Imagine this scenario: You open a school because you have a passion for helping people learn a profession that they will love for the rest of their careers. Then a pandemic shuts down and limits your business for more than a year. Closing takes away more than your way to make a living, it takes away your reason for getting out of the bed in the morning.
That is what happened to Michelle Aurora, who opened the Aurora Academy of Hair Design, a Cosmetology and Master Barbering school in 2015 and operated it successfully until March, 2020, when schools in Delaware were closed by order of the Governor. Aurora Academy provides the education and creative skills to empower students to be successful in cosmetology, master barbering and nail technology. Seeing students graduate, love their work and become successful is among the greatest joys of Michelle’s life.
During the closure from March to August, the Academy wasn’t able to sign up new students, and even after enrollment reopened, many potential students decided to wait until after the COVID crisis is under control.
Since the bulk of the Academy’s revenue comes from tuition, the lack of enrolled students caused an 80% decrease in revenue. A secondary revenue source is providing services and selling products to clients, which provides hands-on learning for students and affordable services for clients. But during COVID, that stream dried up, and even now is still severely limited.
Making matters even worse, Michelle had to say goodbye to nearly all of her five employees.
It was devastating to Michelle’s beloved business. “At one point, I didn’t think we were going to make it,” Michelle said. She turned to True Access Capital for a loan from the Small Business Relief and Recovery Fund for working capital to stay afloat.
Michelle is a survivor, and she used the downtime to make changes to the school’s footprint, reducing the number of salon and dryer chairs by 50 percent for social distancing, adding plexiglass dividers, securing supplies of personal protective equipment (which at the time was a challenge), setting policies and procedures for sanitization and student safety, and preparing for classes via distance learning.
She used the creativity she is known for to figure out new ideas to generate additional revenue, such as eyelash classes and beauty parties.
Even today, the number of students who can be enrolled and the number of clients who can be served is still restricted by the state, continuing the negative impact on the Academy’s revenue and stability. “We’re doing all that we can to hold on until the pandemic is under control. I won’t give up my mission to nurture students and help make people feel and look great,” Michelle said.