"My overhead is high, my profit margin is narrow, and of course we never planned for anything like this to happen," says Jody Leon, owner of Seattle skin care company Dermaspace.
For eleven years, Jody and his staff have been providing facials, peels, and light therapy for the body's largest organ. Now, the coronavirus and quarantine have changed everything, and he's had to navigate a maze of government assistance programs, ever-changing guidance on health and hygiene, and the unexpected impact that the prolonged use of face masks can have on human skin.
"Right when this happened, I was taking a leave of absence for six months to have shoulder surgery," Jody says. He and his husband refinanced their house to cover that period, and then suddenly he had to close his business for an indefinite amount of time.
That led to a mad scramble to keep his business running and his employees taken care of, with mixed responses from various local, state, and federal agencies.
"I did get approved for the Small Business Administration disaster loan," he says, "which is scary, because it's a 30-year loan. But as far as the local stuff, I feel fairly let down. I didn't qualify for any of the city grants. I was thankful that they allowed small business owners to apply for unemployment, but I'm worried about my team."
The only local move that's helped, he says, is not being penalized for paying rent late. Even with the business closed for now, he's managed to stay current with the rent on his downtown office space, albeit slightly behind schedule. Meanwhile, he's been trying to reach the state's unemployment office for weeks to discuss payments for himself and his staff, but after three hours on hold every day he still hasn't been able to talk to anyone.
What's more, the guidance that he's getting from the state on a multi-phased re-opening for businesses has been baffling.
"They're saying spas and salons can open in phase two, and they've released guidelines on how we have to wear new PPE for every single client," he says, "but medical professionals can wear the same PPE for a 12-hour shift. And where do we source those materials to re-open?"
As a result, he's made the decision to remain closed through phase two, and possibly phase three. Since their work involves putting faces and hands in close proximity for up to an hour, he's just not confident that he can guarantee the safety of clients and staff until there's more information.
In the meantime, he's managed to build an income stream by shifting his focus from in-person appointments to skin care products sold online. When he started the business, he had the foresight to connect with a lab in southern California that works with a lot of major brands, and arranged for them to manufacture versions of their products for him.
Now, Jody's selling his Dermaspace line of cleansers, moisturizes, sunscreens, and serums from his kitchen table. He's also learning how skin care routines need to shift in this weird time of quarantines and masks; as it turns out, prolonged wearing of masks can cause friction against the skin and a buildup of humidity that can lead to rash-like symptoms.
Jody's advice: Clean your face with hyaluronic acid, moisturize before putting on the mask, and avoid wearing makeup. Have a mask for every day of the week, and wash them in hot water. Treat blocked pores with salicylic acid.
Between his products by mail and his blog posts about skin care in the time of coronavirus, there's not much dermatological care that Jody can provide right now. He has no idea when he can feasibly re-open, especially since he has a pre-existing lung condition that makes it unsafe for him to return to the office.
"Right now I'm just playing it by ear, paying attention to King County's new cases and deaths," he says. "I desperately want to get open and back to work, but not at the cost of someone's health."