A letter from the owner

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I’m going to get vulnerable here and expose some insider info on our financials.  2020 has been tough on all small businesses, and compared to most, we’re doing okay here at Organic Headshots.  But I wanted to share some specifics to show how very close to “not okay” we and most small businesses are or could soon become.

No sales = no pay

As the owner, I haven’t paid myself since March so that we can afford our overhead and the rest of the staff can have income before me.  Last February, we were under contract to buy a vacant building on the north side of the city.  Building it out was going to more than double our shooting space and it even had its own parking lot!  (swoon)  But the pandemic slapped us hard about a month before closing, and the deal crumbled.  It was a blessing in disguise, really, because sales have been down by so much since then that we would not have been able to afford the increased expense anymore.  The money set aside for the down payment has been paying our current rent and expenses and keeping us afloat these last eight or nine months.

It can be hard to stay stoic some days when your revenue line stays in the red for most of the year, so when I open P&L statements I keep a stress ball in my hand and a box of Kleenex within reach.  In April and May, we had $0 in revenue, since we were closed as a “non-essential” business by order of the state.  By month, our sales compared to our 2019 monthly average were:

April 0%
May 0%
June 11%
July 53%
August 42%
September 41%
October 55%
November 27%

With expenses, we spent more than we earned for six of those eight months.  So graphically, our net sales looks like this:

Did we get small business grant?

We either don’t qualify for, didn’t receive, or it isn’t worth it for us to apply for any of the pandemic aid loans or grants because I’m technically the only W2 employee of the company, and even though the other photographers were working full time before the pandemic, they’re 1099 contractors, so they’re not eligible for any relief pay through small business grants.

But because of that saved down payment for our dream studio space that slipped away, we have a little savings, and we can hold out at least through Q1 of 2021 if I keep deferring my salary (and stretching my spouse’s income so we buy nothing but the essentials).  But I would be lying if I said I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night now and then in a cold sweat, feeling the crippling weight of small business frailty.

We’re in this together

Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, employing 59.9 million people, or 47.3% of the U.S. private workforce.  But we’re also the most fragile.  Small businesses everywhere are either teetering that “not okay” line or are plummeting hard, so please check in on your neighborhood’s local places.  We all need help. 

The next time you need a sandwich or some clothes or a book or a gift or some photos, resist the urge to open a giant megastore app on your phone and stop by a local business.  Every dollar goes directly into your neighbors’ mouths right now.  And as we said it with the Chicago Loop Alliance this last Fall, if you’re not buying your vendor’s products or services now, tell them why and when you expect to be able to.  We want to hear from you so we can plan for your return.  Follow your favorite shops on social media.  Write reviews of your favorite places or your best vendors.  Reach out just to say hi.  And please wear your mask, social distance, and do your part to destroy this pandemic before it destroys us.  ❤

In love and good health,
Michelle

 

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