Black-Owned Boutique Pivots in Creative Ways During COVID-19 Pandemic

Meet Virginia Sharp, co-owner of Daemarii’s Unique Boutique, a women's clothing, jewelry, and accessories store in Macon, Georgia. After working as a nurse for 30 years, Virginia opened Daemarii’s Unique Boutique in 2014 as a place for people to come in, build personal connections, and leave feeling good about themselves.

When the pandemic began, business for Daemarii’s Unique Boutique started to slowly dwindle and then was hit hard when the store was forced to close due to the mandated shutdown. When this happened, Virginia responded to the needs of her community and pivoted her business to survive.

“When I closed down, I went to making masks in large quantities. I was doing it every day. I was sewing them myself and sending them to hospitals, anyone that needed a mask,” Virginia says.

She also created a new way to sell merchandise and stay engaged with her customers by hosting weekly themed fashion shows advertising her merchandise via Facebook Live from her living room. Every Friday night the boutique’s virtual shows gained exposure from new and old clientele. Her Facebook Live events featured themes such as “the coffee shop,” in which Virginia sold clothing items that were black, white, and tan, or “dinner party,” with jewelry set up alongside wine, cheese, and a fully set dinner table of silverware, plates, etc.

These Friday night live events have taken Virginia's business to another level, and even grabbed the attention of network television daytime shows such as the Kelly Clarkson Show and Dr. Oz. 

“It has really made me be more socially involved with everything that's available to us. I've utilized it to the max. Even after I was able to open my store back, I decided to continue my live shows on Friday night because that's what saved my business,” says Virginia. 

Another lifeline for Daemarii’s Unique Boutique was a grant Virginia received through the Coalition to Back Black Businesses (CBBB)—an initiative established in partnership with American Express, the U.S. Chamber Foundation, and the nation’s leading Black chambers to provide immediate financial aid and long-term support for small Black-owned businesses. The Coalition distributed $5,000 grants to 600 Black small business owners across the country and continues to offer resources to help these business owners.

“The Coalition’s funding really helped me do some amazing things,” says Virginia. “I was able to get back into my store. I used it for paying bills, vendors, and buying new merchandise.”

Despite the growing availability of vaccines, most small business owners still do not anticipate the economy returning to normal any time soon. A recent survey shows 59 percent of small businesses expect it will take six months to a year to return to normal. And fears over the future are higher among minority-owned small businesses, with 86 percent feeling concerned about the impact of the pandemic on their business compared to 72 percent among non-minority-owned small businesses.

Despite the extreme hardship so many businesses are facing, Virginia has hope for the future and encourages other Black-owned businesses to continue pushing through these challenging times.

“I believe that at some point, all of this is going to level out and people will be able to get back to what they're doing, and we’ll be able to move forward. Small businesses are so vital to the community. I'm very hopeful when I say I think we're going to be okay. If Black-owned small businesses can just hold on, I strongly believe we're going to bounce back.”

The Coalition to Back Black Businesses is proud to support business owners like Virginia and others all across the country as they recover from the pandemic and chart a path forward. Learn more about CBBB at webackblackbusinesses.com.