A Wuhan nail salon-owner’s story of resilience, as Covid-19 forced a three-month freeze on her business

Qiu Mengyi’s loyal customers waited three months to get their nails done, as Wuhan remained in lockdown due to Covid-19; thanks to a loan from MYbank, her business survived and she’s now looking to the future

As the clock struck midnight on April 8 in Wuhan, nail salon owner Qiu Mengyi was finally able to restart her business that had gone into hibernation for nearly 3 months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The long-awaited recovery had just begun.

Qiu displaying her successful MYBank loan application the day the Wuhan lockdown was lifted

Qiu was the first small business owner in Wuhan city to apply for MYBank’s interest-free loans aimed at helping hard-hit SMEs get back on track. With a few clicks on her smart phone, she applied for a loan of RMB 52,000 (or around USD 7,000), and was approved.

The entire process took about 15 seconds.

For many mom-and-pop business owners, the lockdown at the epicentre of the outbreak meant having to pay overheads while generating little, or zero income if they had to close their business entirely.

In March 2020, MYbank partnered with 100 Chinese banks, and leading industry organizations, to jointly launch “contactless loans,” aimed at supporting 10 million small and medium sized enterprises, individual businesses, and farmers across China, to help them resume work and overcome the impact of Covid-19.

“This month, our interest has been entirely written off and for the following months we can enjoy a 20% reduction in interest payments,” said Qiu. “Even though the business won’t be completely back to normal in six months, the money will help to tide us over.”

When considering how her business operations will resume, Qiu isn’t worried.

“Once my store reopens the flow of customers will return,” said Qiu.

During its five-year operations the salon has attracted over 1,300 loyal customers many of whom have been asking Qiu when her store will reopen.

Qiu sanitizing her nail salon a few days before reopening

In the days leading up to 8 April, Qiu did an entire cleanup of her salon, preparing for its reopening.

During off-peak periods, Qiu’s business generates around RMB 200,000 per month. The peak season for the manicure industry is the Spring Festival Holiday and due to the outbreak, Wuhan went into lockdown two days before the period commenced.

Not only has Qiu’s business missed out on catching its annual prime time revenue, but the lockdown period has meant that her salon was closed for nearly three months. “The cost pressure comes from paying rent which is around RMB 100,000 for three months,” said Qiu who’s salon is in Wuhan’s Guanggu District.

Reflecting on her situation, Qiu said she was concerned but never overly worried. Since owning her business, she has already overcome three obstacles which has strengthened her emotional resilience.

After graduating from university in 2016, Qiu decided to pursue her passion of beauty services by opening up a nail salon of her own. However, two days before signing the lease for the salon space, her business partners pulled out and she was left in the lurch.

They had paid the deposit on the space but without her partners she needed to raise the rest of the business funds in a short amount of time before losing the space.

Qiu in her Wuhan nail salon

By chance she looked at her Alipay Jiebei account on her phone (Alipay’s consumer loan product), which had increased her borrowing threshold. With Jiebei and her friends and family’s help, she was able to raise the RMB 30,000 on Alipay and open her 40 square meter nail salon.

In 2018, Qiu was faced with another challenge. Due to various factors, she was forced to give up the venue she had rented for two years. She had to find a new space quickly.

At that time, she had just paid back the money she borrowed from Jiebei and didn’t have any extra cash to rent a new place. Having already helped to establish her business, Qiu turned to Alipay again and was able to take out a RMB 160,000 loan from MYbank.

With this loan she not only was able to open her a new store in a new location, but was also able to increase her store size five times the original, from 40 square meters to more than 130 square meters.

During the five years of running her own salon Qiu can confidently say she has always been hardworking and gave her business everything. She also talks about the many things she has learnt along the way, such as asking for help.

“Although I work hard every day, I wouldn’t be where I am now without everyone’s help. During the pandemic, MYBank raised my threshold to RMB 220,000.” Qiu said.

The hard work of running her own business paid off the day Qiu was able to buy her own flat.

Qiu is but one of countless small business owners in Wuhan waiting to restart their businesses in the “new normal”.

She said, “I am a native of Wuhan city and the pandemic was one of the most challenging times of my life. I’m ready and excited to restart my business with the help of my fellow citizens, my community, and with the help of Alipay and MYBank for small merchants.”

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