Milwaukee nail salon finds ways to survive economic hit from COVID-19

Posted at 7:52 PM, May 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-20 20:52:09-04

MILWAUKEE — COVID-19 can do a lot of financial damage to businesses relying on close contact, like Bijou Nail Salon & Company on Milwaukee's MLK Jr. Drive.

"When COVID-19 happened, this pandemic, it just completely wiped us out. We went from being successful and thriving for ten years, to absolutely nothing," said Tokara Henry, owner of Bijou Nails & Company in Milwaukee.

Henry has four staff members. No one has received their unemployment pay.

"To not be able to give my staff any type of anything, you can't even advise because you don't know what's happening, no one knows what's happening," she continued.

To keep her nail salon running, Henry applied for grants from her local business improvement district, King Drive BID.

"We've been able to help about a dozen of our businesses so far," said Deshea Agee, the executive director of King Drive BID.

"We were focused specifically on business development, business recruitment. Right now, the focus is on business retention," explained Agee.

King Drive BID is currently helping small businesses in the neighborhood with rent and payroll during the pandemic.

"There are other neighborhoods that I know for sure where businesses can apply for the grant funds," said Agee.

Small companies with less than twenty employees can apply for a $2,500 cash grant announced by Governor Tony Evers this week.

While you wait for funding, Agee suggests tapping into the online market to promote your products.

"People will support local businesses. Be available. Make yourself visible. Do as much marketing as you can," Agee continued.

Tokara Henry is a perfect example. During the pandemic, she created an online shop to sell things like take-home nail kits. She's also starting a nail school next month.

"Because of COVID-19, it was really important to me to figure out how do we keep people so that they can always make money? And the way to do that is to make people employable," she said.

"We just want to strengthen the community the best way we can," she added.

Learning at the nail salon school will be virtual at first until this is all over.

"We don't want to come through this deficient we want to come through this on top," she said.

Another funding option small businesses can research, are loans through a nonprofit organization based on crowdfunding. You can read about one called Kiva here. It allows people to lend money online to low-income entrepreneurs.

To learn about the $2,500 cash grant announced by Evers, click here.

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