County businesses tack into the wind

By Posted on Apr 27 2020 | By

With recovery in limbo surviving in place prevails

With over 1,900 businesses in Fauquier County, there are likely 1,900 stories of how to survive the current coronavirus landscape. Entrepreneurs build companies employing educated risks. Those critical skills are now being used to carve out their futures.

The challenge is to assess business threats when even tea leaves are not much help. Nonetheless, a can-do spirit ranging from locking down and protecting assets to ferreting out new revenue streams is now in play.

Salon Lou
Salon Lou is an upscale Warrenton hair salon owned and operated by Lori Nicholson. Nicholson spent over a dozen years, and multiple career starts before realizing her long-held dream of owning a salon. It opened in 2015 and has been a success from her first cut.

Today the shop is shuttered, and her 15 employees laid off. Nicholson said, “It’s almost surreal for my team and me. We were all in shock for the first two weeks. In the third week, we said, ‘OK, what are we going to do with ourselves?’”

Maintaining esprit de corps was foremost, so conducting virtual cooking classes with her employees helped soften the blow of not being able to man scissors, dye, and hair dryers. “It’s been a lot of fun.”

The downtime has also been devoted to virtual online training classes to maintain and enhance hair treatment skills and support professional educations. “A major industry show was canceled, so a lot of my stylists are taking classes online.”

Her furloughed employees have applied for unemployment. The process is frustrating and time consuming because millions of unemployed are tackling the same problem. “I’ve had to help some of my employees get it,” Nicholson said.

She has had a lot of clients call and ask if she could come and do their hair. Unfortunately, state licensing laws and insurance companies will not permit most hair styling to be performed off-premise.

More importantly, she does not want to take the chance of infecting the community or her employees by going off-site. When the economy does open up, she thinks, “We will be bombarded. Clients want professional hair jobs. They do not want to cut and color at home.”

It’s also going to change how her employees will interact with customers. “We can’t do our job six feet away. We’ll probably end up wearing gloves and face masks. Everybody will be scared of going back into the workforce.

“Currently, I can sustain my business for two to three months. After that, it’s going to be questionable,” Nicholson opined.

Piedmont Press & Graphics
Tony and Holly Tedeschi own Piedmont Press & Graphics. The couple has over 50 years of print and design experience backed by the perspective on how to survive cyclical business swings.

The current bleak landscape could be their ultimate challenge in navigating a turbulent economy.

Tony Tedeschi said, “My company is still open because we were declared an essential service because we produce mailings and signage, both important to the economy. But we’ve lost work on promotional materials for concerts, festivals and equine events.

“Losing business like the Gold Cup was hard because it’s one of our bigger jobs of the year. I would estimate our business is down 60 percent.” The drop in revenues occurred almost overnight.

Tedeschi was already preparing for a recession, which he thought was overdue. He learned a lot by surviving the 2008 recession, so he was better prepared by saving money, both corporate and personal. Their first move as owners was to stop taking paychecks.

He also asked his employees to shift to a 32-hour workweek, essentially taking a 20 percent reduction in pay. “We have enough money to go a couple of months, keeping our 15 employees working.” He has an unused line of credit and has applied for the Paycheck Protection Program, which is a loan for small businesses.

It’s a forgivable loan, as long as 75 percent of it goes to the paychecks of the employees as well as their health care benefits.
If he is approved for the loan, it will give him an additional 75 days of relief.

With all his planning in place, he thinks he is a long way from bankruptcy. He also is in the process of creating some new products and is poised to spend money on marketing.

“Where you make your money is when you come out of a downturn. We want to be ready when that day comes. I’m not panicked about the situation. It’s going to be bad and painful, but people are doing their best to pull together and survive.”

Regeti’s Photography
Amy Regeti manages her family’s Warrenton business that has, “Pretty much been set on pause. We are solely devoted to photographing weddings, and all our clients are postponing their plans. That will have a domino effect going into the 2021 season.”

The effect of postponing weddings to the following year is to block valuable dates that would have gone to new business.

Regeti said, “It limits what we can take on. We service about 25 weddings a year, all of that that has pretty much jumped to later in the year.

That business will likely jump again, dependent on the timing of the economic recovery. “I would be surprised if we shoot even one wedding this year.

“A lot of our clients are shifting dates because they do not want to hold a wedding and a reception with everyone wearing masks. It’s not how they want to remember their special occasion.”

The family business is a full-time job, but her husband does some work for the federal government. He has been able to retain his security clearance and continues to work, providing much-needed family income.

Home Sweet Home Improvements

Tom and Dawn Wotton’s Bealeton company is a design, build, and remodeling firm with four full-time employees.

One of the first actions Tom Wotton took after social distancing was implemented was to reach out to past elderly clients and see how they were faring. Often that resulted in face masks being delivered to the individuals for their protection.

His business is still operating and has about a three-month backlog of work; only a few of his current client’s projects slowed down. Nonetheless, fresh leads have stopped.

When on-site, his crew quarantines off a section of the home that is being remodeled and works with hand sanitizers, gloves, safety glasses, and face masks. CDC guidance materials for home construction crews are included in the company’s regular safety talks.

Some of his suppliers and subcontractors initially wanted to stop residential work, and Wotton told them his clients were OK with proceeding and gained the cooperation of the vendors.

Wotton said, “Yes, we are feeling an impact of what’s going on. There are two fronts in play here. First, there are the health and safety issues, and we are managing that part of it. Secondly, there is the financial front. If we can produce, we need to continue to produce. It’s that simple.”

Published in April 2020 in the Fauquier Times.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES