How Toronto brow bar run by one woman has survived being closed longer than being open
When Natalie Kaine left her job in February of 2020 to take some time off and focus on starting her own business, she wasn't prepared for exactly what that was going to mean.
Kaine took a chance on herself by signing the lease to open Yours Truly, a brow and lash bar on Dundas West, in June 2020, "knowing it was a gigantic leap into the unknown."
"The quiet of the first quarantine only reaffirmed my plans to work for myself. I felt strongly that if I was going to continue working in this field, I needed to stick to my plan of creating a welcoming, affirming, inclusive and happy space for my clients and myself," she told blogTO.
"I'm one of so many who have found clarity and determination in the face of the pandemic. I had been working on a business plan and framework for months. The natural next step was to find a space."
She said the once she "peeked in the quaint storefront with incredible light and high ceilings, and in such a great location, I was hit with that feeling you get when something is meant to be."
Even prior to a second wave of lockdowns, just opening the store alone was a challenge at this time.
"I had contractors ghosting me, material shortages and major shipping delays. I ended up hiring a client of mine, Justine Dunk of Justine Alexandra Design, to take over the renovation and decor side of things," says Kaine.
"After the lockdown that started on Nov. 23, I found out that businesses founded in 2020 were excluded from the federal program Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy that was afforded to all other brick and mortar establishments.
"It was confusing as I felt I should've been subsidized like any other business. Supporting small businesses, new and old, should be prioritized."
Government help was a godsend for Kaine like it has been for many other small businesses. Without being able to perform her normal services, she's been depending on local delivery of brow and lash products and selling gift cards to survive.
"One night in early February, I found out that I received the Ontario Small Business Support Grant that I applied for. The relief and validation I felt was inexplicable. It was exactly what I needed to focus on growing while keeping the lights on," says Kaine.
"I expanded the retail end of the business and have been delivering products to my clients' homes during this lockdown. I've remained locked on the vision that I forged pre-pandemic but I've had to be quite flexible on the details to get through this wild time."
Not only has she been able to form new client relationships at this time, she's also formed new relationships with other business owners going through similar challenges.
"I was so fortunate to start the business with a client base from all over the city. It has been wonderful to form new relationships in the neighbourhood through referrals and outreach," says Kaine.
"I deeply value and love to support the local businesses that are now my peers and friends."
Kaine has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry under her belt, and in addition to brow threading and lash services would also normally offer makeup and bridal services.
"The power of my industry isn't purely aesthetic. It's a mom being able to leave her house for an hour to not only feel great from the actual service, but also from the connection and care we provide and the time she carved out for herself. Making my clients feel good in their own skin affects the rest of their day as well as days and weeks after that," says Kaine.
"This is why I think it's so important for everyone in personal services to be able to go back to work as soon as possible. Most of all, I'm looking forward to the time when the pandemic is just a memory and a formative building block in the launch of Yours Truly."
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