The COVID-19 pandemic has placed us all in the face of adversity, and it has impacted nearly every aspect of society. One particular sphere of society burdened with an economic shock since the state-mandated shutdowns in early March 2020 has been the businesses of local communities. Such economic disruption placed many family-owned, small businesses on the brink of closure. Harvard Business School estimates that over 73,000 small businesses have permanently closed due to declining profits.
By: Natalya Badish
With more than 150 small businesses located in Des Plaines, the pandemic has taken a toll locally. Some businesses have been hit harder than others, but some have found a way to survive and thrive despite the pandemic.
The De La Rosa family runs a martial arts academy called MBD Martial Arts Academy, located at 1508 Miner St. As they are dependent on customers to teach, the pandemic has created an unusual circumstance. “It's been pretty stressful for all of us,” senior Danielle De La Rosa said. “We had to quickly figure out how to adapt to a virtual environment in a way that we weren't used to. My dad also works another job, and his hours got cut there, so we all had to be tight on our budgeting. Personally, I've been trying to stay as optimistic as possible. My mom and my brother would stay late nights at the school figuring out and testing all of our new technology to make sure everything ran smoothly for our students, so they were probably the most tired and the most stressed.”
While many family-owned businesses have been gripped by stress and anxiety about the future state of their business, the De La Rosa family has a different experience when it comes to emotions regarding the pandemic.
“My dad is pretty stoic and calm, so he continued to be just that, and did what we needed him to do. It's been a roller coaster,” De La Rosa said.“When the lockdown first hit, and everyone was under the impression that it would only last a few weeks, we weren't too freaked out. We did our virtual classes and everything seemed okay.”
We all have had to adjust to engaging in our normal activities, like school or even social gatherings, virtually, so it is no surprise that small businesses have also taken advantage of this virtual option. A recent study found that 35% of small businesses have begun offering virtual options during the pandemic.
For some businesses this has been their only option to continue to stay open, but for others, it has essentially added additional income streams or offered more alternatives for clients who may not feel comfortable visiting in-person. “When the lockdown kept getting extended, that's when more people started to end their memberships. We had been doing so well financially, so to start to have people quit because their finances were also impacted was disheartening all the way around. It was a losing situation for everyone everywhere. We are so lucky to have a wonderful family of students at our school so it gave us hope in times that we really needed it,” De La Rosa said.
One year later, with higher vaccination distribution rates and COVID-19 federal relief passed, the future is starting to look brighter for small businesses. “Fast forward to now, where restrictions for fitness and health related business have loosened a little, we are able to do a hybrid type schedule where our students have the option to be virtual or reserve an in-person spot. We are slowly getting back on track and feeling better about our future,” De La Rosa explained. With more businesses adapting to the hybrid model and potentially opening up to full capacity soon, the end of the pandemic is looking like a real possibility in the near future.