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Giving back to the community

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Best foot forward: Astoria Smith gave free pedicures to women left unemployed by Covid-19 (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Astoria Smith spent Father’s Day weekend giving pedicures, for free.Eighteen women who lost their jobs as a result of Covid-19 had their feet buffed and their toenails clipped and coloured at Lacquered Lounge, her St George’s spa.Her belief: people like to feel pretty, no matter what their circumstances.“I feel like I have had so much help from the community,” said Ms Smith, who opened the spa in January. “I just had a lot of affection and encouragement from the community and felt that I was in a position where I could give back and so I wanted to provide that.”Like all other businesses she was forced to temporarily shut her doors at the end of March because of the pandemic. “I do everything myself — I work by myself, I do my marketing and my accounting — and so it gave me a little bit of breathing room,” she said. “I took additional courses so I can introduce new services, so it gave me some time to do that, but it definitely was stressful with the money kind of dwindling down.“Fortunately for me I have a little retail section. I have a lot of products that I use in my service that I also retail and I was able to put all that stuff up for sale so that when everything kind of opened up I could deliver, people could come pick it up. That kind of helped me float through the period that I was out of work, from March 21 until the end of April, Phase 2.” On learning that she would soon be able to reopen her doors, Ms Smith started thinking about what she could do to help people who might not have fared so well. She decided the first day of summer would be an appropriate day for giving back. “I e-mailed my mailing list of about 100 clients, and posted about June 20 in about twenty different Facebook groups — any and everything from entrepreneur groups to The People’s List — so I could get the message to as many people as possible,” she said. “Other people then shared it in on Facebook and I had a few clients who let me know they found out about it on WhatsApp. On Facebook it was seen over 12,000 times and was shared over 50 times.”Within three hours of her 7am post on June 4 all spots were filled and Ms Smith started compiling a wait-list “just in case I got cancellations”.St George’s businesses Temptations Café, Cassine, Virgin Magnolia and BruMae Caffé joined clients as sponsors. Their contribution allowed Ms Smith to give additional pedicures on June 19 and 21 as well as four gift packs to women still on the wait-list.“I covered all the pedicures on June 20 and the rest came from members of the public — some clients and business sponsors,” she said. “I chose the 20th because it was the first day of summer. People are kind of excited to head out to the beach and after a pedicure you feel a little bit better about yourself, you have a little bump in your step.”Because she “didn’t want people to feel like they had to explain anything” she asked that they book the appointments through her online platform themselves. Just as the numbers on the wait-list started to rise, clients contacted her asking if they could donate. “It started from there and then I had some awesome businesses as well that provided funds and little gift packs. So it was a little bit of a community effort which I think was awesome.“I didn’t want people to feel pressure or embarrassed about their situation. Losing your job can be kind of scary. I just wanted them to know that no questions would be asked, that they could just come in get the service and know that their tab was covered.”The kind gesture did mean that she wasn’t able to spend Father’s Day with her father, James Smith.“I wished him a happy Father’s Day before I left for work,” she said. “My parents are really understanding and supportive — my dad actually put up my nail polish racks and curtains and made my reception desk from scratch. He was also an entrepreneur, as a taxi driver and an owner of a short-order restaurant in Shelly Bay before I was born, so he understands that I have to work for everything I want to achieve, especially with the current circumstances where income is so uncertain.”• For more information on Lacquered Lounge: @lacqueredbda on Instagram, ilovelacquered.com, 735-2265

Gift bags given by Astoria Smith to women left unemployed by Covid-19(Photograph supplied)
Astoria Smith gave free pedicures to women left unemployed by Covid-19 (Photograph supplied)
Gift bags given by Astoria Smith to women left unemployed by Covid-19(Photograph supplied)