It’s been a whirlwind eight days! I’ll tell you how it started.
I got back to Newport on March 18, prepared for the fact that AB Beauty would not have work during the rest of March and all of April due to stay at home orders, group size restrictions and the closure of close-contact business. I also knew that I would not be leaving my house much for that whole time and wouldn’t be able to socialize with anyone in person.
I braced for it, but by mid-April, I buckled. I felt really hopeless and was crying a lot. Like, a lot, a lot. All of our shoots for the foreseeable future were cancelled, and most March, all April and some May bridal trials had been cancelled or rescheduled (RI mandate currently prohibits the operation of close contact businesses, which applies to everyone in the beauty industry, until at least May 8). Not only had March, April and early May weddings been rescheduled, but the remainder of May, most June and some July weddings had rescheduled, many of which to 2021 (and hardly any new inquiries were coming in for 2020 or 2021). Having the majority of our revenue delayed for two or three months was one thing, but having the majority of it delayed for a year plus? That can kill a business.
I was really struggling emotionally and my financial future wasn’t looking too bright either. I had been checking in with my wedding vendor friends to see how they were doing, and on 4/16, I spent an hour on a call with a wedding planner I love and work with frequently. We vented, cried and talked about how hard we were being hit as an industry and how we needed help. Later that day, I talked to my father, who got me laughing for the first time in days. He also suggested doing something to make the state aware of the impact COVID-19 is having on the wedding industry. I spun those two conversations around in my brain and decided to email a very intelligent friend who has worked in politics to see if he thought a letter or petition could be effective. He suggested a letter signed by as many RI wedding vendors as possible and sent to all state representatives.
I figured a Facebook group would not only help me collect signatures for the letter, but it would serve as a forum for those RI wedding vendors looking for guidance, input or wanting to share something they learned. So I started The Rhode Island Coalition of Wedding Vendors on 4/17. I invited the 35 or so wedding vendors in my Facebook friends and encouraged them to do the same. Eight days and 555 members later, we are a force. With the help of my intelligent friend, a second intelligent attorney friend and my mother (who has written letters to many a state representative), I came up with a letter that I then shared with the group. Whoever wanted to sign it could do so. I sent emailed that letter individually to all 75 state reps, our governor, the head of the Department of Health and some senators. Due to the connections of Intelligent Friend #1 and two group members, three local news channels interviewed myself and some other members of the group and ran stories on the impact of COVID-19 on the wedding industry. I was also part of a conference call with a RI senator yesterday to discuss what is being done on a federal level.
We are still very much hurting as an industry, with little to no revenue coming in and weddings as far out as October being rescheduled. Many of us don’t qualify or aren’t getting approved for the business loans–big or small–out there, no to mention that those funds have been getting depleted very quickly. Some of us have been able to get unemployment, but the payments are a small percentage of what we would normally bring in during our busy season, yet many of our expenses remain the same. That math doesn’t work out.
I realize that we’re not the only industry being affected, and I know that those of us who have our health and our loved ones are very lucky. But for now, other than staying home and following all state mandates, the only thing I can do is try to help my industry (which of course helps my business as well–that is not lost on me). So that’s what I’ll continue to do. It’s given me a purpose and made me so busy that between that and the daily wedding reschedules or back up date checks, I’m as busy as I would normally be this time of year!
And now, back to it. I’ve got emails to read, new wedding contracts to send and maybe, if I’m lucky, an episode or two of something funny to watch.
Have a beautiful day 🙂