Season 1: Episode 1 What’s at stake?

Small business is at the heart of the Texas economy. 

Episode 1: What’s at stake?

The pandemic came and it made a dividing line between those who’s business models are based on being able to gather. For us, the pandemic was a wakeup call that our way of life was suddenly dangerous.

Emerging Texas Strong is a podcast for us; small business owners who need practical advice. We’re here to have those conversations, document the recovery, and to hear the voices of actual Texas small business owners across this great State as they tell us in their own words how they’re doing, with host Linsey Lindberg.

Published on January 4th, 2021.

Episode 1 Guests:

Amelia Raley, co-owner Sweet Ritual Vegan Ice Cream, in Austin, TX

Anthony Beauchamp, owner Christian Ellis Images, in Boerne, TX

Lori Salvidar-Schneider, owner The Cupcake Bar, in Austin, TX

D.A. Malone, CPA PC, Certified Public Accountant, San Antonio, TX

Armando Seledon, CSEP, Visit San Antonio, San Antonio, TX

Bios and business information for all the guests featured in Season 1 can be found on EmergingTexasStrong.com. Find out how you can work with them and support your Texas small businesses.

Emerging Texas Strong is a production of Earnest Media. If you are interested in sponsoring a heartful podcast focused on the journey of Texas business owners for a focused market audience email, contact@emergingtexasstrong.com

This episode is sponsored by Texas Mutual Insurance Company, a leading Workers’ Comp provider in Texas.

Texas Mutual Insurance Company

Episode 1 Transcript:

Texas Mutual Insurance Co: 00:00 Support for the Emerging Texas Strong podcast comes from Texas Mutual Insurance Company, a Workers’ Comp provider committed to helping companies build a stronger, safer Texas.

Host Linsey Lin: On the first episode of emerging Texas strong small business is at the heart of the Texas economy. Hi, my name is Lori Schneider.

Group Voices: 00:19 Name is Oliver Steck my name’s Amelia. Hello, my name is Debbie Malone, I’m Anthony. Hi I’m Armando Seledon, CSEP.

Oliver Steck, M…: 00:27 We are the men and women, the entrepreneurs, the solopreneurs, the micro and small size businesses who keep our economy vibrant and rich. We create culture for our Texas cities, and there are more of us than you would think. The pandemic came that made a dividing line between those whose business models are based on being able to gather. And everybody else for us, the pandemic was a wake up call that our way of life was suddenly dangerous. I’m your host Linsey Lindberg, and I’m a small business owner in central Texas. I know firsthand what the struggles look like because I own a creative agency called artisan oddities entertainment that provides performers, musicians, talent, and costuming for large scale live events. I’ve been on this journey to emerging Texas Strong is a podcasts for us, small business owners who need practical advice. We’re here to have those conversations, document the recovery, and to hear the voices of actual Texas business owners across this great state. As they tell us in their own words, how they’re doing on a recent recording trip, driving out to Gonzalez, Texas. It struck me that each mile of highway that I zoomed past is lined with businesses that were worthy of being interviewed. This podcast is for them. And if we lean on each other, we can all emerge, Texas strong episode one, what’s at stake,

Amelia Raley, S…: 01:56 My name’s Amelia and I own Sweet Ritual vegan ice cream. We are a non-dairy ice cream shop, and it’s a place where everyone can go to enjoy ice cream, whether you’re lactose-free, you have allergies or you’re an ethical eater. So, you know, for the first six weeks I played a lot of animal crossing when that came out and I created our shop in our animal crossing town and was inviting guests over to explore. It was very cute. And when everything started with the pandemic, I kind of took a week or two and didn’t do a whole lot. I did watch Netflix. I did do a lot of those things because it was a lot, I think, for us to digest,

Oliver Steck, M…: 02:34 I’m sitting on the couch for a little bit going, Oh, um, what am I doing? And eventually I think after about a month of sitting around, someone asked me to, uh, be part of a benefit online. It’s okay, we’re doing it on Facebook. You know, we show up, it’s your turn. We switched to your feed. And you play for these people

Linsey Lindberg…: 02:55 Podcast from the New York times that was talking about the epidemiology and how long it takes to get a vaccine. And they said that the fastest vaccine that has ever been made in the history of humankind took four years from start to finish. And it was for the mumps and that was the fastest. And so, you know, I’m staring down the barrel of having a live entertainment agency and wondering what do I do for four years? If people can’t gather and therefore live entertainment is completely obsolete. And so I started just asking like, what, what would I want my backup plan to be? What other job would I want to do in the whole world? And I came up with two jobs that I would love to do. One was radio and podcasting and broadcasting. And the second one was to be a milliner. So as part of this year, I took up a podcast to help other people in the exact same thing and I took a class in milinery. This was my just in case the world falls off a cliff for four years. You know, we’re really lucky. This has been so fast. It’s only been 10 months, but I’m lucky because I’m going to make a podcast.

Oliver Steck, M…: 04:10 So wonderful. So let’s go ahead and get started if you were at a dinner party and you’re mingling with somebody new and they go, what do you do? If you can give me that, that little spiel that you give people?

Debi Malone, CP…: 04:22 I don’t at dinner parties, because then they want free help immediately. Oh, let me ask you one question. So do you, do you give them a fake job title? I kind of say I am a CPA, but I also am a taxi driver that says off duty. Hello. My name is Debbie Malone. My business name is da Malone CPA PC.

Oliver Steck, M…: 04:49 These are just a few of the small business owners that you’ll get to know over the course of this season. They were all extremely generous to sit down and allow me to ask them difficult questions about this year. And because we’re creating a collection of voices, a chorus of individual stories that will show a clearer picture of how this year affected us all. We aren’t doing your typical business podcast, interview style kind of reporting. Instead, we weave their stories in they’ll join us for multiple episodes. As we navigate a full season of big picture topics like pivot plans, skills for making tough decisions and the silver linings of 2020. So as we get started, most of them wanted to know a little bit more about the purpose of the podcast and what it would be about. So this is the answer that I gave to musician Oli Steck as we sat down in his garage, AKA Squirrel Studios in Austin, Texas for my very first recording.

Host, Linsey Li…: 05:44 But the concept is that this pandemic recession has been really difficult for a lot of people in different ways. And if we talk about it, if we get experts to help us solve some of these problems and figure out how to make moves, what to do to make sure that we all survive this the entire state of Texas, everybody who lives in it, we’re all going to be better off because what it starts coming down to is if the small businesses stay in business, the people who work for them have jobs. If those people have jobs, they’re going to still be buying stuff. If, if people are coming and doing tourism things, if we can find ways to get all of our businesses through it, we’re going to have more tax revenue. We’re going to have more sales tax, things that go back into the economy, which means our schools are going to stay healthier. Our parks won’t get cut. All of the things where it’s just this trickle down effect. So heck let’s sit in a garage and talk about how the pandemic has affected you as a business, what you’re seeing, what you’re struggling with and what kind of advice and things like, how has it been working?

Oliver Steck, M…: 06:53 My name is Oliver Steck. I work as a musician and entertainer. I live in the Austin, Texas area. And before the pandemic last year I played just under 300 shows in a year. That was 298. I think it was when the pandemic hit. It basically took away everything. There were no clubs, there were no venues, um, and everyone was distancing. So I mean that really, yeah, it was really taking, you know, the live entertainment out of live entertainment.

Oliver Steck, M…: 07:29 Hi, my name is Laurie Schneider. I’m the owner of the cupcake bar located here in Austin, Texas. We’ve been in business for about 13 years. We provide an interactive dessert element to parties and events. We’ll design your dessert on the spot. I think for me, I, 100% am not going to lie. There was definitely an element of panic. Um, just like all of us. Cause you know, we had heard about COVID and we had seen it in the news, but we never really thought, I mean, I never really thought that it would be what it is and that we’re still dealing with it nine months later. So I think for me it was the element of shock. And then the element of I have a team and we have livelihoods on the line and what can I do to protect that? That was literally like, what are we going to do? I mean, it affected my physician clients, the restaurant client. It didn’t matter. I have a client that does wholesale out of the country. Everything was shutting down. So businesses stopped and it’s just, it was dark.

Oliver Steck, M…: 08:31 Hi, I’m Anthony with Christian Ellis images in Boerne, Texas. So back in March, when the pandemic first hit, I feel like there was a level of anxiety and I felt it personally, I think I was afraid for my business and it wasn’t, it was something different for me because usually my failures are my fault. Right? So if, if, if I’m not getting X amount of business, it’s usually associated with something that I did or didn’t do. In this case, in March, I had no control over anything, especially in April when the lockdown was in effect, because it’s not like I can say, hey, you know, I can shoot your wedding if nobody is at the event or venue like this, everything was shut down. So there was a critical point where I realized, okay, I’m not going to have this particular income coming in for this particular time. And not only that, but it was, I think the fear that was out there already about once the lockdown was over. Right? So, so that’s how it affected my business back in March. I think if anything, the word I would really sum everything up into would be uncertainty. It was a lot of uncertainty around, around that time.

Host, Linsey Li…: 10:06 It’s a wild time. And I don’t think we’re going to fully know the effects of the trickle-down effects for years. And, it’s one of these things. It’s kind of like what they’ve been talking about with COVID precautions. We will only know how many people were going to get sick if we don’t do anything, but if we are super safe, we take precautions. We all stay inside and people don’t get sick. We never know what that number is of how many people we saved, but I think it works the same way with the trickle down effect for businesses, small businesses, the hotels, the cities themselves, and then also the, all of the places where that tax money ends up going. When we miss those opportunities, we don’t even know the impact that it’s going to have as it ripples out.

Armando Seledon…: 10:51 Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Even seeing the ripple effect and seeing what it’s gonna look like, down the line, and even seeing these groups, uh, that, that are coming in, or they’re wanting to come in having to go virtual cancel or things like that, just because of not being able to have certain attendees attend and whatnot, it’s, it’s, it’s such a ripple effect. And sometimes until it starts unfolding, it’s you, you don’t really realize it until how much it impacts.

Amelia Raley, S…: 11:21 Yeah. Yeah. That’s the part that scares me. I don’t think that we’ve in the media really had the uncomfortable conversation about how much money this is actually going to take to get everyone out of these holes. And it’s a lot, um, there’s a measure being passed right now in the, in the city of Austin. Um, I think to give $50,000 to the people that apply to it, but $50,000, it sounds like so much money, but it’s really not. When you look at a bar on Red River and their rent is $25,000 a month, and they’ve been closed for eight months, what is $50,000 going to do? I don’t know how we solve this, but I feel like we should’ve been more active months ago when we thought it was going to be over. Cause I don’t have the answers. I know how to make ice cream.

Armando Seledon…: 12:20 Hi, I’m Armando Celadon, CSEP, I actually work for visit San Antonio. I’m a destination experience manager. So visit San Antonio is actually the marketing arm for the city. What we do is we promote tourism, travel convention, conference service business, to come to San Antonio so that we can gain more business for the city, um, what is going to happen next? And that’s the unknown that everybody’s like, I don’t know. So it’s definitely going to take starting to trim fat where they can, but there’s only so much you can trim. And there’s only so much you can trim with where, where you still need to be operational. I think we’re going to see some casualties in the, within the industry and people are going to just fold. We’ve already seen them starting to happen, but I think people are going to fold or pivot or really consolidate or, or change what they’re doing and how they’re operating. Um, but with that being said, I feel like this is also an opportunity for people that were on the fence and saying, you know, Hey, I wanted to do this and I wanted to start this. It’s going to be like almost an even playing field for everyone back again. It’s like square one,

Oliver Steck, M…: 13:29 But in business, it’s all about the bottom line. And in this pandemic, it wasn’t about if you got hit, it was about how hard and for how long, and this is a business podcast. So let’s talk about the numbers. Some of our small businesses gave us a little insight as to what was going on behind the scenes, in their offices.

Amelia Raley, S…: 13:47 At this point, our sales are down about 40%, which is I count ourselves lucky under, under that. I know some business owners that are doing 5%, 10%. Um, so 40% doesn’t seem all that bad when I talked to other people, but it hurts. You know, when I, when I know what a beautiful sunny day like today would bring in, you know, let’s say $2,000 worth of sales and we only have $500 walk out the door. It’s like, it’s hard.

Oliver Steck, M…: 14:20 You know, when you’re seeing that money just melting out of your bank account, you’re like, Oh my God, we’ve got to do something. It was like, okay, what, what holidays are coming up? What, how can we capitalize and really work hard to like, you know, get something out of this and keep our doors open and keep our people employed. And let’s bring deliveries in house. Let’s do that. That way. We can at least have some jobs for some of our people and, um, you know, keep them working. It’s just a matter of like, honestly, if acting quickly, but then also stepping back and saying like, we’re acting quickly, but like, are we making money doing this? Because I can act quickly and we can generate sales, but if I’m not making money to pay the rent and to pay the lights and to pay the people that are here, then it’s all for nothing. And we’re just back to where we started, if not worse off. So are we working to lose less money? And that’s kind of, at some times, that’s literally, we’re like, okay, well, hopefully we’ll just lose less money this week.

Amelia Raley, S…: 15:17 And you know, we’re, we’re younger business owners. I can’t imagine being a little bit older cause I’m a digital native and it was difficult for us to figure it out. No wonder there’s people that have these mom and pop shops where there’s, the proprietors are 60 and 70 years old. Like they don’t want to transition to this internet stuff. It’s difficult, it’s complicated. And then when it doesn’t work, then, then your sales go out for the whole day. That’s an excellent point. I think that’s one of the reasons that Mother’s Cafe, you know, here in Austin, 40 years this year, and then they just shut down. But I don’t think that they wanted to pivot to a more digital online thing just because it’s difficult.

Host, Linsey Li…: 15:58 I was just telling somebody about them this week. I didn’t know that they were out of business. I was just saying how wonderful they are and how he should come check them out.

Amelia Raley, S…: 16:07 Yeah. They just closed. I think October 25th was their last, their last day in business. But that staff, they were all like the first whole foods employees, they all like were in that pod with, with John Mackey and then they, they left to go start mothers. I don’t know the exact history behind all of that, but like that’s old Austin culture

Texas Mutual Co…: 16:34 Support for this program comes from Texas mutual insurance company, a safety-focused Workers’ Comp provider, supplying information and resources that can help Texas employers stop accidents before they happen more at texasmutual.com.

Oliver Steck, M…: 17:03 Now back to our show in this half, we start with Oliver Steck, Austin musician, and I ask him what he sees when he looks around the world of creative freelancers. What have you seen from the other artists and musicians and freelancers that, you know,

Oliver Steck, M…: 17:18 It’s, uh, I’ve seen suffering. I wish I had a better, uh, description for it. As a group, the community of performers and artists have been decimated. I mean, there’s no, there’s very little opportunity to work live as a community. People are just kind of scratching around, um, and living much lower to the ground. Um, I think as a community they’ve lived low to the ground and they kind of understand that, but this is even lower. And, uh, I think for people who, you know, haven’t been set up who haven’t done business in a more stable way, or don’t have something to fall back on. They’re either leaving town, they’re leaving, performing they’re, you know, moving into other places or other jobs. You know, it’s just really kind of survival.

Oliver Steck, M…: 18:17 Amelia from sweet ritual, vegan ice cream in Austin, Texas,

Amelia Raley, S…: 18:20 If all that’s going to be left after the pandemic is chain restaurants and chain stores, then you could live anywhere. I have to think 10 years of working on a small business, it can’t fail because of this. When you have to reassure yourself that it’s not your fault, that you didn’t do anything wrong, but it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like it is your fault. What could you have done different? What could you have adopted to earlier?

Oliver Steck, M…: 18:51 Lori Schneider from the cupcake bar.

Oliver Steck, M…: 18:52 Obviously what’s at stake is, you know, it, it just crushes me when I hear all these small businesses closing, you know, which is so much of the character of the city, you know, and it’s, again, it’s not just Austin. It’s every, every city in Texas has their own character. Right? And, and, and a big part of that is a small businesses. Small businesses are what make the landscape and the environment of a particular city or town. You go out to Wimberley because they have great antique stores. You go to Marfa for the culture and the coffee shops. You come to Austin because you love small wacky businesses. I think that that character that we’re losing in these places that are closing after being in business for 20, 30, 40 years, that’s devastating. Um, and that hurts my heart to see that these businesses not being able to hold on,

Oliver Steck, M…: 19:46 You know, it’s just venues and unique places that are closing up and won’t come back as venues. You know, like when the hideout closed, you know, Starbucks swooped that up. You know, Starbucks is not going to have, you know, they’re not going to work on theater and comedy improv, you know, in a cafe setting. I mean it’s just gone

Amelia Raley, S…: 20:06 Smart business owners have three months of a pad for emergencies. Nobody has eight months. Nobody has a crystal ball to know that it would go on for this long.

Oliver Steck, M…: 20:18 Armando Seledon, CSEP with visit San Antonio.

Armando Seledon…: 20:21 So I was actually talking to a friend, uh, an industry friend of mine that, um, his business halted. And he said, you know, I have reserves, I’ve saved money, but I’ve saved money for, uh, six months, maybe seven months, eight months, nest egg, maybe a year, not multiple years, because this is going to be residual for multiple years.

Amelia Raley, S…: 20:40 I knew from the from the start of this pandemic, we can’t count on our customers to bail us out. We can’t, Uber Eats our way out of the situation you can’t rely on digital gift cards and get people out of eight months.

Oliver Steck, M…: 20:54 For some that’s worked in some it hasn’t. Uh, and we don’t get to see that because we don’t hear from those people anymore because it’s not like they made big announcements and said, um, this is my musician going-out-of-business sale. You know, they just disappear. They disappear maybe to other States, to other homes, to other communities, to other places where they can support themselves.

Host, Linsey Li…: 21:17 What’s at stake, the part where we come together, where we find out what we’re made of. And we find a way to pull through our small business owners, share some basic lessons and resiliency they’ve learned this year.

Oliver Steck, M…: 21:31 The other thing that’s, I’ve learned a lot too, is how amazing people are. You know, we hear so much negativity and people want to help. And, um, they want to help small businesses, especially here in Austin. And, you know, I think anywhere really, but, um, you know, small businesses are the fabric of this community. And so I feel like just the support of the community has been incredible. And so I didn’t get emotional, but you know, when you start to feel down or you start to feel like God, you know, like how many times can I beat my head? It can store like, and then like, you know, the, the community comes through every single time. And so it, that is really special. And so sometimes when it’s hard, you know, to take a step back and just like, remember that people are there and they want to help and they want to support. And I think that that kind of helps keep it going sometimes when it’s, when you’re having a hard day, Anthony bootcamp with Christian LA,

Oliver Steck, M…: 22:33 You know, I understand trust me. Like I see my account is not like my account is not as healthy as it was last year, but I also take comfort in the fact that we’re kind of all going through this together, seeing businesses go through and seeing how many people have pivoted and whatnot. I definitely, I, you know, the resilience in this industry is, is insane right now. I can see it,

Host, Linsey Li…: 23:01 You know? Yes. It, at the time it’s a pivot, but now I look at it as an evolution of our company. So this is the next step for us. It’s like, okay, we’ve evolved into doing five new businesses essentially through this. Like we count it out, and like, we’re doing all these new things, which is great. And they’re all wonderful. And we all really enjoy doing all of them. And we’re like, man, this is kind of, it’s more of an evolution now. So now it’s like, okay, we’re doing these gift boxes, these virtual classes, and how do we evolve into doing that? You know, even after this is over?

Oliver Steck, M…: 23:32 I feel optimistic about making through the recovery. I mean, it’s obviously it’s going to be difficult. It is difficult. Part of the optimism is that it’s given me a way to look differently at what I’m doing for the recovery and for what I’m going to do going that I now have these other things that I’ve had to develop and now have in my toolbox. And we use it as, as artists. We use it all the time and to apply that creativity, to reapply it to the business of what I do, to be able to say, I’m going to take my creativity. I’m going to retool it and then send it out this way. Yeah.

Host, Linsey Li…: 24:05 That’s one of the most exciting things. This podcast is not going to be just doom and gloom and it’s, Whoa, it’s been terrible for everybody because I think it’s really important to also hear the stories of people who made a pivot and then actually found that it introduced them to a segment of their business that they wouldn’t have thought to merge into, but that they’re not going to get rid of. Now. I think that’s also a pretty exciting thing.

Oliver Steck, M…: 24:30 Lessons I’ve learned from this experience. I have the ability to change, adapt and work, which is encouraging. Creativity is a great resource.

Host, Linsey Li…: 24:40 That’s the goal is to hopefully give each other some advice, talk through the issues that we’re all having, as we’re all navigating this new thing and to learn what we can from each other, so that perhaps we’ll start creating a community where your story becomes the mentoring to other people. The goal is to keep as many of us around as possible so that we’re here not only for our small businesses and the income that that brings, but to keep people employed, to keep tax revenues going so that our schools don’t suffer. So our roads don’t suffer so that all of the things that trickle down from economies of cities, doesn’t just start falling apart. Thank you for joining us on our maiden voyage of this podcast. Emerging Texas strong episode one, what’s at stake. Join us again for episode two, where we tackle the word that everyone’s sick of pivot. And we find out what our small business owners have been doing to keep the lights on. Thanks for joining us. We’ll see you next time.

Host, Linsey Li…: 25:45 Podcast, production interviews, edit sound, design, and office snacks for the Emerging Texas Strong podcast are done by Linsey Lindberg. Bios and business information for all the guests featured in Season 1 can be found on emergingtexasstrong.com. Find out how you can work with those businesses and support your Texas small business owners. Please be sure to follow like and subscribe to emerging Texas strong on the web. So you can always have the latest episode directly in your phone. Find us on social at emerging Texas strong or on Twitter at Texas strong pod. And if you’d like to be interviewed, please reach out contact@emergingtexasstrong.com. Emerging Texas strong is presented by Texas Public Radio and is a production of Earnest Media. If you are interested in sponsoring a heartful podcast, focused on the journey of Texas business owners for a very target market audience, we’d love that email contact@emergingtexasstrong.com. I’m your host Linsey Lindberg. Join us next time. For more stories of Texas small businesses on Emerging Texas Strong.

Texas Mutual Insurance Company Sponsorship Spot: support for the emerging Texas strong podcast comes from Texas mutual insurance company. A workers’ comp provider committed to helping companies build a stronger, safer Texas.

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