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Dayton small-business owners in conversation with each other, sharing their experiences, hopes and fears about running a small business during the coronavirus pandemic.

Bouncing Back: Baba Love Organics

Vaniti Byrd and LaKeisha Grant of Baba Love Organics
courtesy of Vaniti Byrd and LaKeisha Grant
Vaniti Byrd and LaKeisha Grant of Baba Love Organics

Today on our new series called Bouncing Back – Dayton Small Businesses Survive the Pandemic, we meet Vaniti Byrd and LaKeisha Grant. Vaniti is the founder and owner of BabaLove Organics, a small-batch organic, plant based skin care company and LaKeisha is the company data strategist.

Vaniti started Baba Love in her home kitchen before branching out into a storefront early last year. She says small retail businesses like hers are still facing shipping and delivery delays.

Transcript (edited lightly for length and clarity):

Vaniti Byrd: Crazy delays. It's out of our control, but it does impact the way that we do business and the way that consumers do business with us because they don't care if it's out of our hands or not. They just want their package and they know that they ordered it from us and they paid us.

LeKeisha Grant: From a consumer side that's hard to understand. You don't want to feel like you've been scammed or anything like that. It's just a really bad place to be in because the reality is for some businesses, if they refunded or replaced every package they would be bankrupt. And unfortunately, I think this is normal for right now, like we are living in our current normalcy because at this point we've been in this for a year. I guess I'm waiting to see what the new normal is. But, for now, this is normal.

Vaniti Byrd: I don't think that things will ever go back to where they were. It'll just be different. I'm looking forward to the day that they say we don't have to wear a face mask, being out at midnight. I crave that again. But we can't even really think about it because we just have to figure out how are we going to run our businesses with what we have, or how are we going to continue to engage with our customers if we have to close or if it gets worse? That's what I'm thinking. I'm just taking it day by day. Funny thing, we actually signed a lease for our brick and mortar four days before the governor shut us down. However, I still continued to make products in my home during COVID-19 and sell them the same way that we had already been selling them. And I would say it was around the time where the Black Lives Matter stuff was going on. And I think that was around Earth Day. We hit a crazy sales month. It was my first-ever big month in the history of Baba Love and it just kept going from there. Me being able to grow my business the way that it did during the pandemic and with people sitting down at home, having more time, having more money, whatever the case may have been, it gave me the the financial fallback that I needed to grow my business and be able to afford what my store needed to be able to be open. You know, when you're trying to scale, the investment is larger. So you're spending money almost at the same pace as you're making money because you're not just buying a case of 24 jars anymore. You're buying 24 cases. You're paying for freight.

LeKeisha Grant: Yeah. When you when you have to go over that first hump is always expensive. Everyone you want to work with after that requires more money. You know, I require 1,000 versus 100 is not even going to be a conversation. It's a good move. It's just it is expensive.

Vaniti Byrd: People that I was already friends with, they knew how much I love the beauty industry, makeup and body care and stuff. But I never thought that I would be making it. It just really was a hobby, you know, I didn't think that it was going to flourish into a full-on business the way that it did. I'm a overthinker and you are not.

LeKeisha Grant: For you, your thing is, it's the aesthetic, without question. It is not just a visual aesthetic. It's an experience it's a feeling. It's a vibe. There's a level of attention that's just unmatched. You can't teach it, it's a gift. It's about the data for me, where some people are like, I'm already bored. Can we talk about something else? Is it time for lunch? And for me, I'm like, somebody drop me off some tacos and a Coke so I can get to it because I've got at least three more hours of staring at this to do because we're nowhere near where I want to be.

Vaniti Byrd: And that is like super soothing, because when I'm in a panic mode, when I come to you, it's like, OK, we got this. That's not a big deal. That's all it is? Then I'm like, oh goodness, we're doing this, OK. We can do it. OK, that's the solution, there it is. [As a small business owner] you're constantly thinking ahead of what has to still get done, that sometimes we forget about what we are doing or what we've done, you know, and then we'd not only have to do what we already did, we have to do that times two or times three. And so it's just constant leveling up of the person that you are and what you're willing to commit to this business daily. It's been a crazy ride, that's for sure.

Bouncing Back was produced by Jess Mador, at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO, in collaboration with Audrey Ingram at Launch Dayton, a network supporting entrepreneurs across the Dayton region.

Jess Mador comes to WYSO from Knoxville NPR-station WUOT, where she created an interactive multimedia health storytelling project called TruckBeat, one of 15 projects around the country participating in AIR's Localore: #Finding America initiative. Before TruckBeat, Jess was an independent public radio journalist based in Minneapolis. She’s also worked as a staff reporter and producer at Minnesota Public Radio in the Twin Cities, and produced audio, video and web stories for a variety of other news outlets, including NPR News, APM, and PBS television stations. She has a Master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York. She loves making documentaries and telling stories at the intersection of journalism, digital and social media.