JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – As someone who struck out into the freelance world during a recession, local makeup artist and body painter Ren Allen isn’t a stranger to difficult times.
She’s been self-employed since 2011 and built her brand as a local artist for years before that. She planted her business during a recession and preserves through flu season every year.
But she said COVID-19 is different.
“We shouldn’t be out there encouraging group gatherings and spreading it, at the same time I don’t want to see all these businesses fold because it could be a matter of a very long time before there’s any kind of new normal.
“What’s going to happen to these small businesses?”
Allen’s business as a makeup artist depends on big events like fundraisers and galas. As those cancellations pour in, so do cancellations for her services.
With prom season on the horizon, she doesn’t even know if she’ll have work through spring. Her social media timelines are filled with fellow makeup artists and body painters wondering how they’ll make ends meet if they can’t find work in the coming weeks or months.
Last she checked, Allen said she’s not eligible for unemployment benefits because she is self-employed, adding to the anxiety for her and other self-employed business owners.
“Most of us don’t have reserves, most of us don’t have a big cushion because self-employment it’s a tough row to hoe all the time,” she said.
Allen said she’s been plugged into the potential for her business to take a hit for a few weeks. She has family near Seattle, and hearing from them how communities have been impacted gave her a glimpse into what the future could look like for her.
“In the last week, I can definitely say my anxiety has ramped up and I’m seeing cancelations left and right in droves with other small business owners, with other people in my industry,” she said.
While she hasn’t had any cancelations on weddings yet, Allen said she’s taken a hit on other cancelations and she expects it will only get worse.
In the meantime, Allen said she is looking into other ways to earn money. She is juggling with the possibility of teaching online makeup courses.
But she said not everyone in a local business can manage an alternative – other small business owners in the community are also feeling the heat of the pandemic on the local economy without many answers going forward.
“I don’t know the answers, I don’t know that anybody has them, we should definitely exercise caution, but I’m going to keep my gym membership going if I can because I want to see them there when I can back to it,” she said.
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