Nine Beauty Entrepreneurs And Execs On The Personal And Professional Impacts Of Having COVID

There are more than 64 million known coronavirus cases in the United States, and the illness is expected to infect most Americans at some point. As the virus continues to spread, learning from people about their coronavirus experiences could perhaps help lead to better physical and mental health outcomes. Often toiling alone, entrepreneurs can be particularly burdened by the sickness interfering with their ability to function as they’re used to. For those who’ve had COVID, we were wondering about their experiences dealing with it while at the helm of their companies.

So, for the latest edition of our ongoing series asking questions relevant to indie beauty, we asked nine beauty and wellness entrepreneurs and executives: What was COVID like for you? How did it impact doing work and running your business, and did your views on how to operate it and conduct your professional life shift?

Linda "Lulu" Aldredge Founder, Lulu Organics

I was lucky enough to have my symptoms come on a Thursday, so I was headed into the weekend, but it was a pretty significant blow because there were two days where I really couldn't do anything. Though my case was pretty mild, I had no energy, and we were in a major push. I had to just release the reins of control and appoint someone to take over for me.

By Monday, I was fine again, but I do think it put a spotlight on how I probably need to step back more often and put trust in other people. My biggest challenge as a business owner is scaling my business and having my hand in all things isn't always practical or good business.

This particular variant is quite mild, and I am vaccinated three times now, so I am lucky to have not gotten really sick. Others are not that lucky.

Billy Kim Founder, 5to9 Wellness

A couple of us got COVID at the same time. Thankfully, things never got serious, but having COVID was no fun. My fever and chills were fully incapacitating at its worst, and I was too exhausted to work for extended periods. We decided to slow things down so that we could prioritize our health.

During this time, I felt grateful to have caring teammates who checked in on each other, shared self-care advice, and even offered to cook for us! To me, this sense of humanity was worth much more than any business productivity that may have been lost. As a wellness company, I hope to continue promoting a culture that puts people first.

Ranay Orton Founder, Glow by Daye

It was not awful for me physically, it felt like a cold. The hardest part honestly was knowing that I needed to be isolated and away from my kids and knowing I couldn't go into work for about a week. Luckily, I did have some support in the business. It definitely forced me to think about, if there was a larger health issue that me or my family might have, what would my business need and who would be there to run it?

I had previously been working to create more structure and support in the day-to-day operations of the business before I was sick, but actually getting the virus put a sense of urgency in me to set up my business to be more independent of me being there. It was truly an awakening.

Ione Rucker Jamison Co-Owner, Rucker Roots

COVID has affected our company in many ways. Both my co-owner, Ellen Rucker Sellers, and I were out of work and isolated from our work and family right after the Christmas holiday. The warehouse that helps to produce our products is short-staffed because of COVID and has impacted our new year launch date for our new line of products because they are extremely behind schedule.

Every day, we have to ensure that our company‘s staff stays healthy in these difficult times. Navigating duties and working remotely has become a norm for lots of companies, including Rucker Roots.

Mary Lawless Lee Founder, Nēmah

It was a lot more intense than what I anticipated. I was very sick for three days: 102-degree fever, body aches, congestion, cough, lost of taste and smell, and major fatigue. After the third day, symptoms became more mild with each day and, by day six, I felt almost totally normal despite still not having taste or smell.

Work drastically slowed during those three days, but, overall, it was a lot slower the entire week. Like many, we had to pivot and work through a lot of logistics, especially with product fulfillment for our Happily Grey retail store and Nēmah skincare line.

We were forced to halt fulfillment for a few days to ensure everyone was safe and protected. Thankfully, we’re on the other side and things are back to normal, but we’re trying to be as safe as we can.

Jade Beguelin Co-Founder, 4AM Skin

Having COVID while running a business was eye-opening in that, unlike a day job, there was really no way to take a complete break from work responsibilities. As a founder, you’re so often the decision maker on things that just can’t be delegated. Especially since I got COVID very recently (late in the pandemic) when COVID feels very normalized and when someone my age having it isn’t particularly worrisome, I was still taking Zoom calls and replying to emails.

While I’m extremely grateful that the majority of my job can be done safely remotely, the experience made me truly realize exactly how different running your own business versus just being a part of one can be. There are so often no stopgaps. If you don’t make sure something is done, no one is making sure it’s getting done for you.

If anything, this has made me feel more empathetic towards working with others in terms of business norms. You are never sure what someone else is going through and, at the end of the day, unless you are frontline worker, there’s a good chance what you’re working on isn’t a matter of life or death. So much of the stress we put on ourselves and others is self-induced and, during these stressful times, it’s important to limit that stress when possible.

Sabrina Sadeghian Co-Founder, 4AM Skin

I got COVID back in January of 2021. I was just starting my third block of medical school and finalizing the formulations and bottling for 4AM. I think because I was constantly overwhelmed with work and school, I never gave my body time to rest. So, when I did get COVID, it hit me pretty hard. Not only was I unable to stay awake for a whole week, but I ended up developing a heart condition as a complication.

Afterwards, I decided that I needed to have more of a balance with my work and school and wellness. I actively gave myself blocks of time to just do nothing, not think about medical school or 4AM. It has helped me be a more mindful person and listen to my body and not to push myself beyond my own physical limits where it comprises my health.

Cynthia Besteman Founder, Violets Are Blue

I had COVID in the very beginning of the pandemic (April of 2020). So, at first, I was obviously scared! Luckily for me, it was quite manageable, just a fever and headache. It's something I would have pushed through had it been a year earlier.

I had just moved into a fulfillment center and was extremely grateful I had because I would have had to shut my whole operation down for two weeks, which would have been a pain for those who had ordered. My staff was already virtual, so I was relieved that I had not been around anyone other than my husband, who never got it.

I realized after this that it is important to take time for oneself. Prior to this, I had been work work work always and felt guilty if I took time off. This helped me realize, I can take a step back and still be just as productive, and my business can go on without me for a time!

It's still hard to remember that, but I have taken steps to hire the right people and work with manufacturers/fulfillment and retail staff who understand your vision, and then step back let them do their job! You can say I'm less of a micromanager now.

Chloe Licht COO and VP, Light Years Ahead

COVID, both before and after having it personally, has been a tremendous learning experience as an owner of a boutique PR agency. I have learned a lot throughout the last two crazy years.

Something that has been extremely significant is that we had chosen to conduct our business solely with a work-from-home model about 10 years ago. This has proven to be so advantageous in the COVID era as we were already properly set up to function seamlessly as restrictions and mandates to stay home happened.

I have been able to help and provide direction to other friends and colleagues who have had a harder time making such a sudden and drastic shift. Luckily, my case of COVID was fairly mild and, for the most part, I was able to continue to work through most of the sickness.

That said, it can be extremely difficult when you work from home, whether sick or not, to draw a line between work and personal life. And now that everyone else is working from home, too, I have tried to ensure that I don't simply work 24/7 or allow myself to work late into the night. We need to set boundaries and take space for both mental and physical health.

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