Owning a business is never easy, but during the pandemic, it has proven impossible for many Colorado businesses to stay afloat. Many have closed, temporarily or permanently. The uncertainty of where the COVID-19 pandemic will lead next has meant loads of uncertainty for people planning for their businesses' futures.
In Colorado Springs, local help — from other businesses and groups — has sprung up to help keep the doors of their fellow firms open.
“I’m very much a planner. I’m a 10-year-plan kind of person, and it’s just impossible to do that,” said Rebecca Moon, owner of Moonbeam Clothiers, a boutique in Colorado Springs.
CPR News has been following Moon since she opened her dream business in the thick of the pandemic last May. There have been successes and failures for most, if not all businesses in Colorado Springs and statewide during coronavirus, even for Moon.
But for her and others, it has not deterred their ambition. Somehow, despite all the challenges the city has faced, more street-level businesses opened downtown than closed in 2020, according to the Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs.
It's a stat that might raise some local eyebrows, seeing as multiple prominent downtown spaces remain empty after store closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But, the partnership’s director of economic development, Alexander Armani-Munn, said a number of those spaces are actually under contract for new tenants to move in. Those businesses are waiting for the local economy to pick back up before moving forward, he said.
To be clear, Armani-Munn acknowledged the pandemic has certainly hurt downtown Colorado Springs. He said overall sales in the area were down about 20 percent in 2020.
But one silver lining of the pandemic: It’s resulted in a coming together of local businesses to help each other stay in business. There was a local Rally for Restaurants, where eateries rotated making meals for displaced food service workers, for instance.
And a recently opened hotel called Kinship Landing sourced the majority of its materials, its financing work, and its design and artwork from locals. That included providing Moon, who also works as a seamstress and will soon return to her moonlighting gig as a bartender, with a job hemming dozens of thick polyester curtains.
The curtain contract from Kinship Landing is not the first time Moon has been buoyed by big contracts from other downtown businesses. Shortly after she opened, Moon sewed 300 cloth face masks for a bunch of local restaurants, relying on her connections from a lifetime in this city.
In the nine months since she opened her store, Moon has added a lot to her carefully curated inventory. Business has increased, and she’s getting more repeat customers.
Yet, it’s still barely enough to tread water and help her business stay in the black. Her money from those additional sales is going back into the business — buying that more robust inventory. But normal pandemic frustrations are piling up alongside additional uncertainties for the budding entrepreneur, and she often finds herself not knowing how to adjust her business model to the fluctuating conditions.
In the meantime, as she waits for things to settle, Moon said she’s doing her best to adapt, to set up mental boundaries and to leave her work at work. She's even learning to be OK not knowing if she’s always making the right moves.
"But, you kind of just have to like put yourself first and see if it works out,” she said.
And there's even more help she's getting from people she knows to help her business stay afloat: Moon said she has negotiated with the boutique building's landlord to pay rent on a month-to-month basis rather than sign a new year-long lease.
"I’m noticing a good trend," Moon said. "Holidays were really good and I’m getting more repeat customers, people who say they’ve been following me on social media for awhile and are finally getting a chance to come in.”