Resilience Now and Optimism for the Future: 16 Business Owners Share Post-Closure Insight

Sweet Brooklyn Bar & Grill Business Owner

In recent months, small businesses have faced business closures, subsequent reopenings, and other challenges related to Covid-19. Even in the face of uncertainty, entrepreneurs still use their positivity and creativity to let their strengths shine through.

We spoke with 16 small business owners to learn about their resilience during the pandemic-related closures, how they leveraged new opportunities, and how their vision and goals have changed moving forward.  

Pursuit: Can you tell us about some of the things you did to pivot your business or create new revenue streams during the business closures?

“We’ve always done most of our sales and financing processes online, so, in that way, we were better positioned when everything became virtual. However, because the supply chain disruptions meant that some team members couldn’t do their regular work in sales and maintenance, we quickly pivoted their roles to an emerging opportunity: the supply chain disruptions and lack of parts through traditional vendors meant that the Coastal team was online and on the phone constantly, scouring the world to find needed parts at other dealers and shops.”

Paul Zamoyta, Coastal Boat Sales

“Pursuit provided more microloan funding, which helped take some of the immediate financial stress out of the equation. And when I mentioned I was going to try and improve our online presence during the shutdown, Pursuit immediately put me in touch with one of the Consulting Corps members. And that changed everything! The changes are already having an impact, and the response has been great. Our clients love what we’re doing and the ways in which we’re tailoring our products and services.”

Lauren Plasencia, Chic Underneath

“I never imagined that a business I considered to be all about the magic of engaging with others on-site could have a flip side in isolation, but that’s exactly what happened. We reached out to our clients and followers – we have an email list of 20,000 – to let them know that we’d offer curbside pickup of the painting kits twice a week and then do a Facebook Live painting class. We’ve sold out every time. We’re helping people meet an unanticipated need to keep kids and adults engaged, creative and positive. It’s working really well. And the potential to scale this is amazing.”

Catherine Hover, Saratoga Paint & Sip

“Although we had to close for a short time, we reopened in April. And unlike many businesses, we actually had the opportunity to grow our operations even more during the pandemic, including adding services like commercial roofing.”

Ernest Collins, Collins Caulking & Waterproofing

Pursuit: What are some of your goals as you reopen?

“As soon as we move through this, we’ll find ways to help other businesses get the financial management, insight and strategy they need to reposition and grow again, too.”

Oneida Franco, Franco Blueprint

“It’s the challenge of getting our inventory back up that’s the major issue, especially as our e-commerce site has really taken off. And resolving that is just a matter of time.”

Gabe Cohen, Fredericks & Mae

“People recognize the need for high-quality products and secure supply chains. The Folia team would be thrilled to be a part of that domestic manufacturing resurgence.”

Jonathan Levine, Ph.D., Folia Materials

“As we come out of the health crisis, I’d like to build our partnerships with companies who want to expand their employee pools, but whose reach has been limited by employee-transportation issues. We’re looking at high unemployment right now and I’d like to help people who don’t have a way to get to their jobs.”

Trent Griffin-Braaf, Tech Valley Hospitality Shuttle

Pursuit: What are some of the most important lessons you learned as a result of the pandemic?

“The impact has been pretty profound for us, as it has been for many businesses. Still, I do believe we’ll come out of this crisis stronger and better equipped, as we’ve had to scrutinize cash flow in a manner we’d not done prior. It’s also helped us identify ways to expand revenue streams, like focusing more on takeout, which we offered before, but now it has become an essential part of our business. We want to continue that as we move forward and things ‘normalize.’”

Kawana Jefferson, Sweet Brooklyn Bar & Grill

“When it comes to funding, in the past I was uncomfortable taking out loans. But now I realize how essential they are for a good foundation – and even more so if you want to grow. I’m really happy that we decided to get our business funded and that we went with Pursuit. The next time we need help, we’ll definitely go back.”

Alaina James, Blend Smoothie and Salad Bar

“Ask questions when you don’t know something and ask for help when you need it. And be patient as you learn. You have to be patient.”

Andray Hall, Kalico Kitchen Designs

“I believe that owners should always look for ways to fund our businesses, because we need to grow, create and stay ahead of our competitors. It’s not enough to think about funding just when things are tight. You have to consider the opportunities that you can take advantage of, if you have the funds to do it.”

Catherine Hover, Saratoga Paint & Sip

“It’s not just the continuation of lessons that has helped through the pandemic. Our students and their families also say that music has been an oasis through the uncertainty and fear. Through all the challenges, one of the things we keep hearing is, ‘Thank you for keeping music in our lives.’ I feel so fortunate to be a part of that.”

Noel Liberty, The Music Studio

“Because we got funding quickly, we could take on some opportunities that came our way.”

Brooke Costello, Red Table Catering

“We’re fortunate in that even before the pandemic, we predominantly operated in the cloud, so in that sense, we didn’t have to reduce or change the services that our clients receive.”

Rick Diaz, Franco Blueprint

“If I had the time, I’d love to write a thesis about how the pandemic affected small, local and artisan food producers. Overnight, we had to rethink our business plans and marketing strategies and quickly hustle to reach new customers. But it worked, for us and for many others, and now we’re busier than ever. It’s hard to keep up with demand!”

Marge Randles, Argyle Cheese Farmer

“The struggles are real for small businesses, and it’s harder now than ever. As owners, though, we have to be patient, commit and focus on rebuilding. Keep growing your circle of support and you’ll always find new prospects and opportunities. Business is picking up, and hopefully, this craziness will end soon. We just have to put our feet on the ground and keep going.”

Christine Uwimbabazi, Prime Care Transportation

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