Article written by Valerie Weber, CPCP, Owner of Dermagrafix Permanent Cosmetic Studio
I started off my COVID-19 quarantine off like many others, concerned, focused on the next step, and just imagining what the near future would look like. Hearing the whispers of the spreading virus and potential closings, I began to connect the dots. So, I made a decision to close my business the Friday before the governor of Pennsylvania decided to officially close all non-essential businesses in my county. Weeks prior I had a feeling things would evolve this way. It’s not because I had any secret insight from any reliable sources but mostly because I was paying attention to the trickle of information I’d hear here and there. Laugh if you want, but three weeks before anyone was even talking about toilet paper I ordered an industrial 96-pack off of Amazon. Thanks, Jeff Bezoz, for your vast options and quick delivery!
Well, toilet paper, as it turns out, became a critical item later that month and I ferociously wondered if gold was now second in value to toilet paper. I ordered tons of stuff for my household besides toilet paper in the sudden event we might need to head to the hospital. My instincts told me that if this ‘virus thing’ turns out anything like what China saw, the hospital is that last place we’ll want to go for minor medical needs. My husband told me it was most likely overkill and I think he rolled his eyes a couple of times. My mind set started to change as I did an inventory of what we had and what we would need to get us by. I began to think more about essential items rather than luxuries we could certainly do without. Did we really need organic fresh vegetables or could we reduce our costs and stock up on inorganic, frozen options instead. I made several trips to the grocery store a few days a part, stocking up on water and bulk dry foods. The idea that “non-essentials” such as tattooing were also going to be a last priority to others out there became very real all of a sudden.
Back track to the end of February I was getting ready to renew my business liability insurance. At the time the coronavirus was just starting to be casually talked about here in the US. I happened to ask my insurance carrier what would happen in the unlikely event we had a government issued shut down? He hesitated at my question and slowly said that was “highly unlikely” but that he’d look into it. That same day I figured since he didn’t know much about that type of thing maybe I should ask my landlord for some insight. My landlord’s response was almost an echo of my insurance carrier. He wasn’t unfriendly in any way, it was his overall view was that it was “highly unlikely” and they had never dealt with that before. Be he too would get back to me. That didn’t seem odd and I completely understood this was uncharted territory for the most part and I had not expectation of pay-out from my insurance or free rent from my landlord. I was very curious though what happens? I knew I wouldn’t be the only one if it did happen, therefore, there must be some kind of structure in place for these sort of things. Either way, I wanted to learn more. I wanted to be prepared and know what to do if things should get that bad.
Fast forward to the Monday after we closed, our Governor issued a closure of all non-essential business. Schools were closed for the next two weeks with the potential of longer. Everyone scrambled to find water, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and masks. Right away I thought, it IS happening! Good thing for that Amazon order a few weeks ago. My theory at the time of my order was that if I didn’t need it that was better then needing it and not having it. I have learned to stock pile money, stock up on supplies, and prepare for slow time in business since my initial opening in 2003. I was fortunate enough to have survived the 2008 financial crash. Back then I believed the reason was because my business was much smaller and my overhead was more manageable. Then and even now, I offered a luxury service luxury and in 2008 were still giving me business. Sure, there was some decline, but we didn’t have to shut down from a virus like COVID-19. At that point in my business I took time to analyze my losses and factor ways to minimize my expenses to compensate for the amount of my expected losses. Once the economy bounced back everything went back to normal and all was well again.
In the case of COVID-19 all non-essential business were told to close for the greater good of our great nation. However, we all know this wasn’t so great for business, which is an obvious second priority to the aforementioned. While this may cause many businesses to fold many small businesses and their staff were able to apply for loans and unemployment to help keep them afloat during the closure. The good news is there was now time for creating alternative incomes, trimming unnecessary expenses, creating strategies for the future, organizing, or whatever else we wanted to do! The government is correct in saying cosmetic tattooing is a non-essential business but we know we are essential in a different way. Most of us even have listed on our consent forms that “this is not to treat a medical condition” so we know how non-essential tattooing is during a crisis. It is imperative that you don’t lose your purpose during this time though. You have to think about getting back to helping and growing your community both your online community and in your city or county!
If we can’t tattoo what can we do for our community? Of course we can donate masks, gloves, disinfection cleaners and isolation gowns to our hospitals. We can buy items at the store for our elderly neighbors or those who have lots of kids or no car. We can host fun games to communicate online, or even helpful training tips for those of us that train. We can find ways to be helpful during a time of crisis. Let’s have a look at our value as business owner’s or members of our community in the past though. Did we wait for a crisis to hit before we started connecting? Are you disassociating instead of connecting? If you are just now trying to be seen that won’t look good for business as some will see it as opportunistic. If all you have to offer is content that surrounds tattooing well, people might get bored unless you’re creative with the purpose of the post. If you are hiding away people may interpret that as the disappearance of your business or you as a service provider. I want you to identify your role in your community and why it needs to be consistent. If you love what you do this will come easy to you and most of you probably already do these things but you might not see them the way I do. So let’s dive a bit deeper shall we?
My company has long been engaged with our local community from offering classes to breast cancer support groups, offering discounts to certain community workers, donating services, volunteering, writing articles for other businesses, delivering gifts to locals, speaking at colleges, participating in city or historic events, and even putting educational information on our cities’ Facebook page. The changing of lives through cosmetic tattooing I left out because that is obvious and something we all know and find easiest to share. The events I mentioned are just some of the work we have done in our community and I wanted to reshape those moments with my community. I wanted them to remember that when we all get back on track, not only will we be there for them again, we have some great work to continue to uphold, not just tattooing! The idea that we do more than tattooing in our community speaks volumes to our community about our appreciation for them. People like to feel appreciated and they also like to support businesses that give back.
The organizations we give to, the donations we give, the articles we write, and events we participate in are not at random. Our brand has core values that we developed years ago and therefore our partnerships go hand in hand. No one is paying us for these partnerships. For us, our partnerships make sense. For example: We support A Woman’s Place , our local chapter non-profit organization by providing free tattoo removal and scar camouflage to survivors of domestic violence and sex trafficking. But why? Well, many years ago, I was in a bad marriage where I suffered from domestic abuse. Being that I am a woman owned business and have a heart for the people in that situation I saw a need my business could fill. We had donated clothing to them for years and we recently adopted a room that my team and I remodeled for free to help them update their facility. We also promoted their cause on our social pages. I would suggest working with those that make sense or connect to your business in some way. The owner is the fabric of the business and if the connection is sensible then you might want to build relationships where you can give back to your community.
Valerie’s social media posts
Believe it or not, providing positivity is sometimes all people need. We wanted to feed our audience positive vibes and also tie in our “essentialness” to our community. When the news of the virus first hit we put out a hand-washing post to educate people about safety. We did a “remember when” and we showed a video we did where my team and I went to a local women’s shelter earlier in the year where we remodeled a bathroom in their facility for free. We shared a picture of the Dermagrafix team delivering gifts to our referring doctors that mentioned how we all missed doing those things together. This shows our community we are strong together and we are not going anywhere. We also did a few “throw back” before and after post letting our clients know we miss being there for them too. Anything that show’s you interacting with your community, charities, your happy clients, your staff, all of these things are reminders that you enrich lives and your community.
While big box companies employ thousands of people, it’s small businesses that make up the majority of the working class and where local economy truly thrives. Maybe, you offer discount to military and first responders like my business does. Maybe, you donated some of your supplies to your local hospital during the crisis. Know who you are to your community and let your community in on what you bring to the table. Other’s will be so thankful for efforts, not just life-changing tattoos. We are so much more than that! Whatever you do, don’t disappear! Stay positive and be inspiring because people are watching!