The Effect of the Coronavirus on Small Businesses

Just over a year has passed since the COVID-19 virus was officially declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization and businesses are still reeling from the effects of it. On March 11, 2020, the W.H.O. made the designation of pandemic and the country responded with varying states of quarantine, stay-at-home orders, mask mandates, and partial business shutdowns. Among the first restrictions was the ordered closing of businesses deemed non-essential. While millions of Americans began to work remotely, there were many who weren’t afforded that luxury or who still faced losses due to the virus. Among the hardest hit were small business owners. Whether they could still work remotely or were facing losses because of all the restrictions, small business owners were forced to adapt to an increasingly digital market with new conditions and demands.

Now, in 2021, some of these business owners are sharing their strategies, changes, and concerns that guide their decisions in trying to climb back or to exceed what they had achieved pre-pandemic.

The Challenges

Though their lives may have changed in different ways, no one was left unaffected by COVID-19 being declared a global pandemic. The same is true of small businesses. Competitors in the same industries, on equal footing before Coronavirus, may have made different decisions in how they chose to adapt to the changes.

Matt Peters

Matt Peters of Weed Man, a lawn service company in Bucks County, PA, says that to adhere to guidelines and to keep his employees safe, they had to work to ensure “work is performed outside without human contact, thus presenting very minimal risk to further transmission of the virus,” while also doing their best to provide a bit of normalcy wherever possible and however safely they can.

Indeed, the transition from in-person work, even with the occasional video conference, to completely remote work was a challenge for many people. It was one that had to be made quickly, though.

Megan ONeill

Megan O’Neill of MLC Fitness, though she was no stranger to online platforms for the personal training of clients across the country, noted, “What was a minor part of my workday now had to become the norm and fast!”

Even now, as restrictions are being lifted, vaccinations are being given across the country, and some kind of end to the pandemic is in sight, there are still questions being raised. Will people return to their offices? Are we going back to a pre-pandemic normal, or some new variant of normal life?

Bill McMonigle

Bill McMonigle of Custom Property Restoration in Philadelphia wonders if providing his team with PPE and especially masks is enough. “Just because Covid is on the ‘decline’,” he asks, “does that mean us business owners have risk and liability if my whole team gets deathly ill declines as well?”

It’s a question many are wondering, but that all businesses will have to find an answer to if they want to resume work the way it was pre-pandemic.

The Solutions

Despite the cloud that seemed to loom over small business owners as they faced the uncertainty that the pandemic would bring in the year after the World Health Organization’s declaration, including questions that remain unanswered, many managed to find silver linings through innovation and determination. Many turned to digital marketing. If people couldn’t be together in-person, surely they could find a place online to meet their needs.

Matt Peters

Peterson, of Weed Man, said that his business, “put an increased focus on our customer portal on our website and we are in the process of transitioning to operating paperless! Our online presence, social media included, also got an increased focus in 2020.”

Divya Kapoor

Likewise, Divya Kapur of The MAX Challenge in Feasterville, PA, noted that while her company was unable to have an in-person grand opening, rather than cancel, they launched their first 10-Week Challenge as a fully immersive virtual experience.

Brenna Hitchens

Brenna Hitchens, of Re-URBAN-it credits her company’s doubling of profit to digital marketing. She says, “We completely revamped our website and used social media to heavily advertise our products. Facebook and Instagram became our top two sources of income during this time. We also used a ton of video content to connect and build relationships with our customers.” And though she had to work harder than ever during the pandemic, she knows it was a true test of dedication.


Nikolai Derek, who founded Passport Coffee Club with a friend during the pandemic did so to help support small businesses struggling during the shutdown. By offering users 10% off their coffee order, their app provides a hub to order coffee online from any independent coffee shop nationally. They created Passport Coffee Club to meet the demands of a digital market while supporting small businesses and, of course, inspiring a coffee community.

Tyler Joseph

Finally, Tyler Joseph of Penn Emblem Company in Trevose, PA, states his company’s objective was, “to serve their essential customer base with products that they could deliver to their customers who serve life sustaining industries such as hospitals, grocery stores, and factories. Penn Emblem shifted gears again quickly as the continuous need for protective masks rose staggeringly. Reusable, adjustable masks and standard, disposable masks became the newest product offered by Penn Emblem, to offer aid during the pandemic.” They used their online presence to not only provide their service to customers digitally, but also to help aid those in need of facemasks as they faced the growing health crisis.

The End Result

The pandemic was tough on everyone, and many of its consequences were not in the control of people affected. While many people suffered physically from the brutality of the virus itself, just as many struggled financially as restrictions to keep people safe hurt their businesses.

A focus on health and safety, compassion for others, and a transition to a digital platform was what became the saving grace for those who not only survived but thrived in the wake of the Coronavirus.

Because of the unprecedented nature of everything that has happened thus far, it’s hard to tell how things will continue to change and evolve in the future. But one thing is for certain: small business owners have been and will continue to be resilient in the face of all these changes.

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