Tricia Lauerman is worried.
Not only about the health impact COVID-19 is having on people, but also about how the virus is hurting local businesses.
The owner of Altitude Aerial Arts and Fitness in Frisco is one of many who are feeling the effects of a halt in customer traffic as people are staying home.
Lauerman said her studio usually sees 175 new clients a month. This week, she said, there has been one.
“My business is based on specials to get people to try this out,” Lauerman said. “Now it's non-existent.”
On top of that, existing customers are leaving because, understandably so, Lauerman said, they're feeling the crunch, too.
“We've had a lot of people cancel their memberships.”
And those things have Lauerman thinking about how her fitness business will survive.
“I have no corporate backing,” Lauerman said. “It's just me and my family.”
Looking to help
The Frisco Chamber of Commerce knows of the impact COVID-19 is having on businesses.
“Without a doubt, all companies are being impacted to some degree,” Chamber President and CEO Tony Felker said. “Some are being impacted on a short-term basis with mandatory working from home, travel bans and other such issues. However, more and more smaller businesses are now being impacted every day, especially those in the hospitality business, event venues and restaurants.”
Felker said grocery stores and delivery services are facing a shortage of employees, and that is impacting other areas of the business community.
He said the chamber is doing what it can to help.
The chamber has created a resource page on its website, friscochamber.com, that provides links to information, resources, a job bank, assistance programs and other information to help businesses that are being impacted.
“The information on the page is changing rapidly as we receive more information on obtaining short-term funding, working thru HR issues, identifying needs and ways to help and more,” Felker said. “We also want to share success stories of how people are positively dealing with this issue, finding new work opportunities, shifting how they do business and more.”
Felker said some companies have come up with creative solutions to combat the negative effects of the pandemic.
“One of our new favorite words is “adjusting” as everyone is being impacted in a new manner on a daily basis,” Felker said, “and everyone is finding they need to adjust what they are doing, how they are doing it, etc.”
Lauerman said adjusting is what is keeping her doors open. She's limiting her classes to six people, everyone in the class is more than 6 feet apart, equipment is no longer shared and cleaning takes place between each class.
Another business that has adjusted is KidStrong, a Frisco company that teaches children how to be socially, emotionally and physically strong through a science-based curriculum and a variety of physical exercises.
Megin Sharp, who co-founded KidStrong with her husband Matt, said the company, which had relied on in-person training sessions, shifted to its online program KidStrong University.
“We were supposed to launch it in two months,” Megin said. “But we put three months of work into 24 hours.”
KidStrong University provides many of the same types of instruction for families but through a video element.
“We're focused on the whole family,” Matt said. “And in this short time we've been able to covert to something families can engage with at home.”
There are several benefits to that, Matt said, including being able to offset some of the financial loss of not having families visit the facility every day. Matt said including the other four facilities in North Texas KidStrong serves approximately 2,700 children.
Then there's the emotional benefit of having the online classes – staying invested.
“When we made the decision to suspend the classes, it was hard for us because we invest time into the families,” Megin said. “We're one huge community.”
Lauerman said this is “just the tip of the iceberg” for the coronavirus impact on small businesses.
“This is very scary for people,” she said. “Nobody saw this coming.”
Felker said the problem will likely get worse before it gets better but said the chamber continues to look for ways to help its businesses.
“We are encouraging our entire business community to reach out to us with needs and problems, as well as with positive stories of recovery and coming together as one community,” Felker said.