COVID Pivot: Three Women-Owned Businesses That Must Change and Thrive

In the changing business environment brought on by COVID-19 restrictions, some Evanston businesses have managed to adapt and thrive.

This is a series about the three of them. Has your business changed? Please contact Roundtable so we can tell your story.

Social media experts are in the pipeline

Ella’s original (1511 Sherman Ave.) is a retail beading store owned by renowned beading and jewelry designer Ayla Pizzo. When the COVID-19 restrictions took effect in March 2020, she and her husband, Joe, who manages the store with her, faced a loss of nearly all of their income. Federal Paycheck Protection Program loans keep them afloat for the time being.

Ayla and Joe Pizzo at Ayla’s Originals credit: Wendy Kromache

But they changed the business and created a new way of selling directly to customers’ homes: They became social media entrepreneurs, hosting Bead TV on Facebook Live two or three times a week.

Through hard work and perseverance, and the encouragement of their good friend and seasoned Facebook Live host Carol Freeman, the Pizzos persevered and developed a following.

Their audience is not large, but the people who listen are faithful beads who recognize the range of choice and expertise that Pizzos offers. They buy specialty products. Over and over again, sales have improved.

Once the COVID-19 restrictions were eased, when they stopped in July 2020, retail traffic was still down significantly. Ayla’s Originals is located in downtown Evanston, 100 feet north of the Holiday Inn Chicago North-Evanston. Before COVID, the store benefited from tourists staying in hotels and hanging out downtown. That summer, the hotel was occupied by homeless people, not tourists.

But thanks to their success on Bead TV, Ayla said that while they were all tired, the store’s revenue stabilized.

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