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The latest South Carolina Public Radio News reports on the spread of the coronavirus and efforts to fight it.

Coronavirus Pandemic Creates Stress for Small Business Owners and Self-Employed

File photo of a stressed out woman

Cacky Rivers holds the veil of a bride as part of her small business Cacky's Bride + Aid.
Credit Tim Wiloughby
Cacky Rivers holds the veil of a bride as part of her small business Cacky's Bride Aid.

You can hear it in her voice.  Cacky Rivers who routinely eases the anxiety of brides on their big day is nervous.

"My dad said recently, 'This too shall pass', and that's what's kept me going."

Her voice trails off.  There's a long pause on the other end of the phone.

The "this" Rivers is referring to is the Coronavirus pandemic that has spread across the globe leaving a trail of death and economic uncertainty behind.

“It's a very scary situation," Rivers says.

She likens it to a hurricane, but worse.

Cacky is a small business owner in the Charleston area with a unique company called, “Cacky’s Bride + Aid”.  Wedding planners hire her to do anything and everything for the special lady that day, the bride.  She’s kind of the first responder for any potential wedding disaster.

But even the typically bubbly and energetic Rivers can’t fix this.

“When you go from eight to nine to 10 weddings to absolutely nothing that means you have zero income,” says Rivers.

All of Rivers’ weddings have postponed.  She says many are trying to reschedule for the fall, but that doesn’t help her pay the bills now.

“What about the groceries?  What about your kids?  All of those things go through your mind right now,” she says.  “What do we do next?  How do we problem solve our way out of this one?”

The questions are seemingly endless, like the coronavirus itself.

Rivers has two children and her husband owns his own small business, a surf and skate shop she worries will see a slow down as well.

What’s more, she warns, there will be a ripple effect.  Wedding planners, photographers, caterers and venues are also losing money.

“Every single one of us is going to be affected some way somehow.”

“Yeah, it’s scary times,” says Bernadette McCrary.  She’s worked as a hair stylist for 30 years and currently rents out a private space among about a dozen other hairdressers just outside of Charleston.

“Some people are calling because they might not be feeling well,” says McCrary. “Some are just being cautious, and they want to reschedule for a later date.”

McCrary also has two children and her husband works for himself as a handyman.  She’s trying to keep her business going by protecting her clients and herself.

“We’re taking precautionary measures,” she says.  “We will be wearing disposable gloves.  We are going to be sanitizing between appointments.”

But she knows the State Board of Cosmetology could ultimately issue a mandate that would shut her services down.  She’s hopeful the federal government will step in with cash payments, tax breaks or both.  Small businesses and those who are self-employed, she says, need help.

"This is sort of the unknown" - Bernadette McCrary a Charleston area hair stylist talking about how long the economic slow down from the pandemic will last

“Unlike a hurricane where you can kind of reschedule people and have a time limit as to when you think you can come back to work again; this is sort of the unknown.”

It feels a lot like a hurricane across the Lowcountry, with restaurants and bars shuttered, and thousands of school children home.  But there’s no telling when the eye of this storm will pass; how many will be left unemployed or for how long.

Victoria Hansen is our Lowcountry connection covering the Charleston community, a city she knows well. She grew up in newspaper newsrooms and has worked as a broadcast journalist for more than 20 years. Her first reporting job brought her to Charleston where she covered local and national stories like the Susan Smith murder trial and the arrival of the Citadel’s first female cadet.