As Silicon Valley Extends Its Coronavirus Shutdown Past May, A Millennial Entrepreneur Re-imagines Her Business and Grapples With Sheltering Alone

Published on May 4, 2020

At first, the personal discomfort of the coronavirus shutdown was superficial. I resented the inconvenience of a 50-minute wait to get inside a grocery store, the stoppage of my salon appointments, and the stolen in-person coffees and happy hours that spiced up slow days — and much like industry events for me — made up for dates that fizzled. Then, the discomfort festered into collective panic as businesses shuttered, rendering 16 million Americans unemployed by early April and pressing survivors to adapt to an online only world – for work, for socialization and information, even to grieve. 

Even if you are a happy homebody used to remote work like me, I’m learning that loss doesn’t have to be total to wound. Losing everyday freedoms to go where you please and see whomever you want, watching business deals freeze up, and seeing your social feed pile up with stories of heartbreak add up to a wearing experience made more challenging with no end in sight to this shutdown. COVID-19 has inflicted wounds of varying degrees on us all.

Trapped home alone hearing daily sirens headed to the hospital across the street, I’m doing what I can to push forward not just to survive but thrive.

The most immediate vector for adaptation is work in the time of coronavirus. I was lucky to have found my career love — helping companies grow through building their brand — early. At the PR agency during the last recession, I’d be the last to leave and would eagerly re-open the laptop once home to get back to work, an endeavor that still enthralls me today and gives my single girl lifestyle purpose. 

Now, a couple years into consulting, with companies once again slashing budgets, I’m adapting by taking on personal branding work for technology executives as a natural extension of my previous work building corporate thought leadership programs, and I’m sourcing leads instead of operating on inbound referrals like even a couple months ago. Storytelling is my art form, my way of exploring and bringing beauty to the world. Like other entrepreneurs — restaurants pivoting to selling produce, wineries offering virtual tasting, fast food moving to delivery — I’m innovating my business model to adapt to this new recession. 

Financial adaption aside, I’m also using this time to self-improve, which I hope, someday, will allow me to bring the best version of me into a happy relationship.

Shut down in isolation, or with a family, tests our emotional response to adversity. Sometimes, dread overtakes me when a siren breaks the unnatural silence, reminding me of how abruptly life can end and my deferred dream of finding love and building a life together.

While this coronavirus shutdown frustrates my relationship search, I’m regrouping by rounding out my creature comforts skills. I’m coming up with more recipes, which lately share a carb heavy theme. Because I’m cleaning more, I broke my vacuum cleaner, so I had to learn to repair it. To join virtual happy hours, I’m getting comfortable on video chat. These are small things compared to my other priorities of running a business in tough times and processing the shutdown constructively, but they are simple ways to be more self-sufficient. With dating deferred like other in-person meetings, I’m working on self-improvement to make lemonade during this crisis.

What started as a health crisis has spilled over into a recession with a cumulative effect of lives interrupted, upended, and lost at a breathtaking pace. All that survivors can do is wade our way through the thick muck of uncertainty amid the coronavirus shutdown. My one certainty is that I’m hell-bent on leaving this miserable quarantine better than when I entered it.

Lise Feng is a Spotlight Columnist at Grit Daily. She is a millennial entrepreneur and brand strategist based in Silicon Valley. She has led Communications programs that contributed to six acquisitions totaling nearly $9 billion. She won the first-ever award for Communications Professional of the Year at RSA Conference 2015. She covers the startup ecosystem.

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