1 year later: Here's how Bay Area small businesses found success during COVID-19

"With the uncertainty of the opening and the closures, the best idea for me was to ask myself, 'How do I get my business back to my clients?'"

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Wednesday, March 17, 2021
Here's how Bay Area small businesses found success during COVID
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A year after the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world in so many ways, some of these Bay Area small businesses learned how to survive during this hard time.

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- The number of active business owners in America plummeted by 3.3 million from February to April in 2020, according to research found in the National Library of Medicine.

BUILDING A BETTER BAY AREA: Lessons learned, journey ahead 1 year into the COVID-19 pandemic

A September 2020 Yelp study found that 800 small businesses are closing every day in the United States.

More data is needed to fully understand the scope of the pandemic's impact, but it's incredible to watch people beat the odds. Some Bay Area business owners have managed to adapt by making masks or starting something like a distance picnic company. Joe Haley and Mustafa Oberi started their company ParcNiks SF, to give people a safe space to eat outdoors and do it in style.

Lennotch Taplett, owner of LUXGROOM, also found a way to thrive in our new environment.

"For the past dozen or so years, I've owned a barbershop in downtown Union Square and you know business was great," Taplett said. "The pandemic really changed how I had to go about doing things. With the uncertainty of the opening and the closures, the best idea for me was to ask myself, 'How do I get my business back to my clients?' A mobile barbershop was the perfect solution."

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Taplett moved out of his brick and mortar and into a sleek van outfitted with everything you'd find inside a barber shop. He told ABC7 News that he had been sitting on the idea pre-pandemic, but never acted on it. Business is going so well now that Taplett plans on expanding his mobile-care services.

"During any time of crisis, there's going to be a time for opportunity," Taplett said.

Sabine Herrmann, a maker based in Berkeley, can relate. Through her business Plantillo, she takes photos of plants around the Bay Area, prints them on fabric, and turns them into life-like cushions.

"A huge part of it was about wholesale," Herrmann continued. "Selling to some shops, and going to shows, and actually really meeting one-on-one with the people that like your product."

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Herrmann re-invested in her Etsy shop and it turns out, people really like bringing the outdoors inside during isolation.

"Having to be inside and everything is a little bit sad," Herrmann said. "So, they like putting a happy product in their homes. It's been pretty good thanks to Etsy. We have missed the public, but there are other ways."

While we're on the subject of plants, ABC7 News had to re-visit one of the most daring ventures we saw in 2020.

The founders of the Black Girls Greenhouse made the bold choice to start a brand new business during the pandemic. ABC7 News met the duo shortly after they opened in August.

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"We joked that we were going to be out on the corner like spinning signs trying to get people to come," J'Maica Thomas, co-founder of the Black Girls Green House, said. "Here we are within hours of our opening day and we're almost sold out."

The Black Girls Greenhouse has been called revolutionary. It's in West Oakland and filled with plants, coffee and home goods, and a deep love for Black culture.

"I believe that kind of lends itself to explain the success of the business," Kalkidan (Kalu) Gebreyohannes, co-founder of the Black Girls Green House, said. "It's not so much just J'Maica and I and how hard we worked, but because it was a thing that was collectively needed in our community."

Since opening, the business has moved from a temporary outdoor spot, to a permanent indoor location. Thomas and Gebreyohannes are also hiring additional employees.

See more stories and videos about Building a Better Bay Area here.