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An Interview With Mignonne Owner Johnelle About COVID-19 And Small Business

We recently sat down (and by sat down, we mean at a safe, digital distance) with Johnelle to talk about what it's like owning a small business during COVID-19, and while sheltering-in-place. Read along to see why we miss her, all of you, and what you can do to support us and other small businesses during these unprecedented times. 

(This photo taken in the "before" times, although while we're wearing a select few sweatpants and likely grooming less than we should be, Johnelle probably still looks in the realm of this!) 

Photo by Lauren Anderson of SEN Creative.

Alex: What are some ways that you’ve had to get creative and change your offerings to reflect shelter-in-place?

Johnelle: Like most, we have had to switch a lot of models, not being able to depend on the walk-in sales, we have ramped up online shopping. We always had a presence online and on instagram, but now it's more important than ever. We're listing goods almost every day. But now more than ever, these posts and items for sale have to be presented in a super easy to get fashion. So, we are offering complimentary local contactless front door deliveries and complimentary gift wrapping. We are also sending more mailchimp campaigns and our team is working behind-the-scenes to do DIY videos and share tips from me in regards to services we offer. The main thing is keeping us visually connected to our audience.

Alex: What are some ways that clients and customers can be most helpful right now to support Mignonne before shelter-in-place is lifted?

Johnelle: I think the main thing is really--if people can, making any small purchases.  We have such a wide range of price point of our items, intentionally so--so that our items are accessible to many. The other thing people can do is really try not to support the largest corporations right now. Safeway is going to be fine. Costco is going to be fine. Using this time to find the things you need like groceries at smaller co-ops, local butcher, and the neighborhood bodegas/ neighborhood stores is so important right now.  And, please, as easy at it may seem to buy something on amazon, please don't.

Alex: If, for instance, someone has very limited funds at the moment, are there free ways they can help Mignonne (i.e. sharing on social media, etc.) 

Johnelle: Yes this is super helpful too, tagging us in a post, sharing an image of ours they like--anything to support our small biz keeps not only our spirits up, but helps keep us in the community.  

A: What’s been the biggest struggle since the COVID-19 outbreak for owning a small business? 

J: The biggest struggle is really realizing that no one is going to keep your biz open, except you.  Grants and loans that early on seemed a possibility have failed to manifest--but, I stay hopeful here. The struggle was to push through to make the rents/keep payroll going/hustling. But, now that we have a new sense of this rhythm, I feel accomplished, invigorated, and optimistic.

A: You offer a lot of custom and intricate personalization services for customers and clients-can any of that still be done while sheltering-in-place? (i.e. get ball rolling with quotes, Zoom/FaceTime consultations, etc.)

J: Yes! This is another way we have shifted to be on top of our services. For our custom upholstery, before we would have had our fabric consults at our Atelier fabric room, now I have been having them online with Zoom, or jumping on a call with my clients. I am having these consultations to help pick out fabrics with clients.  This way we can still get the design done, in prep for upholstery. Same goes for getting quotes--clients can simply email us on our site, and we are continuing to work on those!   

A: Are there any bright sides, ingenuity, or positives that you feel like have come out of being a small business owner at this time?

J: It’s so important to find these positives where we can.  I think being a business owner, you have it somewhat embedded in you to hustle if you want to stay open!  We opened in 2006, and have weathered different economic storms in the past--thought this definitely has a very different feel. But as mentioned, shifting a huge presence to online in this time is proving successful, and I have learned how to take better photos/content/and the silver lining will be that once we are open, this whole part of our business will be stronger!

A: Are there any changes you’ve had to make because of COVID-19/sheltering-in-place that you would actually want to continue when the physical shop reopens? 

J: I am really thinking I will continue to do local complimentary front door deliveries for any online purchases. I love seeing people make purchases online, and it brings me great joy to keep our business in our local neighborhood. This service has really been taken well and dropping off at people's homes has been easy and fulfilling!  

A: What do you think the most important thing to remember about small businesses is right now?

J: I think the thing to remember is that small businesses make your neighborhood charming, alive, different, artistic, one-of-a-kind. If all the businesses ceased to exist, life walking around the streets would be very isolating. So, that is why buying a bar of soap online from a small biz versus amazon can make such an impact on your community. Don’t fall into the "it's so easy to order from a big company" mindset. Support your local shops--email or call them if you have a special request, you might be surprised what they're able to do to make a safe sale, especially now that most of us have more time on our hands. Small businesses personalize your experience and make your neighborhood a special place to be. 

A: Do you have any helpful advice or thoughts for other business owners out there right now?

J: I think I would just say that now is the time to dig deep down--like when you realized you wanted to open a business, and you had fluttery feelings of doubt, but pushed through and proved to yourself you could do it! That drive, passion, and desire is needed now more than ever. You might have to re-think how you have grown accustomed to do things, but this can be an exciting way to shake it up. It’s not easy, we know, but our energy and optimism can be reassuring.


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