Their story matters. And, how we respond to their story, may matter even more.
When I launched in the Spring, my goal was to shine a light on the unique challenges our city’s small businesses and non-profits were facing, while also capturing the spirit with which they were digging into them – kind of a time capsule of learning, for businesses, non-profits and consumers. Along the way, I have learned a lot:
Even when the pandemic is wreaking havoc on your business, there’s still space to start something new: Seattle Kettlebell Club re-designed the kettlebell with a producer in Spokane; Scoop Marketplace launched an online certification course to train other entrepreneurs; and Olga Sagan from Piroshky Piroshky took-on the meal delivery start-ups with Catch22.
Although folks are getting hit from just about every angle, the way in which their landlord responds may be the deciding factor in which businesses make it or don’t.
None of the businesses I interviewed have shut down permanently (yay!!) but many businesses across all of their industries have, from restaurants to live music venues, small retailers and non-profits. And
A shocking number of folks wrapped up their interviews by saying “All I really want is for folks to be nice to one another”. Think about that – that was the most important point for the majority of them to get across. In what ways are we showing our stress toward one another, even unintentionally, especially as we enter a new shut-down phase and the rainy season?
Connection matters. Even when we can’t be with our customers face-to-face or hug-to-hug, we still need to find ways to connect: from ‘smising’ behind our mask, hosting fundraising events via Zoom, or developing new products for our new problems. And, as always, this presents an opportunity to respond while reinforcing our brand and values.
As we head into the holiday season, it's important to remember that demand on our food access resources has doubled since March, putting pressure on non-profits and triggering some incredible innovation across the restaurant industry.
On a personal level, thanks to these interviews: I rediscovered yoga after a 7-year hiatus and learned I like it even more in my own home. And, a few weeks ago, I went to my first restaurant in Seattle, since March. It was a beautiful reminder of the fun we can still have, in a pandemic, if we keep exploring new concepts, meals, and even inter-galactic time-traveling mythologies.
And, though there were many memorable stories and quotes, this call to action from Sugarpill’s Karyn Schwartz was probably the most apt:
If you’re working right now, you have to order takeout from your favorite restaurant or it's going to be done. You have to take your dog to daycare or it's going to be gone. You have to pay for that haircut and stop cutting your own bangs. And then you have to tip. If you have the means right now, your job right now is to help.
Moving forward, I’d like to shift the perspective of this site’s storytelling, to focus less on the strife that organizations face and more on the tenacity the leaders demonstrate in keeping their work going and evolving, for us, the consumers and the community. I would also like to explore different mediums beyond the written word. To support this shift, I will be taking a hiatus over the holidays to adjust the direction of Big Lil Seattle, so that I can continue to support this city’s small businesses and non-profits, through story and connection.
So, if you have any suggestions or feedback, I’d be overjoyed to hear them!!
In the meantime, I hope each of you can continue to find presence and joy, amidst the shutdown, rain, holidays, and leadership changes….for you, your families, and the small businesses in your life.
With much gratitude for your support,
Carrie Ferrence, The Big Lil and Big Lil Seattle