Houston small business owners and SBA administrator share impacts and lessons learned from pandemic
Asia Society at Home
HOUSTON, April 2, 2021 – As part of its COVID-19: New realities webcast, Asia Society Texas Center hosted a program on Small Business During the Pandemic, hosting Minh nguyen, owner of the Vietnamese restaurant Café TH; Quynh Nguyen, co-owner of Gloss Nail Bar; and Tim jeffcoat, Director of the US Small Business Administration in Houston, in conversation with Chris Tomlinson, business columnist with the Houston Chronicle. They discussed the challenges small businesses have faced over the past year as a result of the pandemic, what has helped them succeed and hopes for the future.
Effects of the pandemic on small businesses
After noting that the onset of the pandemic has caused many small businesses to shut down, Tomlinson invited small business owners to share their personal experiences over the past year. Quynh Nguyen and Minh Nguyen said their biggest fear at the start of the pandemic was what the lockdowns and restrictions would mean for their businesses and employees.
Quynh Nguyen shared that the start of the pandemic was like “maneuvering in uncharted waters”, referring to the uncertainty over how local, state and federal authorities would handle the pandemic and how his business would be affected. She said she was still able to meet her business goals for the year because, despite customers taking a lower capacity than normal, Gloss Nail Bar was able to serve more customers. people due to the volume of bookings. The salon has also adapted by creating and selling do-it-yourself nail kits for customers to enjoy at home, which has generated additional income.
Minh Nguyen said he faced similar uncertainties about his business when the pandemic began at Café TH. He explained that costs had gone up and income had gone down due to the drop in demand, which caused him to cut his own salary to ensure his employees would still be paid and to add new deliveries. pre-order on the menu to generate income. Although it was difficult at first, he said he used his experience of the 2008–2009 financial crisis to adapt his business to current circumstances and that he was able to cope with the support. of his clients, some of whom he has generously noted. contributed money to run the cafe.
Role of the Small Business Administration
During the pandemic, many small businesses – including Gloss Nail Bar and Café TH – were able to benefit from programs such as Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans offered by the Small Business Administration (SBA). Jeffcoat offered his analysis of the situation for small businesses during the pandemic, noting that the businesses most affected by the pandemic were those that relied on a density of customers, such as bars, restaurants and gyms. In addition, he said businesses that were part of the larger supply chain supporting other businesses like restaurants, for example, were also affected.
Jeffcoat said that throughout the pandemic, the SBA has offered programs such as the PPP and the COVID-19 Economic Disaster Loan to help small businesses operate. Under the new presidential administration, he said the SBA’s opportunities to support small businesses have widened with the arrival of initiatives such as the Restaurant Revitalization Act. However, Jeffcoat explained that the biggest challenge is getting these programs out to as many small businesses as possible, so they know what help is available. To that end, he said that while the SBA has hosted a large number of virtual events and participated in other webinars, the language barriers that exist in Houston’s diverse business community continue to be an issue. access. This issue is addressed through webinars hosted in multiple languages and resources offered in over 30 languages.
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Looking forward to the future
Throughout the past year of the pandemic, anti-Asian sentiment has been a growing problem alongside health and economic crises. Although Quynh Nguyen and Minh Nguyen said they were discouraged by reports of Asian individuals and businesses being targeted, none of them had personally experienced physical threats against themselves or their staff.
Both small business owners expressed optimism for the future as economic conditions have improved since the start of the pandemic and businesses have adapted. Although Texas has officially “reopened” to allow businesses to resume full capacity, Quynh Nguyen acknowledged that uncertainty remains as to what the future holds, noting that “scaling up a business in these times is very difficult ”. She stressed the importance of the ability to adapt to given circumstances.
Minh Nguyen agreed, but also stressed caution in continuing to escalate restrictions related to the pandemic, encouraging continued social distancing and mask wearing. “My outlook for 2021 is to play it safe,” he said. “I’m going to be going month by month.”
Business and political programs are endowed by the Huffington Foundation. Special thanks to Bank of America, Muffet Blake, Anne and Albert Chao, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Nancy Pollok Guinee and United Airlines, principal sponsors of the commercial and political programs; Nancy C. Allen, Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen, and Leslie and Brad Bucher, principal exhibition sponsors; Dr. Ellen R. Gritz and Milton D. Rosenau, Principal Sponsors of Performing Arts and Culture; Wells Fargo, presenting sponsor of education and awareness; and Mitsubishi Corporation (Americas), presenting sponsor of the Japan series. General support for programs and exhibitions is provided by The Brown Foundation, Inc., The Hearst Foundation, Inc., Houston Endowment, Inc., City of Houston via Houston Arts Alliance, McKinsey & Company, Inc., National Endowment for the Arts, Texas Commission on the Arts, Vinson & Elkins LLP, and Mary Lawrence Porter, as well as Friends of Asia Society.
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About Asia Society Texas Center
With 13 locations around the world, Asia Society is the leading educational organization promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships between the peoples, leaders and institutions of Asia and the West. Asia Society Texas Center executes the global mission with a local focus, enriching and engaging the great diversity of Houston through innovative and relevant programs in arts and culture, business and policy, education and community awareness.