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HOUSTON – As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the globe, forcing small and large businesses to shut down or downsize, business owners are finding new innovative ways to stay afloat.

Despite the government issued EIDL Loans and Payroll Protection Grants, businesses are still struggling, and small business owners are left wondering what to do.

“It’s been extremely difficult,” said Betty Branch, owner of The House of Couture. “It’s my belief that the state of Texas opened too soon and although there’s federal money available for small businesses, many minority companies did not get them.”

Branch is among many boutique owners who are having to transition their traditional storefront to incorporate online options.

“My business suffered initially when COVID hit.  We suffered a deep hit when the city and state went on lockdown, so I began to ramp up efforts on social media and selling face masks and other fashionable protective gear,” said Branch.

Q: How did you get your business back on track?

A: I streamlined and relaunched my website but I also became more active on my social media platforms, especially Facebook and Instagram.  We began to go live at least twice a week and we listened to our customer feedback. We learned that they wanted to shop from home and we began showcasing our clearance items, and then gradually began to showcase the entire store during live feeds.  By doing this, we saw tremendous sales growth. We also found new wholesalers that were open and able to ship items without delay during the pandemic, and we now offer curbside pick-up.

Q: What have you added to your fashion lineup that you did not have previously>

A: Adding (PPE) personal protective equipment to your inventory is imperative. I  started out with the standard face masks and have gradually added more styles online and in store.  We also added hand sanitizer and modified our product line to include more leisure wear. With so many people at home, leisure wear has become highly requested.

Q: What advice would you give other small business owners?

A: I would advise them to add any type of E-commerce platforms that they can.  Social media can now be its own sales channel.  Engage clients with videos, images, live feeds, and listen to what they are asking for.  It’s imperative that you stay visible! This can be done  by increasing your messaging through newsletters or through weekly blogs, but communicating with your customer base and utilizing all available platforms including going old school-phone calls is key to transitioning your business.

Betty Branch is a celebrity stylist, fashion designer and owner of the House of Couture boutique in Cypress, TX. Visit her at www.shopthoc.com

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