The Pandemic Pivot: How an Esthetician Faced Multiple Challenges with Grace and Ease

In a series of interviews, Carla Thomas is talking to business owners about the challenges and victories of the “pandemic pivot.” Laded with challenges from the pandemic, what choices and changes did businesses make to keep them afloat? And as the country is recovering and reopening- how are businesses operating now?

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I saw a tweet saying, “Please get vaccinated. I can’t wear masks forever. I’m too pretty.” I chuckled. Masks have done a number to my skin and I’m not happy about it. I’m too old and fly for maskne. Last year with lockdown, we all had to go the DIY route with our grooming. We went months without a haircut or a pedicure, and we grew hair in places we didn’t know hair could grow.

Some in the grooming business faced even more challenges than those in the service industry. A restaurant could serve food-to-go with the lockdown restrictions, but when your business is the science of skin and everyone is masked up, what happens to that business?

Courtney Gayle, of Naked Perfection Spa located in Industry City in Brooklyn, has been through it but she did so with the same grace and softness that she has with her clients. Gayle is an esthetician who was celebrating the grand opening of her new location when New York shut down because of the COVID-19 virus. She quickly pivoted to teaching full-time and delivering skincare in a whole new way.

Gayle gives off “if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready” vibes. She is serious about skincare and her company. Though she’s concerned about the future, Gayle still handles her business. Here’s her story in her own words.

Beauty Lockdown

When covid first hit the US, I was teaching at an esthetic school and I was transitioning to moving my spa from Manhattan to Brooklyn. I wanted to offer a bigger space for clients, parking, and easier transportation. I was trying to call it a grand opening, but it really feels now like a soft opening. My business was already slowing down. I never really had a moment to pick everything back up after the opening because of all of the news about how high the infection rates were, everybody was pulling out, pulling back, and rightfully so.

On March 16th I had a class to teach and lecture that morning, I walked in and couldn’t find my students. The school ended up closing right at that moment.

There was no real direction for me at that time. There are such things as disaster insurance and business interruption and things like that, but at that point I don’t even think that insurance companies were able to consider those options.

So how do we get coverage for that? You have to look at your books and see how much you would have made. But for me, I feel like that would have been a really, really hard scenario because I just reopened, so it was like everything felt like downhill. I still had to pay rent for my commercial space, so I kept teaching. Once the school opened back up, I was teaching 12 hours a day, five days a week via online classes. Sometimes I’d also do a few weekend classes with the school and that’s really how I paid the bills.

Special Delivery

My hands are really my heart and soul and they make my income. I run my business a little differently, where I don’t just like to sell just for the sake of selling. I prefer people to actually purchase things that they understand, that are an actual match for them, and that they’re actually going to use. I cut the flow from teaching and I ended up starting a delivery service. I would do deliveries of skincare products within 1-3 days, but usually within 24 hours from any purchase online. That showed my clients that I still had a pulse.

I also started doing virtual consultations during that time, whether it be for clients themselves, their family members, or their children. I was doing Zoom consultations and I was very lenient with the time as well. I was letting people know, “I’m still here for you.”

Lash Babe

I’m crazy about skincare all day but I also do eyelashes and eyebrows. I thought of getting rid of the brow and lash services, and then when covid happened that whole thought went out the window because all you could see were people’s eyes and brows. I was able to open the spa up to clients who wore masks while we did those treatments. I’m never getting rid of that service; it definitely helped my business until I was able to do skin treatments again on the face.

Looking Forward Beautifully

I had to kind of learn how to be okay with losing or what would have felt like I lost. My business was formed out of hardship already, so there was nothing extra just sitting there for a rainy day. It was myself and my clients. This very heavy setback is something that the globe just could not control. I have to be okay with whatever, good or bad.

I like to try to have as much control as possible over whatever I put my name on, or put my money in. It was very heartbreaking. I could not be certain in which direction my business was gonna go. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to ever open again. I didn’t know when the end of a lockdown was gonna be, so it was literally a day-by-day process.

Now? I have to exercise my faith. I just have to keep pushing forward and you know, keep giving the actual truth and the information that I provide, the education around what I do.

I think this whole almost two years has taught me how to focus professionally and how to focus personally, and be okay with uncertainty.

Carla Thomas

Stylist, writer, and creator of The Fly Girl Guide from Baltimore, Maryland.

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