Women business owners in Newport discuss pandemic struggles

NEWPORT – Newport County resident Laurie Ruttenberg who owns the Lucky Dog Resort in Middletown is exhausted. For months now, she has been working 100 hours a week at her business, as finding and retaining employees has been a challenge since the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020.

Still, she is determined to keep her business open and she is determined to grow it.

On Wednesday, Ruttenberg was a handful of female business leaders from across Rhode Island, who attended a community panel discussion hosted by Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices.

Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos of Rhode Island and Newport Senator Dawn Euer also attended the discussion.

“We were able to voice our concerns as women small business owners who survived the pandemic and are looking to move forward, forward and climb. We talked about our main issues, some of which related to finding the right staff, or staffing in general, childcare, access to capital and other things that impact us for move forward, ”Ruttenberg said.

A shortage of employees

Specifically, Ruttenberg said Lucky Dog Resort is facing an employee crisis. The problem resulting from the pandemic, she said, is that the salary range desired by employees of small business owners is untenable.

Lucky Dog Resort currently employs four people, including Ruggenberg, who six years ago rode his 401,000 to start the resort. Ideally, she said she needed at least double that amount.

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Salary expectations aside, Ruttenberg said it has become increasingly difficult to find the right type of person to care for the animals she hosts.

In Bristol, Jennifer Cavallaro owns the Beehive Cafe and is also experiencing a shortage of employees.

She told Matos on Wednesday that her employees had told her categorically that they would not return to work until their unemployment ended in August.

During the pandemic, for the first time since it opened, Cavallaro said at one point she had no applications on file, but that has recently changed.

“Now we’re starting to get a flood of applications from completely overqualified people. I think they’re just showing they’re looking for work, because they have to show that ‘so oh, I applied to Beehive. I’m a cook or chef making $ 300,000 a year, but I’m going to go to a cafe in Bristol, “that doesn’t make sense, and then they never show up for the interview,” she said.

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Cavallaro said she had no problem with the extra money the government issued, but it shouldn’t have been linked to unemployment.

The employee problem, she said, is expected to resolve at the end of August, when the extra unemployment payment is expected to end, but the money her business usually earns in the summer pushes them through the storm. ‘winter.

She was able to stay open thanks to money issued by the state of Rhode Island and the EPP, and she’s grateful for that, but the situation with the extra unemployment hasn’t helped her.

Childcare issues

Child care was another concern. Andrea Baranyk, owner of Northeast Collaborative Architecture, said most of her staff are still working from home and when she returns to full-time, childcare will be a touchy subject to discuss.

“We work well remotely, but a lot of our employees have young children. So the kids have stayed at home during all of this and of course it’s summer, so we’re talking about bringing them back to the office,” he said. she declared.

Taking that leap, she said, is going to be difficult.

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Bliss Salon owner Christine Paige said the majority of her employees are women, and most women have a problem with childcare in her industry.

“Because of the hours you have to work when you get your first degree, being able to afford it, sometimes money just doesn’t make sense right away, because as a graduate of a cosmetology school, she can’t rent a chair properly. far they have to be employees and schedules, and that sort of thing. Sometimes the balance just isn’t there, “she said.

Paige said babysitting is so expensive, and sometimes things don’t always go as planned when clients get their hair done, so her stylists have to pick up their children from their caregivers due to the hours, and they bring them back to the living room.

“We’re just trying to make it work and I think I mentioned when I met VP Kamala Harris that maybe there should be night shift programs. Since there is a day care center. , there should be programs that go in 7 or 20 hours, just because everything has changed so much. Everyone is trying to get back on their feet. Everything is so up in the air, “she said.

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Minerva Waldron, owner of the Over the Rainbow Learning Center, said there should be a strong child care system within the state.

“A strong child care system takes a lot of resources from the government. Just like regular school, something is going to have to change, ”she said.

The sweet spot

Ruttenberg said she was considering a possible solution to some of these problems.

Lucky Dog Resort owner Laurie Ruttenberg said one of her business's current challenges is finding and retaining employees.  On Wednesday, July 14, 2021, Ruttenberg attended a panel discussion with Rhode Island Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos and Newport Senator Dawn Eaur, and several women entrepreneurs.

“There’s a reset that’s been going on since the pandemic and there are so many different levels. Not the least of what people want to do with their lives, and how they’re going to be compensated for it. ‘a small from a business point of view as well as from a government point of view, if we could look at things that we could do that would not only help the employee but also the small business to thrive, that is where the sweet spot is. I’m not sure, “she said.

The solution, she says, is about pay scales and appropriate compensation, but also helping the business owner to be able to afford it.

“So health incentives, childcare incentives, something like that would be super helpful, and I’d love to work on something like that so we can get to the point where it wasn’t so. difficult, because it’s so incredibly difficult right now, ”she said.

Bethany Brunelle can be reached at [email protected] 907-575-8528 or @bethanyfreuden1 on Twitter, Insta: bethanyfreudenthal, TikTok: thehijabicrimereporter, Muckrack: https://muckrack.com/bethany-freudenthal

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