Earlier this week, New York City-based facialist Sofie Pavitt made what she called a “heavy, but not difficult” decision to close her Chinatown studio until further notice as a response to the COVID-19 crisis. “Your safety, my staff’s safety, [and] my family’s safety is more important than any bookings right now,” she wrote on Instagram at the time.
Today, just four days after Pavitt’s announcement, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order that all personal-care businesses in the state — including hair salons, nail salons, spas, tattoo parlors, piercing shops, and estheticians — must be closed indefinitely starting Saturday, March 21. The connection between these services and their role in social distancing (or lack thereof) is clear; maintaining a distance of six feet between client and practitioner is physically impossible during a facial or a manicure. But Gov. Cuomo’s call, no matter how necessary, leaves tens of thousands of people out of work for the foreseeable future.
The blow to the industry and to the individual is staggering, especially for small, independent businesses like Pavitt’s. But, in closing her own studio early, Pavitt hoped to make a point: Despite the inevitable loss of money and the logistics of closing up shop, the choice was unavoidable — and essential for the greater good. “We made the call before anyone else,” she says. “We could talk all day about what this means for the studio right now, but I stand behind social distancing. It was socially irresponsible for us to stay open.”
Pavitt, like other business owners affected by the mandate, fully intends on reopening once the dust has settled. But whereas many larger businesses have e-commerce to fall back on, Pavitt has employed a different strategy to keep clients engaged when in-person services are out of the question: social media. By offering online consults, clients can still see her without seeing her — and they’ve taken full advantage. “The response to our online presence has been incredible,” she says. “I’m pretty much fully booked for the week.”
In terms of supporting beloved businesses that have been forced to hit pause during the pandemic, Pavitt says that buying gift cards online isn’t always the best way, so it’s a good idea to ask before you order. “With our processing platform, we don’t actually see the sale until you come in for a facial,” she says. “If you buy a gift card, please book a facial! Otherwise, we don’t get the funds for it.”
Scheduling a virtual consultation whenever possible is perhaps the most effective way to get money directly into your esthetician’s hands, and many are currently offering them: Celebrity esthetician Joanna Vargas and her team, for example, are scheduling 30-minute Skype consultations with master estheticians that can later be redeemed for spa services or product. Purchasing product is effective, too — Pavitt, who doesn’t have an online shop, sells the same brands she uses in-office through Instagram.
Creating a sense of community, Pavitt says, is why she opened her studio in the first place — whether that’s in person or temporarily through an iPhone screen. Every Sunday, she’ll be hosting at-home facials on Instagram Live, guiding viewers through the process step-by-step with products they already own. She’ll also be showcasing things you shouldn’t do at home but can certainly look forward to once the studio is back up and running, like professional-grade microneedling and glycolic peels.
“I’ve been quite emotional through this whole process,” Pavitt says. “Our clients have been amazing and such a big support, reaching out and asking what they can do to help. I founded the studio with the idea that everyone can be included, and nobody would be intimidated.” It’s skin care for everybody — an ethos that feels especially relevant as we work to navigate the challenges ahead and support the people and small businesses we care about, together.
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