Have you had to close your business or has your customer base evaporated as a result of the current Corona crisis restrictions? With daily and sometimes hourly changes, as a small business owner it’s never been harder. With backs well and truly against the wall it would be easy to throw your hands in the air and give up. But like any great entrepreneur will tell you; this is the time to double down, pivot, iterate and see what options you can create for your business.
In amongst the doom and gloom of the last few weeks, I spoke to some local business owners and asked what they are doing to keep the lights on. This is what entrepreneurship looks like and here’s some inspiration that could help your small business.
The Interior Decorator
Emma Blomfield, Creative Stylist, knows how to pivot and fast. Having recently branched out into event styling, Emma’s business was one of the first to feel the hit of the ‘Corona Crisis’. Booked up solid for the next four months, Emma’s calendar was completely wiped in 24 hours.
Still reeling, Emma then found herself on the end of constant calls from clients hitting pause on renovations and building projects; her business, as she knew it, ground to a complete halt.
In that moment, Emma knew exactly what she needed to do. Having spent years growing her business as a side-hustle and understanding what it’s like to build a business from scratch, Emma realised it was time to go back to where it all started; eDecorating.
“I originally started my business in 2011 as an online decorating business only. I worked full time then, so I’m just going back to my roots really” says Emma. “I’ve worked with clients on remote cattle stations in far North Queensland through to inner city studio apartments. It’s been fab to peek into houses all over the country and help work out their decorating challenges”.
The challenge now is to reengage with that side of the business as the focus. Another asset in Emma’s business is her online mentoring and eCourses. Specifically created for would-be interior designers wanting to start their own business, or homeowners wanting to learn to decorate their homes. Emma plans to “ramp up the marketing of the digital services more in the coming months and monitor it as the year progresses”.
Always focused on the silver lining Emma’s hope is that with people “still moving house and now spending more time at home than ever there’ll be a bigger focus on getting their homes right”.
Kate Sutton founder of Uberkate has just recently opened her flagship store, The House of U, in Sydney; the Coronavirus has left her no choice but to close the doors, sort of.
Uberkate already has an online presence but ever the innovator, the temporary closure of the bricks and mortar store, has led to the opening of Uberkate’s first ‘virtual shopping’ experience. Daily from 12pm on the Uberkate socials you’re able to interact with the staff “see designs and combos and shop with us,” says Kate. “Even if you aren’t specifically looking to shop, we hope that it will provide some much-needed contact and interaction with each other during this period of isolation”.
The Yoga Studio
Following the early outbreak of Covid-19 in China and then Europe, Katie Standring from Soul Tiger Yoga was acutely aware that Australia was on the same path. With a business focused on creating “connection between people and community” as much as mental and physical health and wellbeing; Katie and her husband Martin knew they needed to pivot.
Wanting to ensure that their clients were supported they decided to live stream their classes. Starting with two classes a day delivered via a private Facebook group for members, they’re now offering a schedule of Bikram Yoga, Inferno Hot Pilates and Yin Yoga. The classes are for those with memberships and also on a casual basis for anyone needing an outlet.
“Clients can find a quiet space at home, roll out at yoga mat, join us for a live class and connect with the Soul Tiger community” says Katie.
“No business owner plans for a health pandemic and closure. However, this crisis has opened my eyes to the opportunity to provide virtual or live classes for people who can’t be with us”.
It’s fair to say that Stella Blu at Dee Why Beach is a local favourite. Owner Nick Salerno, a veteran in the food industry, wants to make sure it, and his other restaurants, are still standing at the end of this health crisis.
Whilst Nick feels “that this could be the nail in the coffin” for a number of people in the industry, his hope is that landlords, in particular, will finally understand the knife’s edge that most restaurants operate on and review commercial rents going forward.
According to Nick “there are three people we need help from right now, suppliers, landlords and the Government. If we all work together, we’ll help put the money back into the economy; we just need to be trusted to do that”.
Right now, restaurants and cafes are closed with take-away touted as their saviour. With take-away always available at his restaurants, Nick will continue to offer this as a way to keep his most valuable asset – his staff. “Take-away made up about 10% of my overall business. However, with 35% of the cost going in fees to Uber Eats; it was a lot of work to make little money”.
Encouraging other businesses to try take-away as a way to keep some staff employed, Nick’s suggestion was to keep it simple. “It’s not an easy transition to take-away” says Nick. “Stick to the menu options that will travel well and still taste good”.
Stella Blu will be ramping up their takeaways options but they’re also thinking outside the box. The latest offering will include a range of freshly made, restaurant quality sauces and pasta that will feed a family of four. With 1kg bags of pasta starting at $9.90 per packet and sauces ranging from $9 to $13, it’s an inexpensive alternative to pre-made meals.
Leading Melbourne florist Victoria Whitelaw has been in business for over 38 years. Well known for her stunning floral arrangements and events expertise, the impact of the Coronavirus on her event calendar was not unexpected. However, undeterred and used to the regular 3am market runs selecting seasonal blooms, Victoria and her daughter Jessica decided to use those trips to select fresh produce instead.
“These are trying times for many of our fellow Melburnians. We want to bring cheer to those who may not be able to do their own grocery shopping, or would rather stay at home. Of course, every delivery will have the option of a bouquet of market fresh flowers to be included; so our customers can enjoy fresh seasonal flowers for their home too” says Victoria.
Offering a range of boxes and no contact delivery customers can rest assured that their deliveries with be quarantine safe.
Need some more inspiration?
Understandably in these challenging times finding the bandwidth and funds to think outside the box and pivot your business can be tough. But, before you throw your hands in the air and walk away, why not grab your staff, on Zoom or applying the appropriate social distance of course, and brain-storm the possibilities.
If you’re a beautician, a personal trainer or other service provider can you offer online classes or DIY tutorials? Are there products you can feature in real-time advertising on Instagram or Facebook and then sell online?
Gyms could consider hiring unused equipment, and boutiques, virtual styling sessions for loyal clients. You might also reach out personally to your customer base; ask them how you can help, or what service you might be able to offer them during this time.
Do you have an inspiring idea? Why not make a difference and share that with others in your industry? Working together through this crisis will make all the difference to who survives when the sun comes out again.
For more information on the businesses in this story: