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Opinion: These days, running a small business means wrestling with the unknown

Queue a patriotic song and raise the flag, because today we are going to talk about the American dream. 

I just get starry-eyed thinking of the person I was 9 years ago when I started my salon business. If I compare the person I was then to the burnt-out COVID-era salon owner I am today, I would swear I am in a funhouse staring into the wobbly mirrors.

I often stop and ask myself, how has this feeling of doubt and concern escalated so quickly in only eight months? Then I remind myself: It’s the unknown. 

Tanya Owens

Being a business owner, it’s so difficult to plan for the unknown. The shutdown in March was an eye opener that COVID was a serious concern. The thing that I had always told myself and my husband is, “Well, we may not know what we are making, but we know when we go to work we have a job!” 

As you can imagine, the instant shutdown with about a day’s notice was an extreme shock. How does any business owner make a decision about their business in only one day?

Spending eight weeks at home was stressful at first. Reading the news and the uncertainty of what date businesses could expect to go back to work was daunting the first two weeks. 

Then I made the decision to complete my life-coaching certification. It was probably the best thing I could do for my sanity.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

If you are a business owner, chances are you went through the pain of not making an income for five weeks along with no word of when your business would reopen. Shortly after that we were all informed that we would qualify for self-employed unemployment. This was a huge relief for myself and my family, but when you’re a business owner you generally do it for the love of your industry.

As you can imagine, I was eager to get back into my routine of work. When we got the word salons would be opening from Gov. Polis’ announcement, you can only

imagine how my phone lit up. I was eager to schedule all of the clients that were delayed and the ones who were waiting to come in. 

The most disappointing part was when our opening date changed four times. Most of the industry could no longer take walk-ins, so scheduling over and over again was a nightmare.

Once we finally got back to work, we had a whole new world of experiences — talking through the mask restrictions for one. Clients seemed to be a mixed bag of emotion and really helped me grasp the perspective of struggles everyone has been dealing with. 

Starting up as one of the first businesses to re-open in Colorado was scary. I thought we would open much later than others, considering we were physically touching people all day.

As time progressed, the mask became more and more tolerable, but between politics, rioting and COVID, the hot topics continued to stream in client after client. Many clients had an aggressive tone or a one-sided opinion they chose to shove down their stylist’s throat. 

Day after day, we come to work with the underlying concern we will yet again be closing down at any moment.

Many clients now come in and say, “Did you hear anything about them closing you? I made an appointment because I wanted to make sure I got my hair done beforehand.” 

Of course it’s human nature to put yourself first, but after the fourth client of the day it feels like burnout wouldn’t be so bad.

Many times that question is followed up with, “We just need to close down; COVID is at an all time high!” Generally speaking, these clients tend to be the ones who have cushy jobs with an income that hasn’t been affected from day one. I’ll be honest: Nine times out of 10, they are also the ones that can rationalize all of their traveling because they were “safe” or it was “outside.”

What if I introduced the concept of a 10% privilege tax to anyone who can remain working at home while businesses are closed? Scary thought, I’m sure. 

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

What do we need right now? Perspective.

If you get anything out of this essay, my hope is you reach out to another human and just ask them how they are, what they are struggling with, and if they are doing OK. We all need a little pick-me-up, and sometimes when we are involved in our own woes we can’t see those of others. 

We are all in this together, so let’s really be all in this together.


Tanya Owens is owner, stylist and life coach at A Hot Mess Salon in Westminster.


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