La Junta resident Ashley Bass has had to rely on her own creativity to ensure she's ready to open shop as soon as stay at home orders are lifted.


Bass runs a brick and mortar photography business, Ashley Bass Photography, in Rocky Ford. She had to close her store on March 19, she said, with social distancing orders following close behind. When the stay at home order was put into place, Bass said, she was prevented from conducting outdoor photo sessions because her work is considered non-essential. Since then, she has resorted to experimental marketing strategies to schedule photography sessions for later this fall.


Bass's photography schedule has been ravaged by closure and stay at home orders. She relies on community events such as school prom, sports and graduation; weddings and the like for work.


"My small business is my career, what I do for a living, and not just a hobby," Bass said in a Facebook message to the Tribune-Democrat. "I’m a licensed and insured, tax paying LLC in Colorado. With cancellations of youth sports, proms, weddings, etc. I am taking a loss of several thousand dollars by being closed for six or more weeks."


Bass has exercised a lot of leg work to adapt to the ever-evolving circumstances.


"... advanced marketing that I normally wouldn't be doing, just to stay relevant and active in the community so that I can essentially attempt to pick up where I left off when this all started," said Bass.


"Definitely a rough hurdle to get over during the first year in business in a new state, but I'm seeing the small business community, and the Valley community as a whole, just rally around everyone to support them during this time."


Some days, Bass said, she feels that she has everything together and planned out. Other days, she gets an idea and runs with it.


"For instance, the gratitude sessions, I've been planning and putting together the marketing for that to launch today, this entire week. The senior banners and yard signs, well that was an idea that sprouted yesterday morning, and went live by the evening! So I would say a solid mix of both. I know in talking with other business owners, adapting to the evolving situation is key during this time."


One creative strategy Bass has deployed involves what she described as yard banners and yard signs that she can design. Last week she planned to release what she called one-for-one gratitude sessions, where she said for each photography session bought through the end of May, she will donate a gift session to a front line essential worker.


On Thursday Bass told the newspaper her gratitude sessions were already selling.


"I’ve spent a lot of my “free time” helping and promoting fellow small business owners here in the Valley, to ensure they are able to successfully reopen their doors and thrive," said Bass. "I even have a giveaway going on for a custom Branding package including both photos and a video where small businesses can be nominated to win. For hope that we all come out shining on the other side of this, and that the Valley doesn’t lose any of their small businesses."


Bass said she’s applied for several grants, but each application has been denied because Otero County hasn’t experienced a high volume of COVID-19 cases so far. She applied for a small $500 grant specifically for photographers and was to hear back about that as of Thursday.


“I guess where the main issue lies, is that even though we have a low number of cases, we are still bound to the same restrictions as other areas of the state with a high number of cases and spread. So even though our county doesn’t have high volume, businesses are closed and following the same orders as places like Denver. So it does leave the rural areas disqualified for grants,” Bass commented.


cburney@ljtdmail.com