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Fort Worth Massage Therapist Reinvents Small Business To Survive COVID-19 Pandemic Shutdowns

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - When the pandemic hit and businesses were forced to close last spring, Danette Wicker, a Fort Worth massage therapist and small business owner, found herself out of work.

"I literally lost all my revenue, all my income in one day," she said.

Nearly one year later, her small Fort Worth massage and boutique store, Danette's Urban Oasis, is back open but Wicker said it is far from business as usual.

"This is not a year thing. The pandemic will have an impact business-wise for the next two to ten years with a new normal," Wicker said.

Last March, Wicker applied for a small business disaster loan and filed for unemployment benefits when her business was forced to close.

They were supposed to be the "safety nets" many were promised to get them through the economic downturn. Wicker said they were not.

"They saved me from drowning, but I was already drowning before they threw it and I had to keep grasping and grasping and grasping," she said.

Danette Wicker
Danette Wicker (CBS 11)

Wicker's small business loan barely covered expenses for a month.

She said she did not want to apply for additional pandemic loans at the risk of taking on more debt if the loans were not forgiven.

Like many out-of-work Texans, Wicker found the state's unemployment system frustrating to navigate. When she went online to apply for unemployment benefits, Wicker was prompted to call.

When she called, she got a busy signal. This happened for weeks. It was months before Wicker said she saw her first unemployment check.

The Texas Workforce Commission, which handles the state's unemployment claims, has been overwhelmed for the past year and despite efforts taken to process claims and resolve issues faster.

Wicker said the only reason she's still in business is because she reinvented her business.

Before the pandemic, 70% of her business was massages. Now 70% is virtual shopping – using FaceTime to give customers who may not want to come in a personal shopping experience.

"It's totally flipped," Wicker said. "It's too easy just to come in and be defeated, so I figure out each day what I can achieve that day to grow my business and I did it. It hasn't been easy and I'm not where I want to be but I'm growing my business every day."

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