Opening a new business is always a challenge, but at least two Red Deer entrepreneurs were up to the task in the middle of the pandemic.
That wasn’t the plan, but no one prepared for COVID-19, explained Aly Leigh, owner and operator of Fuzz Wax Bar in Red Deer, with July 10 now set as the anticipated opening date.
Initially, the salon was slated to open in early April. During construction in March, the pandemic hit Alberta.
“I remember I had (hiring) interviews set up at a coffee shop, and I called an hour early to make sure we could meet there. And we couldn’t, because coffee shops were one of the first to shut down,” said Leigh.
Leigh said she quit her job in November, with plans to finish construction by the end of March.
“I invested everything here, and I had no income coming in since November,” she said.
The hurdles kept coming from construction, hiring, training for staff and shipment delays.
“It felt like it was one thing after another; like just in my way of this dream that I’ve created.”
On top of that, she had to reflect on new questions: “When am I going to have an income? What can we do to make people comfortable when they come in?”
Jonathan Strome, owner of Taco Monster, which launched June 2 in Red Deer, was dealing with similar, unprecedented questions around the same time.
The food truck was initially planned to launch at end of April, but that didn’t happen due to the pandemic.
Strome was forced to deal with delays on renovations to the trailer for the food truck and a social media marketing plan that had to be stretched out a month longer than planned.
“There were so many ideas and dreams you’ve been thinking about, and then overnight, everything you thought would work wasn’t allowed, or had to change. And so on the fly, we had to reinvent some of those plans,” he said.
Strome said he lost about 85 per cent of Taco Monster’s bookings at the beginning of the summer due to the delays.
“It really impacted everything: from training, getting team members figuring out what it looks like to operate during a pandemic while we are trying to figure out what it looks like to operate as Taco Monster regardless of a pandemic.
“For example, managing your lineup wasn’t something we had to worry about, but now we did. Minimal contact with the customer until we hand them their food was another one,” Strome said.
What both business owners are thankful for is the community support that has helped them move forward.
Despite the added stress caused by the constant surprises and changes, Strome was able to remain positive.
“Just Red Deerians, they were showing up to try tacos, and leaving us reviews on social media and telling their friends, especially during these times,” he said.
Leigh said she always believed she would get through the pandemic.
“I always knew there was light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
She also managed to make new friends in the business community who helped her navigate the uncharted waters.
“It reassures me that I’ll be OK. I’m still here, still above water. If I can open a new business, a new brand, do it for the first time during a pandemic, and still be successful, then anything is possible.”