Businesses Struggle to Recover After COVID

June 1, 2020


A collage of two pictures. On the left is a woman standing in front of a forklift. On the right is a selfie of a man and woman smiling a the camera.
Left: WBU Alumnus and business owner Fedelyne Emerson stands in the warehouse she operates at Assurance Relocation Systems in Phoenix, Ariz. Right: Alumni Jason and Laura Mayfield run an event planning business in Wichita Falls with an office in Dallas.

Business owners are slowly trying to recover after being hard hit by the restrictions related to COVID-19 and the shutdowns in many states and cities. Wayland alumni were not immune from the impact, and many are wading through the challenges of doing business in new ways.

Fedelyne Emerson is one such alumnus. A 2003 graduate of the Phoenix campus, Fedelyne owns a full-service moving company called Assurance Relocation Systems, with a branch in Phoenix and one in Tucson. A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Fedelyne was enjoying a good business with her major contract being the Department of Defense, helping move soldiers just like her to new places of service all over the country.

Then the coronavirus hit.

“COVID really affected us because the military put a stop on all their moves, first from March to May, then they extended that to June. We had developed some good business here with private clients but that has slowed down too,” says Fedelyne, a native of Haiti who moved to the U.S. at age 7. “My goal here is just to keep the good employees I have. Without good employees you won’t stay in business long.”

She applied recently for a KIVA microloan to help retain her 12 employees until business picks back up. With restrictions finally loosening, she hopes that will happen soon.

The start of it all

Fedelyne opened her business in 2009 primarily to be able to support herself and four daughters ages 5-13 after leaving her emotionally abusive husband. A survivor of childhood abuse, she wanted to both break the cycle as well as create a healthy environment for her girls.

Her own experiences in the Air Force of moving often – even over just a four-year stint – and having broken items and other issues led her to start the business. She also was able to pull together her Air Force experience in logistics and her varied educational exposure into the business and create positive interactions for service personnel and private clientele.

“From the time we book the move and do a consultation through the final unloading, everything has to be planned out. It’s not as simple as just loading the truck,” she says. “Moving can be a problem. I love the coordination part and seeing the customers happy afterward. I love seeing a truck loaded professionally and seeing the process go smoothly. If not, we have the resources to resolve it quickly. It’s a big responsibility.”

Fedelyne earned a business degree from WBU during her time in the Air Force, taking classes at Luke Air Force Base and at a church in nearby Avondale. She then got a master’s degree from Webster University and an accounting and financial management degree from the Keller Graduate School of Management. After leaving the military in 2004 and moving into corporate America, she found the transition jarring. She worked in management for convenience stores, then stayed home for a while when her first daughter was born.

Experience put to use

When it was time to enter the workforce again, she took advantage of some vocational rehab programs the Air Force offered and began to work toward a dream of her own business. She took over operations management for a moving company for a month, helping uncover theft by employees and turning the business around from nearly closing to thriving. That helped her know she could do that for herself.

Classified as a disabled veteran thanks to post-traumatic stress disorder from her service days and her prior abuse, Fedelyne has no intention of seeing her 11 years of hard work go down the drain because of the pandemic.

“God has always taken care of me and I’ve always come out okay. I believe we just have to weather the storm,” she says. “My motivation for running my business is to be self-sufficient and not let someone else control my and my children's security.

“I also want to be able to hire employees who are facing a domestic situation and want to leave. I could not imagine having to close my doors.”

Time to regroup

For Jason and Laura Mayfield, who operate Mayfield Events based in Wichita Falls, the COVID pandemic shut down every aspect of their business as gatherings were limited greatly, then discouraged altogether. Weddings and group events which comprise the great majority of their business were postponed or cancelled.

“COVID hit this industry hard, and we are just starting to see tiny signs of life again,” said Laura. “We want to be excited about that, but we are being extra cautious as well.”

The Mayfields applied for the paycheck protection program through the Small Business Administration, which has allowed them to retain most of their employees. But with months of down time, they found a great way to stay active and try to remain positive.

“During this time we have really worked to refine our systems and create a ton of new offerings,” she said. “This has been amazing. However, it’s also scary because events are so slow to return. We opted not to pivot as we feel our brand is very agile and flexible, but rather we have been working to make what we offer even better.”

The Mayfields opened their event business in 2004 and have never experienced challenges like what the pandemic threw their way. But Laura admits it’s been a raw time with a long road for complete recovery still ahead.

“It’s my goal to walk away from this and be proud of what we accomplished,” she says. “We are making choices now that we feel our team will be proud of 3, 5 10 years down the road.”

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