August 27, 2020

Give Yourself Grace: Running a Business and a Home During COVID-19

Many parents are asking themselves how they will continue working when it’s time for their children to go ‘back’ to school, whether that is online or in a classroom. For parents who are also entrepreneurs, how do they keep running their business and embody the role of teacher, nurse, cafeteria worker, and playmate for their children?

Many parents are asking themselves how they will continue working when it’s time for their children to go ‘back’ to school, whether that is online or in a classroom. For parents who are also entrepreneurs, how do they keep running their business and embody the role of teacher, nurse, cafeteria worker, and playmate for their children?  

Relinquishing what is out of personal control and accepting imperfection may be the keys to success.

“One of the things we don’t do well as entrepreneurs is giving ourselves the grace to say, ‘This doesn’t have to be perfect,’ or, ‘I can give this to someone else and release some control,’” says Shannon Gregg, owner of Cloud Adoption Solutions and a member of the eforever Wilk 2 peer group.

Shannon Gregg, Andrea Rush, Demi Kolke, and Ilana Schwarcz share how COVID-19 is reimagining their businesses and homes and how they’re ultimately giving themselves the grace to run both during COVID-19.

“The floors were swept out from underneath me”

Andrea Rush (center) coaches her peers in the Green Tree peer group before COVID-19. Also featured are Lisa Whitney (left) and A.J. Drexler (right). All meetings are currently meeting virtually.

“As much as I tried to plan for the future of the business, I couldn’t. I was at the top of my game with expanding, hiring, and getting a URA [Urban Redevelopment Authority] loan. Then the floors were swept out from underneath me,” says Andrea Rush.

Andrea owns Salon Voe, a hair salon in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  She also has two children, ages eleven and two. The COVID-19 public health crisis shuttered her salon and shifted her children’s schooling and childcare to their home.

“My kids need me for everything,” Andrea says. “I can’t just shut my door and leave them.”

Both she and her family developed new daily routines—her husband continued working full time and her eleven-year-old son spent the first four hours of the day completing online coursework; Andrea tried to gain new stability for her business and family. In the spring, they moved above Salon Voe so that Andrea could still take care of her business, meet new parenting responsibilities, and save money. In Pennsylvania, state regulations extremely limited the services that hair salons could provide, but Salon Voe was able to keep selling extensions to their clients to keep some cash flow.

Increased time at home left Demi Kolke and her two-year-old daughter “staring at each other [and] wondering what to do.” Demi owns and operates Kenny’s, a community outdoor space in Homewood, Pa. In March, Kenny’s hit the ground running with their advertising and fundraising, and was organizing a summer camp with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. Normally, Demi scooped her daughter up from daycare and attended board meetings on the weeknights, volunteered, or finished paperwork at home in the evening hours.

“We infrequently had moments of stillness,” Demi says.

Similarly for Shannon Gregg, staying anchored at home was a huge adjustment after traveling around the country leading Salesforce training (such as training at the 2019 DreamForce conference in San Francisco). She arrived home from a trip on March 12th, 2020, and within a few days, the world around her ground to a halt. Shannon and the rest of her team at Cloud Adoption Solutions, a Salesforce consulting provider, continued working remotely while her eight-year-old daughter moved to an online curriculum. The evenings typically involved Shannon helping her daughter with homework while her husband cooked dinner.

“I ended up doing half of [my daughter’s] homework because after working for ten hours, I didn’t have time to also teach her,” Shannon says.

As more businesses made their operations virtual, Cloud Adoption Solutions gained new clients who wanted to adopt the most effective Salesforce strategies. In the first six months of 2020, Shannon received as many bookings as in all of 2019. She ended up hiring three interns and two full-time employees during the pandemic to manage the uptick.

New school space for Ilana Schwarcz’s ten-year-old son, David. Photo courtesy of Ilana Schwarcz.

Family Spinner owner, Ilana Schwarcz, normally worked full time while her ten-year-old son attended school. In March, her son’s schooling moved online. Ilana’s husband continued working full time, and Ilana became—and remains—the primary caretaker of the home.

“Everything is on steroids. I’m taking care of my son, the pets, and the house. Everything is on my shoulders,” Ilana says.

At the same time, Ilana was managing delays in getting Family Spinner to market. As covered in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Family Spinner’s planned promotions with Eat’n Park were pushed to the fall. Ilana contemplated selling her business, but with the support of her eforever peer group and facilitator, she gained greater clarity about the love she has for her business and the families it helps.

Adjusting to the New Normal

Salon Voe reopened its doors on June 15th when Allegheny County was officially in the ‘green’ phase. Waking early, Andrea found time to run her business between 6 a.m. to 9:30 a.m before her husband left for work in the morning.

Without any family in the area to help watch their young children, Andrea and her husband shuffled workdays to cover childcare. On every day except for Saturdays, Andrea hustles between making lunch, changing a diaper, and ringing up a customer. Between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. when her younger child naps, Andrea tries to schedule appointments.

“My customers understand that there’s a lot going on,” she says.

When her older son returns to school, whether virtually or in-person, Andrea predicts that her family’s schedules will change again. “If I’m being realistic, someone will have to be at home and be his teacher Monday through Friday,” she says.

Demi Kolke, human jungle gym. Photo courtesy of Demi Kolke.

By 11 a.m, Demi and her daughter have already been awake for five hours and gotten a start on the workday. While working from home with a young child, Demi says, “I just try to not become a human jungle gym.” Since COVID-19 began, Demi has found focused time to work on her business after lunch while her daughter naps. At all other times, there is a mix of work and childcare.

“In a perfect world, I would get more work done,” Demi says.

To meet her childcare needs, Demi sent her daughter back to daycare after they reopened and organized new safety procedures.

“My daughter went seventy days without seeing another child,” Shannon recalls.

Every morning, Shannon and her husband, who works for Cloud Adoption Solutions, enter their shared office space with coffee in hand. Meanwhile, their daughter gets dressed and occupies her own time. At noon, she takes a virtual stretch class.

“She’s very disciplined, but she needs social interaction and not just to be another forty-something in this house,” Shannon jokes.

To relieve some parenting pressures and connect her daughter with other kids, Shannon’s family began quarantining with her sister and her sister’s children.

Similarly for Ilana, she had to “make time [to work] whenever [she] can.”  

For her, that time is usually in the early morning before her son is awake and at night after he goes to bed. The outdoors also became a quieter workspace for Ilana to take phone calls and speak with vendors.

Ilana’s many roles and responsibilities at home also demanded that she make constant choices about her son’s well being.

“Parents have to make choices all the time between their kid’s mental health and physical health,” Ilana says.

While Ilana worked, she knew that social interaction was important for her son’s mental health, and had to weigh his emotional fulfillment with possible health risks. After one occasion where her son played with other children, a potential COVID-19 exposure crystallized the weight of these daily decisions.

Giving Yourself Grace

“I let go of things I couldn’t control,” Andrea recalls.

While she and her husband alternate their work schedules, Andrea continues to manage clients, work with her part-time employee, process quarterly taxes, and try to keep her home and business secure.

“Things can’t possibly get harder,” she says.

Safety concerns shifted Kenny’s community events to virtual settings or put them on hold this year.  As a communal, outdoor space, Demi tries to evaluate what her community feels comfortable with and track evolving government regulations.  

“There’s a complete lack of being able to fully prepare for anything,” Demi says. “Even if I become clear on what the protocol is, how do I put that in place?” she asks.

Demi turns to her physical calendars, however, to stay as organized as she can. On paper, she writes down her ideas, tasks, and goals and accounts for her time. Coffee is another ‘lifeline’ that helps her focus and make it through the day, she jokes.

Shannon adjusted her work calendar, client meetings, and delegated work to adapt to her new work and home environment.

“I had to set five-thirty to nine-thirty as ‘Do not call’ hours,” Shannon says. She spoke with all of her clients about moving consultations to the beginning of the day so she can spend time with her family.

During the pandemic, Shannon also listed all of the activities that she did during the day. She asked herself, “Am I the only one who can do this or can it go to someone else?” This inventory enabled Shannon to build an intern and training strategy and free up time to do more of the things that only she can do. Since Shannon clarified these activities, she redesigned her website and wrote a new e-book that Cloud Adoptions Solutions used in a marketing campaign.

Shannon’s eforever peer group was also a source of support.

“My group, and the whole eforever movement, is really helpful because [being a business owner] can be pretty lonely. Everybody at the company wants to do the right things for me, but I don’t want to burden them with some of the things I have to think about,” Shannon says.

While Ilana had to pivot Family Spinner and market it for consumers, the interactive game kept her family connected. Ilana says, “We use the Family Spinner every day. If my son has something he’s struggling with, he knows that his parents have his undivided attention.”

All eforever peer groups continue to meet virtually, and for Ilana, the connection is crucial.

“My eforever group has been a lifeline for me because we all know and care about each other. And to be able to see them online just makes my day,” Ilana says.

While working on her business at home, Ilana remarks that she “always has to make a choice about what she doesn’t do.” Even though the dishes might not get done, she will still be spending time with her family and running the business that she loves.

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