How Small Businesses Survive a Pandemic

Covid-19 dealt a crushing blow to small businesses, but some have embraced pivots to survive

This spring, Covid-19 dealt a crushing blow to small businesses across the U.S. As traditional sources of revenue dried up due to social distancing measures, some small businesses utilized existing resources and know-how to pivot their business models. 

On Thursday, Morning Brew’s Head of Content Samir Sheth spoke with Salesforce VP Heather Atkinson, Harlem Doggie Day Spa owner Brian Taylor, and Snapbar CEO Sam Eitzen to discuss how small businesses can get creative to not just survive, but thrive during the pandemic. (You can view the recording of the event here).

The switcheroo

Eitzen’s and Taylor’s companies were located in U.S. cities that faced early Covid-19 outbreaks, leaving both entrepreneurs scrambling to figure out their next move.

After Taylor’s dog grooming and daycare business was forced to close, the “Dogfather of Harlem” raised donations to provide free grooming services to pet owners in need. Inspired by an outpouring of support, he took the show on the road and traveled across the U.S. offering grooming services out of his van. When his story went viral and a GoFundMe brought in extra donations, he set up the Pup Pandemic Relief Tour connecting dozens of Black groomers across six cities to pets in need. 

Snapbar, a photo booth rental company Eitzen cofounded, saw months of revenue vanish after in-person events were canceled. Unable to sleep one night, Eitzen drew up a list of 50 Hail Mary ideas for his business to avoid layoffs, finally landing on one: “Keep Your City Smiling” gift boxes connecting local businesses to customers.

Another case study: 

  • Atkinson shared the story of Miami-based PRT Interactive, a software and digital consulting company that works with independent Latin American hotels. PRT launched a hotel rescue program to help its customers find new revenue partners. 
  • Not only did PRT save its own business, it brought in an entirely new set of clients to support its core customers.

Notice a theme? Eitzen and Taylor pivoted to new lines of work that also gave back to their communities. Both entrepreneurs generated a lot of positive press from their pivots, building goodwill with existing clients and helping bring new ones into the fold. “The community supports you more when you support them,” Taylor said.

In times of change, it’s time to adapt. Salesforce is committed to helping small and medium businesses (SMBs) deepen relationships with customers—even as their expectations and needs continue to shift. With Salesforce’s help, SMBs have been able to find more customers, win more deals, and keep customers happy. And now, Salesforce has gathered insights from over 2,000 SMB leaders on how they’ve pivoted in their recent SMB Trends Report. Read it here.

So how’d they do it?

A good team makes the difference. Eitzen’s Snapbar employees had to assume very different roles to pull off the e-commerce operation; some employees who previously worked creative jobs were suddenly handling boxes of product all day. But Eitzen says years of investing in his employees and building a strong company culture allowed the team to step up during a difficult situation. Keep Your City Smiling helped Snapbar save all 18 jobs. 

Be transparent. Taylor, Eitzen, and Atkinson stressed the importance of regular communication with business partners, employees, and customers. At his Harlem dog spa, Taylor consistently put himself in front of the camera to explain the situation and let customers know what to expect. Eitzen was able to share Keep Your City Smiling with existing Snapbar clients, which generated an “incredible response” and new corporate orders.

Experiment. Keep Your City Smiling gave the Snapbar team time to think about how their core business needed to adapt to the loss of in-person events. The team built a virtual photo booth tool, which is now their fastest growing product ever, and has been able to leverage it to bring in new clients.

Invest in the digital layer. Many small and medium sized businesses rely on technology to connect with customers, and an existing digital footprint makes it easier to pivot and handle changes, Atkinson said. Both Taylor and Eitzen credit social media platforms with helping spread the word about their new business models.

To view the recording of the event, go here.

Via Morning Brew

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