Beauty salons and barbershops are pillars within the black community. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, patrons have not been able to receive services or enjoy the sense of community the establishments have to offer for safety reasons. As salons and barbershops remain closed, business owners—small and large—are being hit hard financially and are figuring out ways to pivot. Maya Smith, founder and CEO of The Doux haircare line and salon, says that while protecting her business during the financial crisis is important, it is important to prioritize health over hair as she does business.
As an artist and beauty maven within the haircare industry, Smith is known for paying homage to hip -hop with her uniquely named and fashionable products. The Doux is also known for being a reputable brand internationally and a staple salon in Georgia. Like many small businesses, The Doux has been impacted by COVID-19.
“The way that [COVID-19] impacted the salon is really different than the way that it’s impacted the brand and e-commerce. When it comes to the salon, I’m not really excited about reopening my salon until we know more about this. As a cosmetologist, I don’t feel like I can safely provide a service with just a mask. I know that there are a lot of nail salons out there that are choosing to go back in business, particularly in Georgia, but for me personally, I just don’t feel comfortable putting my clients, you know, hair over their health. So, right now, the salon is suspended for health reasons,” said Smith.
Pivoting During the Pandemic
As the economy shifts, so has the way that Smith and her team are doing business.
“When it comes to the e-commerce side, because so many people are at home and choosing alternative measures to care for themselves, we’ve seen a huge uptick in sales. And that can be a challenge to a small business as well. Every month you’re projecting what your sales would be, how much inventory, staff, and manpower you need to fulfill those orders. Over 30 days, we had gone through our whole quarter’s worth of inventory. And that presented a challenge, just dealing with the lead times because COVID-19 affects every part of the distribution process,” added Smith.
Things like freight deliveries, packaging, the production of products, and the storage of them have been slowed down. Additionally, Smith says that the trickle-down effect of businesses impacted by the pandemic has prompted her to make changes within her staff.
“For us as a business, we’ve had to cut our shipping staff in half just to keep everybody separate—and do all of the legwork as far as customer service remotely,” said Smith.
Closed Until Further Notice…
Black salons and barbershops are healing spaces for the community and both not being open is being felt by patrons and owners alike.
“As a culture, salons and barbershops are really like the cornerstones of our community. They’re not just the places where we go to look good. They’re also the places where we congregate, where we exchange information, and where we encourage each other. The relationships that are built in those spaces are so important to our community,” said Smith.
“So, I don’t see what I do as just a service to exchange money. I really do see it as my contribution to the culture and to my community,” she added.
As people continue to be impacted by COVID-19, some decisions about making money and serving others are difficult to make as business owners operate in survival mode.
“I understand that there are a lot of business owners that can’t afford to not go back in there. But I also see that as much time has elapsed since this started, we don’t see it getting a lot better. And there aren’t any solutions being offered, particularly in black communities. So, it’s important to also make the connection between what your role is as a beauty professional in the culture and in the community,” said Smith.
A Brighter Future
She is also optimistic about the future of black-owned businesses within the industry post-COVID-19.
“There’s almost a reshuffling of the deck in a way. Of course, we are the most disenfranchised when it comes to the business growing, scaling, and being acquired—but I really feel like in a lot of ways, so many of us going digital and having access directly to our consumer kind of leveled the playing field for a lot of black-owned businesses,” said Smith.
“It’s definitely is a challenge, but, I see it as an opportunity not just for the businesses but for the culture to get an opportunity to feel and see what it looks like when we are patronizing our own businesses,” she added.
As businesses pivot, Smith also shared that it’s also key for owners to communicate with their customers and provide quality customer service.
“Particularly for black-owned businesses, if we’re choosing to stay in business through this time, it’s really important to maintain our reputation by being as transparent and truthful with our consumer as possible. We can’t control everything. You can’t make everyone happy, but it is important to keep our community whole,” said Smith.