How an Unexpected Pandemic Rush Left This Chicago Jeweler Facing New Kind of Uncertainty

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Like many, Alicia Goodwin’s business during the coronavirus pandemic saw plenty of ups and downs, but as businesses begin to reopen, the Chicago jeweler is now staring down even more uncertainty.

Goodwin, the founder of Lingua Nigra, said the start of the pandemic quickly changed everything for her business.

“The beginning of that business around the beginning of the pandemic was scary,” she said. “You just got all these emails about all your favorite [art] shows stopping or, you know, people not knowing what to do because we didn't know anything about what was going on. So then you see that and then you see people canceling little by little. And then all the emails where the show was canceled until 2021. And when you already have your income projected for the year, it's very scary. You don't have any income.”

But surprisingly, Goodwin’s sales quickly saw unexpected growth, despite the loss of her largest source of income – art shows, conventions and craft fairs.

Being a Black, female-owned business, Lingua Nigra was in high demand as a social justice movement saw many around the country seeking to elevate and support minority-owned businesses.

“I saw a significant increase in orders after the murder of George Floyd. The week, I think the day after a lot of influencers and brands decided to mute themselves, they also decided to promote Black businesses because then we realized that the algorithm was biased and was kind of hiding us because I've always been here,” she said. “So I saw an increase. I think I had like 9,000 followers. I got maybe 1,000 followers every day for a week. It was… it was insane.”

But the growth was bittersweet for Goodwin, who is the only employee at her business and was battling more orders than she could handle.

“I'll be honest, it was really traumatic getting going like hearing that cha-ching every two seconds because people wanted their stuff then and fast and then the whole post office thing,” Goodwin said.

Sales after the summer slowly started to drop, picking up again ahead of the holiday season, but Goodwin said the future now seems even more unpredictable.

“I can’t imagine getting that, the increases I did last year,” she said. “But I'm still just really trying to maintain just having a business.”

For Goodwin, the pandemic has forced her to be ready for any possibility. She’s even expanding her business from just jewelry to including home décor as well.

“There's definitely been a huge, it's not a slump, but it's definitely not as… the orders haven't been as robust as they were last year,” she said. “But I still get at least an order every day and wholesale orders are really good. So I'm thankful for that.”

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