How a Small Business Owner Keeps Her Company Going During Quarantine

In our Day in the Quarantine Life series, we’re chatting with Canadians about their new normal, exploring how they organize their days and balance their home lives with work obligations. Here, Leeanne Colley, founder of Toronto's Tips Nail Bar, shares how she keeps her business running and her team in good spirits.

7 a.m.

My wake-up time is still around 7. I find that interesting because I don’t have a problem waking up at right now, whereas before I was a bit more exhausted. I just feel like—what the heck?—I can’t sleep in. It could be that my brain isn’t stopping—I don’t have the capacity to separate home from work because I’m working from home, and so it’s nonstop.

I’m the owner of Tips Nail Bar. We have two locations in Toronto and 22 staff members—still full-time paid. We’re service providers, so this pandemic is a big challenge. I spent four days after we closed creating a program, with three of my senior team members, so we could keep everyone creative, active, emotionally stable, and paid. My team is my family, so I had to think quick.

I make my coffee with my Keurig machine. I take a little cream in it. Then I pop onto my phone to open Instagram, where my team has a private chat. I do a lot of connecting with my girls throughout the day. It’s not just work-related. In our Instagram chat, we share memes and other posts—it’s like a big funny group. We also have a WhatsApp group, and we use both to check in with each other and make plans to jump on calls. We’re doing split shifts with the front desk in the morning and in the evening every day, managing our texting system for clients who call us, so we take care of that first thing.

8 a.m.

I check in on our Dropbox Paper. A few of my senior staff members and I created nail art training programs. They’re taught by a senior team member through Zoom, and they’re for our more junior level nail artists and new members of our team. We use Dropbox Paper to share the work that comes out of the training programs. Now, I’m looking at visuals a senior team member added from yesterday’s class. We shipped a bunch of press-on nails to a few of our girls who needed to work on nail art training. They train with these nails, and then take photos and send them to us. I look through the images and make notes.

My girls and I discuss updates on our new online shop, which we started as soon as the quarantine happened. We offer gel and shellac manicure removal kits as well as skin care and other products. One special thing we do is we have some clients who make purchases as gifts, so we ask them to scan us a handwritten note that we print off and include in the package.

Training like this is stuff we don’t ever have time to do when we’re with clients all day. We didn’t want to lay anyone off, so this keeps everyone working and building their skills.

9 a.m.

I used to leave for work at 9. Now, at 9, I make another coffee. My son, Danté, is home. He’s a digital guy—an Instagram-famous guy! He’s in one room, and I can hear him working on his stuff. My husband is also working from home, so we make sure we’re giving each other enough space. We check in with each other and then get back at it.

I’m constantly on my phone and texting my girls. I let them talk about their weeks, and how they’re feeling, because that helps me support them. I want to know if there’s something I can help with. I want to make sure they’re okay.

11 a.m.

I have a Build Your Confidence seminar at 11 that I listen in on. We created this seminar to help with situations that might happen in the salon and ways to manage them. It’s through Zoom, and one of my senior team members is leading it. I take notes and push her questions or any feedback I have so she can make sure she covers it.

We created fun programs that aren’t just about work—like a happiness checklist. Everyone on staff has a checklist that they need to complete throughout the day for happiness, whether it’s going for a walk, a meal that you made, something funny you watched. It’s so easy to lose track of time right now, and you get to the point where you feel like you haven’t accomplished anything. I feel like having this checklist is helpful for us to realize we did accomplish a lot.

12 p.m.

I have a lunch break. I make a salad with pre-made quinoa and cut-up veggies I have in the fridge that are left over from last night’s tacos. I grate a beet and throw in a can of chickpeas. It’s an amazing salad made in five minutes.

For lunch at work, it was rare I got to make it. I was usually rushing, and I’d just run to Starbucks or get UberEats sent in.

After lunch I have calls, mostly with my girls to catch-up. It’s like a mentor session. Sometimes the calls are related to work, sometimes not. Just a little check-in.

I’m looking forward to hugging my girls. I can’t wait to see them in person again. I think it’s going to be super emotional for us.

1 p.m.

At work at this time, I would typically be with clients or doing the administrative side of things. Now, I concentrate on our social media.

We have lots of social media projects, and there are all sorts of responsibilities. I have a senior team member who is heading up almost all of the social stuff for the nail artists, including a ton of amazing videos. We’ve already created our social calendars, so everyone knows what they’re doing. Then everything gets brought to me, and I do any editing.

5 p.m.

I decide to do a digital detox for the evening. I put my phone away, I turn off my notifications on my computer, and I dye my hair. It goes really well! I do a face mask and an exfoliation, and I use some self-tanner. I feel like a million bucks.

7 p.m.

We make a meal for dinner. We’re cooking almost every night. When I’m at the salon, I’m normally working late—sometimes I don’t get home until 9 p.m., and I don’t actually eat that late. Tonight I make rice and chicken bake with leftover rice. Now, I look at everything in my fridge, and I’m like, “what can I do with that?”

We don’t get to sit together most nights, because we’re all working on different things, but I try really hard to make a point to say “I would really like to see your faces right now!” Whether it works or not is another thing. But we try!

9 p.m.

Digital detox is over. I check in on my girls, read my book, and go to bed at 10 p.m. I’ve started reading The Power of Why. It’s kind of an interesting time to start reading that. It’s about how we don’t always know the answer, and we don’t always know the reason things happen.

I’m a leader, and I’m used to being in charge. This has been an extremely emotional time for me, because I don’t know the answers. I felt that my team was so unsure of things, and I’m not used to them being that way, because I always have the answers. So, this has been really eye-opening for me because, guess what Leeanne, you don’t know the answers to everything! I’ve now learnt to accept that.

As told to Renée Reardin.