JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — When it comes to staying afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, area business owners have faced a lot of challenges over the last eight months.
The decline in business has been even greater for Black-owned businesses.
Some haven’t been able to keep their doors open — but Action News Jax’s Courtney Cole introduces us to a local entrepreneur who explains how she’s managed to thrive during the pandemic.
Nicole Banks, the owner of Pretty Pieces fashion boutique, is feeling blessed to move into her new space on St. Augustine Road.
It not only includes a storefront she’s working to renovate, but it also has a connected warehouse too.
“Last year, we moved into our store that was on Southside [Boulevard]. And in one year, we basically outgrew that. So I had to find the space. Then, I found myself in a situation where we were looking, couldn’t find anything. This fell in our lap,” said Banks.
“Now we are doing in a day what we would do in a week or two,” Banks told Cole.
Banks said they’ve been fortunate to see all of this growth since the pandemic began.
When Cole asked Banks her secret to thriving during this tough time, Banks said with a smile, “Jesus! A whole lot of favor, and a whole lot of work! Consistency and just being authentic in the space has truly been the secret sauce.”
Growth not only in numbers but in relationships too.
The Pretty Pieces fashionista is also now collaborating with Grammy Award-winning recording artist Chrisette Michele on a denim-and-knit collection.
“I had this hashtag on social media, called #ChurchClothes. So she actually found us! So we got to talking. And long story short, she and I had some things in common. I fell in love with her!” Banks said.
She said the clothing collection took months of planning and preparing.
“COVID actually did slow the process down. Because the initial collection, we couldn’t get it because of COVID. There were some manufacturers that actually went out of business! There were some things that were hindering the process,” Banks said.
“We were able to partner at a time where both of us could really appreciate that partnership and collaboration,” she said.
Banks told Action News Jax she was working a full-time job when the pandemic hit.
But she was also saving and strategizing too.
“So when all of these grants and loans came about, I was like, ‘If I don’t have to get it, I won’t get it.’ So we didn’t have to get PPP; we were able to get some other small financial grants,” said Banks.
According to a report from the U.S. Small Business Administration, during COVID-19, business activity for Black businesses has declined nearly three times more as compared to that of other businesses.
When Cole asked Banks how she plans to keep the momentum going, she said continuing to pivot will be key.
“We did come up with this collection called the ‘New Business Suit’ because we are working from home. So we’re going to continue to do things like that. As the climate shifts, I’m going to shift with it,” Banks said confidently.
And for business owners who are feeling discouraged, Banks has this message to share: Keep. Going.
“You will not know what you can do if you give up. And if you start over, you’re going to have to continue all of that again. So keep going and remain consistent and steadfast and continue to be authentic,” Banks said.
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