When coronavirus hit, these small businesses got creative, but they still need help

·45 min read

With more than 38 million people unemployed and businesses shut down in nearly every state, COVID-19 has taken a crippling toll on America's economic health.

For many small businesses, which comprise 47% of private-sector payrolls in the U.S., according to the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, the sudden economic downturn has created a full-blown crisis.

MORE: These small business owners are getting creative to survive in the COVID-19 economy

The big-picture concern shared by economists is if businesses don't survive, many Americans won't have jobs to return to after the pandemic. That's why experts have said it's important to support local businesses, which are struggling to generate reliable income.

Now, salons, restaurants, florists, fitness instructors and more are creatively adjusting to the new realities of the coronavirus economy, pivoting to bring parts of their business online, connecting with communities directly on social media or launching creative side hustles.

"GMA" put out a call to small businesses and service workers to see how they've responded to the economic downturn, and we'll share their stories here, along with ways Americans can support small businesses.

Check back each week to meet more small business owners.

MORE: Small business loan program expands with PayPal, Square, Intuit

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Anemone V. Mahadeo of Fun Time Pottery, Inc.

Business: Paint-your-own pottery studio

Anemone V. Mahadeo has a background in finance and held a mortgage broker license until 2009 when the housing market crashed. She alternatively pivoted into the arts and crafts industry, as she enjoyed meeting people and thought it would be fun to create art and help others at the same time. Shortly after, her paint-your-own pottery studio, Fun Time Pottery, Inc. was born.

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Unfortunately, Mahadeo’s studio has been impacted by New York-ordered shutdowns on nonessential businesses due to COVID-19. Much of Fun Time Pottery, Inc.’s success depends on walk-in customers as well as events such as birthday parties, fundraisers, private paint nights and more.

"Since the shutdown, we were only able to offer take-home projects, which are far and few," Mahadeo told "GMA." "Our customers enjoy sitting in the studio and working on their projects since they have access to all materials in addition to the ambiance."

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While the physical location remains closed, Mahadeo has built Fun Time Pottery, Inc.’s website in a way where arts, crafts and pottery supplies can now be ordered online. She also began putting together packages for virtual parties and classes.

However, Mahadeo does admit it has been a challenge to convince customers to purchase items online. Additionally, packing all of the items to ship on her own can be a tedious process.

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Monthly bills are still due for the pottery studio and Mahadeo has continued to look for new ways to generate enough income to cover them.

How can America support your business: "It would mean a great deal to support by purchasing and ordering DIY craft kits or custom-made pieces on Fun Time Pottery, Inc.’s website," Mahadeo says.

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Emily Clarke of Curb Appeal Party by Emily Clarke Events

Business: Elaborate yard decorations for celebrating amid coronavirus

Coronavirus did not stop this tight-knit events team from celebrating special milestones -- safely.

Emily Clarke, owner of Emily Clarke Events, has pivoted to creating elaborate yard designs made from balloons and ready-to-order signs. The in-person installations of Curb Appeal Party cater to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but national customers can order a Curb Appeal DIY box straight from the Emily Clarke Events website.

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Starting at $100, this "Celebration in a Box" includes 300 balloons in your choice of up to three colors, digital files for three print-ready graphics from the Curb Appeal design collection, and fishing wire to create your own loopy arches and sprawling balloons. A balloon blower and custom graphics can be added for a little more.

Founded in 2010, the event company prides itself on being a close knit-team of hard workers who aims to meet the highest standard of joy no matter the event.

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"We send you a prototype of what it's going to look like, we engage with you on the phone, I myself am taking any of the calls and design calls, and I want them to still have that sense of ... professionalism," said Clarke.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the events business especially hard, but Clarke said her business recognizes the hurt that everyone feels when canceling a special occasion. The company has even donated two hospital Curb Appeal projects and a retirement home project to spread light in their community.

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"I was devastated to see the cancellations," Clarke says. "Curb Appeal is a way to sow seeds in our community, stay connected as a team, stay connected to our clients and give back where we can."

It was the support from her community that inspired Clarke to start the Curb Appeal Party and now has done upward of 80 installations across the country.

"Joy is our priority," said Clarke.

How you can support the business: America can support Emily Clarke Events and Curb Appeal Party by purchasing an installation and ordering the Curb Appeal DIY box and sharing the work with the #CurbAppealParty hashtag. "If [customers] are local, we serve the DFW area," she says. "If they're national or international, they can always support us by ordering the box and taking our video tutorial, and then of course, the biggest thing to help us [would be to] share your celebration. We love seeing our hashtag ... people can come on and tell us what they're up to," said Clarke.

Victoria Collette of POP SCENTsation

Business: Virtual perfume parties

Victoria Collette gained an interest in making fragrances and learned about the art of perfuming from a master of the craft about 10 years ago. But things really took off for her business, POP SCENTsation, in 2018. After she and her husband moved from New York to North Carolina, she redirected her small business’ focus toward young girls and offering them the chance to create their own scents.

"I was always passionate about empowering girls," Collette says.

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With POP SCENTsation, Collette encourages participants to "let their personalities ‘P.O.P.": to be playful, original and powerful. And they do so with Collette’s perfume parties. At these parties, each girl learns how to design their own perfume, blending elements of creativity and science. Some of the themes of the kits include Fruit Smoothie, Witches Brew, Glamp It Up, Flower Power and It’s Party Time.

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After being unable to host in-person parties around the Charlotte, North Carolina, area after the outbreak of the coronavirus, Collette pivoted and began hosting online parties.

"By the end of April, I was promoting Virtual Perfume Parties for girls and it has been amazing!" she says. "We’ve done private birthday parties, parties for Girl Scout troops and now, most recently, started our public POP-UP Parties.

At all of the parties, along with creating a one-of-a-kind perfume, they get to "dance their hearts out" and "discover their hidden power when they pop open their confetti box to reveal what makes them so amazing and special," or as Collette says, "a POP SCENTsation."

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"When I did this a month ago, we had girls from 13 different states for our first public POP-UP Party, which was so amazing," Collette says, noting participants from states such as Colorado, California and Florida. "These were all girls that I didn't know … this is out of my network and were just word of mouth, so it's getting out there."

"They're actually seeing all these new friends that they're making from across the country, which is really cool," Collette adds.

How can America support your business: You can purchase a virtual POP-UP Party ticket for your daughter, niece, etc., on the website. "We could really change the world by lighting girls up," Collette says, "so I think this is a fun way that we could do it, especially with everything that's going on now."

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Melissa Wedman of Mollycoddled Hash Slinger

Business: Artisan candy company

If the taste of Mollycoddled Hash Slinger’s confections don’t draw you in -- and they will -- you’ll definitely be intrigued by its name.

"Mollycoddled Hash Slinger basically translates to ‘Spoiled Chef,’" says Melissa Wedman, the "Head Sugar Slinger" at the Oklahoma City-based business. "It was originally the handle I used when I had a food blog many years ago. Since I already owned the dormant domain when we were still making our candies in our home kitchen, we continued with the name and it stuck as we launched into a commercially null

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