For many small ventures, the economic impact of COVID-19 is not a pretty picture.
“My business is on hold for now,” said professional photographer and makeup artist Renee Parenteau.
Knowing hers is not an essential business, the lifelong entrepreneur is focused on adjusting her finances, helping other ventures survive and staying healthy.
“I’ve been in business for myself all my life and I look at it as a slow period,” said the West Coast native whose career includes doing makeup for celebrities in Los Angeles and worldwide.
She moved to Jacksonville in 2007 and started Renee Parenteau Photography as the economy tanked toward the Great Recession.
“I always made sure my overhead is as low as possible,” she said.
She rents both Springfield duplex units at 55 E. Third St., divided between her studio and her home.
Experience taught her the importance of financial reserves, spending cuts and marketing.
“I have a safety net because being self-employed, I can’t live paycheck-to-paycheck, month-to-month,” she said.
She also makes use of revolving credit, and her bank offered relief on her car loan.
Parenteau, who has no employees, has applied for Small Business Administration loans and is interested in the city lending program with VyStar Credit Union.
About 75% of her business is photography and the rest is makeup.
Clients told her they will reschedule their portraits, corporate headshots, family and event shoots after the government lifts social distancing restrictions.
Makeup clients, such as performers, TV and public personalities and advertising cast members, also can resume then.
In the meantime, Parenteau is making some services available remotely.
She is setting up online sessions with clients to sort through their makeup. She will guide them toward what works, what doesn’t, how to apply it and what they should replace.
The lesson is $62.50, which is 50% off the regular $125 price and it includes a studio follow-up after the restrictions.
She also is offering online gift cards for headshot sessions and specially priced packages of Image Skincare products. She keeps up to date on her website, reneeparenteauphoto.com.
For the business, she is trying some new technologies, techniques and styles.
Parenteau supports her Historic Springfield business neighbors, buying takeout from restaurants and featuring them on her Facebook page.
To maintain social and business connections, she remains in touch with JAX Chamber, the Rotary Club of Jacksonville, other groups and worldwide family through Zoom videoconferencing meetings.
Some fellow entrepreneurs have “pared down to nothing, keeping a few employees.”
“They’re nervous, on the edge,” she said.
Parenteau said she prepared for the shutdown through May. “I am hoping there is some movement at the end of May or beginning of June,” she said.
At the same time, “I know we want to be safe.”
Balancing life is another goal. Parenteau takes sunrise runs Downtown, kayaks at Goodbys Creek, rides her bicycle through the neighborhood and joined online fitness classes, among other activities.
“It’s the holistic way to get through this. It’s not just business,” she said. “I try to look at the positive side of any situation.”
For entertainment, she streams music and concerts. And she found time to play her piano.
“The baby grand piano in my studio was an antique piano my mother bought for me to practice on for my lessons when I was in middle school and high school,” she said.
“She had little money but great taste. All these years later I can still read music and am taking advantage of this downtime to dedicate more time to playing. It’s very relaxing. I love when clients in my studio play it as well.”
Parenteau said she moved the piano from Oregon after her mother, who died a few years ago, moved to assisted living.
“It reminds me of her every time I sit down to play,” she said.
Parenteau, the 2016 JAX Chamber Downtown Council Small Business Leader of the Year, shares advice with other entrepreneurs.
“Just know this is a temporary situation, stay healthy, positive, innovative and reach out to other businesses and groups for support during this time,” she said.
“I feel so much support now and imagine the support as we emerge from this period of time will be strong. Unlike a regular slow period in my business I feel a huge support network that’ll get us all through this.”
She suggests networking with chamber and other support groups through online contact and telephone calls and developing new avenues of revenue.
“Stay connected as much as possible,” Parenteau said, predicting that people will incorporate online meetings and communications into their post-pandemic connections.
“Just have faith we will bounce back.”