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A pandemic survival story

Dapper & Co. made the best of a bad situation for themselves and others

The pandemic was hard on many local businesses and sadly, some didn’t survive. But others made it through that unsettled period and are still alive. Over the next several weeks we’ll look at their stories and what made the difference for them.

Daryl “Dapper” Rolle is the perfect example of the old saying, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”

Rolle, the owner of Dapper & Co. men’s grooming lounge, used the two months his business was closed during the pandemic to revamp and retool his business.

“We didn’t know what to anticipate because the temperature of covid was changing every day,” he said. “What I did know was that it’s better to make any structural investments now while we were down so we can come out of this on the upswing.”

Daryl “Dapper” Rolle used the pandemic to retool his business and help others. (Photo by Gary Kauffman)

That meant working on his building on Wrightsboro Road, revamping his processes, and taking a close look at the services he offers to determine what to add or subtract. Dapper & Co. provides haircuts, razor shaves, massages, and skin care services.

“To be honest it was really refreshing for me,” Rolle said. “For me as an entrepreneur, I’m consistently going from one thing to another. It gave me some much-needed rest. But I had some other online businesses that I had started working on that I could never find time for. I could pivot from the day-to-day physical operation to focus more on the online businesses.”

Rolle did have a bit of an advantage going into the pandemic – he’d experienced something like it before. Just a few months after opening his business in 2008, a recession hit the country, leading to job cutbacks and gas prices nearly as high as they are now. Rolle made it through that tough time with a new plan for his business.

“2008 built some tough skin,” he said. “It led me to budget and plan for the future to put me in a position where I’ll always be ready for the unexpected. Even in the good times, you have to prepare for the downturn.

“So the pandemic was not as traumatic for me as it was for some others in this industry and my fellow entrepreneurs.”

That preparation gave him a higher risk tolerance and more confidence in making decisions.

Since his business transcends simple haircutting, Rolle took a proactive approach with his customers, sending them emails with the covid protocols he’d put in place and letting them know he’d be ready for them when they felt comfortable leaving their homes to use his services.

“My biggest thing is that it’s all about the experience,” he said. “It’s not just about the services but the experience and the relationships. I gave a level of reassurance to all my clients.”

Dapper & Co. offers a wide range of grooming products for gentlemen.

But Rolle also took an approach far larger than just his business. He hosted a statewide online forum for barbers, cosmetologists, and delegates to the state legislature.

“We were able to talk with legislators and leaders in the business about how the pandemic was impacting us and how we could move forward,” Rolle said. “It allowed the state board to be able to hear from stylists and barbers all over the state.”

He also served on the small business grants committee for Richmond County to portion out the covid relief funds. Through that, the committee assisted 162 small businesses with a total of $1.2 million to offset losses and costs.

The pandemic changed the workforce, which has delayed or slowed the return of some small businesses. His own business took a few months to return to previous levels after the reopening.

“The workforce wasn’t the same (when we reopened),” he said. “On the one side, people were forced to work from home. And a lot of people who were already contemplating retirement pulled the trigger. People who had been contemplating career changes made the decision. So we had the Great Resignation.”

On the flip side, Rolle saw a silver lining in the pandemic.

“The beauty of the pandemic is that it gave autonomy to those already leaning toward entrepreneurship,” he said. “It forced them to do something about it. We have a lot of entrepreneurs because of it.”

Rolle is working on another project for the near future to help those entrepreneurs and business founders to get started on the right foot.

The pandemic may be over for the most part, but Rolle urges businesses to prepare for the unexpected.

“Invest in your business and invest in the future,” he said. “If something needs to be done for your business find a way to get it done. Make it happen. Because of procrastination a lot of businesses didn’t survive.

“Procrastination will take you from selling grapes to selling raisins if you aren’t active.”

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