New Year, New Hope: Small Businesses Look Ahead to 2021

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For one North Texas small business owner, the new year is starting off in the right direction after a challenging several few months in 2020.

Amber Briggle is the owner of Soma Massage Therapy in Denton. Like many small business owners, the pandemic forced her to temporarily close for part of 2020.

“When we closed in March, I had two locations and 13 massage therapists,” Briggle said. “When we reopened in May, I had one location and four massage therapists, so it was a struggle to get to where we are today.”

Next Friday, Briggle will officially open her second location which will be operated out of a shared space with Twisted Bodies in Denton. Towards the end of the summer, she said there was an opportunity to open a satellite location in Highland Village.

However, being a mother of two children who would be starting school online in the fall, Briggle said there were too many unknowns at the time and she did not want to overcommit.

“It feels like a good start to the new year. This is exactly where I had hoped to be. I wanted to rebuild. I wanted to be in a strong position so that we could relaunch in the new year,” she said, referring to her new location. “As 2020 showed us, we don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring. It does feel like I’m taking a risk, but I think as small business owners recognize, sometimes you have to take those calculated risks if you want to launch yourself to the next level. So, fingers crossed.”

Restaurants were another business-type that have been hit hard by the pandemic. The Texas Restaurant Association estimates between 10,000 and 12,000 restaurants in the state have permanently closed.

Emily Williams Knight, President and CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association, said fast-food restaurants will likely recover faster than private dining restaurants. ‘Quick-serve’ type restaurants could take between and one and two years to recover, whereas fine dining and other similar types could take about four or five years, Williams Knight said.

“We really tell restaurants this morning, ‘Wake up. It’s a new year. It’s a new day’. Take those learnings, the positive learnings and move forward,” Williams Knight said. “I really want people to think about recovery versus survival. That’s the big shift we’re asking our restaurant to make. Go to ‘recovery’, start thinking about thriving again and get off of the past of just trying to survive each day.”

Pointing to the recently signed coronavirus relief package and vaccine distributions, she said the association remains optimistic going into the new year. There are also agenda items they will pursue during the upcoming state legislative session.

“I think most importantly is obviously solidifying alcohol to go. That’s been a lifeline for restaurants. Grocery waivers, making that permanent so restaurants that do want to be able to sell that have that ability to do so legally forever,” Williams Knight said Friday. “We’re also looking at delivery and making sure there’s transparency. Delivery is a huge piece now of the restaurant world. We want to make sure restaurants are always on an even footing with delivery companies.”

Looking ahead, she said she urges business owners to not solely reflect on the losses of 2020.

“Look back at all of the things that you changed about your business to get through 2020. What are those that you can take into 2021? What are those consumer trends that work for your restaurant? Embrace all of those and leap into 2021 with all of the energy and belief that it will get better,” she said.

Briggle said she intends to do just that.

“That stubbornness and that tenacity that made you start your small business in the first place, that’s what going to keep you going,” she said. “So, get creative. Find any way that you can to cut costs, apply for grants. Find that pivot. We’ve all learned how to pivot and maybe we’ll need to continue to pivot in 2021 as we learn to adjust to the new normal.”

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