BEING RESILIENT & BRILLIANT IN A PANDEMIC by Ellen Donker
Our business women give us insight
About two years ago, my mother learned to text. She was 86 years old and living alone and my sister and I were concerned about how we’d know if one day she became ill. Not wanting to pester her with phone calls on both ends of the day – especially with her hearing challenges – we decided to start a group text.
It took some practice for all of us to remember to text when we woke up and went to bed but now it’s become a habit. Occasionally my mother would forget but she’s learned to be diligent or else my sister will start the frantic phone calls – between the two of us, she’s more likely to fear the worst.
Our group text has expanded to include two of my nieces and my daughter, Madeline. It’s our “girls only” group and has become a nice way for us to stay connected in a way that’s unobtrusive. After all, my mother is a vibrant, self-sufficient octogenarian; she doesn’t need to feel like her children are monitoring her. And we try to make her laugh with some funny GIFs or emojis.
I give my mother credit for being so adaptable. She grew up at the height of the housewife era, marrying straight out of college and starting a family a few years later. Although my father was quick to adopt new technology, my mother didn’t have the confidence to learn how to use a computer. When my father died four years ago, she decided it was time to start using her iPad. Now she tracks her finances on it, sends email, gets up-to-the-minute information on her beloved Chicago Cubs, and amuses herself with word games. And, of course, now she texts.
We’ve heard a lot about adaptability these days. Stuck in the middle of a pandemic, it seems that all we do now is adapt, and that takes a certain amount of resilience…and brilliance. Those were the qualities that we have seen in action as our local women harnessed their entrepreneurial spirit to succeed.
Our fourth annual Women in Business theme, appropriately named Resilient & Brilliant, and presented in these pages, is a vehicle that allowed us to delve into local business to see how our female entrepreneurs are forging ahead. We wanted to know how they stayed resilient (bouncing back from adversity) and brilliant (showing great talent).
Thirty-seven interviews later, I have even more insight into the tremendous energy that each woman has put into adjusting and adapting her business model to continue serving her community. I enjoyed each and every conversation as I caught up with friends, made new ones and heard their anecdotes. In a way it was like therapy, at least for me.
I’ve long said that someone is making money during this pandemic – it’s not all bad – and that is certainly true. For those whose business increased, they had challenges such as ramping up to handle the volume and adopting new safety protocols. Most, though, saw a decline and used their resourcefulness to change their circumstances or offering or delivery method, usually multiple times – anything to be able to continue doing what they love.
During our conversations, I heard plenty of expressions of gratitude: for faithful customers; for extra time well-spent; the ability to find new ways to do business; a better use of technology; and staff more closely united. While it almost seems wrong to talk about good coming out of a pandemic, I think that being able to extract hope from these times is the key to moving forward.
So much about our future is unknown, but I’m convinced that the ability of our business owners to innovate will have lasting positive effects. Years from now, history books will be talking about how well we adapted out of necessity. Perhaps by then my daughter and future granddaughters will be taking care of me in a group text or some new technology and just maybe they’ll ask for my advice on how we stayed resilient and brilliant during the pandemic of 2020. I’ll have lots of stories.