During the new normal, small business owners have had to overcome many of the shutdown’s impacts while adapting to meet new customer behaviors and needs. While it’s been a difficult transition and the future remains uncertain, one thing is for sure. Small business owners have the strength to move forward.
Recently, we had the privilege of speaking with two small business owners from New York State. Tammeca Rochester is the owner of Harlem Cycle, a cycling and exercise studio designed to meet the needs of her community, providing the music and energy that Tammeca could not find anywhere else.
Kris March is the owner of Slickfin Brewing Company, a community focused microbrewery serving homemade craft brews. Operating in different industries and regions, Tammeca and Kris offer five first-hand insights and tips for small businesses on surviving the pandemic.
1. Focus on your community
In discussing their what has been most important to them as they adapt their businesses to the pandemic, both Tammeca and Kris have one recurring message — focus on your community. Here’s how you can do the same:
· Focus on who you serve: When you design your business to meet the needs of your community, that should still be your goal as you adapt to the pandemic. For example, while Tammeca’s new streamed classes have a wide reach, including international clientele, her focus remains in Harlem and on those Harlem Cycle was designed for.
Similarly, through increased digital marketing, Kris’ reach is extending to nearby towns, and while he’s happy with that, his priority remains his local community and top-quality products.
· Be personal as much as possible: In times when we need to be apart, try your best to stay connected. Make it a point to interact with as many customers as possible by having socially distant conversations when possible or by reaching out via text and email. Check in on your customers as well as your employees as well. Sustaining human connections keeps everyone engaged.
· Find support from your loved ones: Tammeca and Kris had the same response when asked what’s kept them going in these challenging times: family and friends. Whether it’s your blood relatives or a tight-knit group of friends, make sure you have a network of support to help you persevere.
2. Be adaptable
While it’s important not to adapt for the sake of adapting, the pandemic has made changes necessary for nearly all small businesses. Be flexible and realistic in your approach to meeting new challenges, to find the model that works best for you.
Kris shifted his indoor taproom to outdoor dining and curbside pick-up. Tammeca is still facing a mandatory shut down as an exercise studio, so she has shifted to virtually streamed classes and mat based exercises to keep her clients moving. Find what works for you and your clients. You may even find a strategy to add to your business plan for the long term.
3. Use social media
Social media is an increasingly valuable tool in today’s digital world. Use different social media platforms for these aspects of your business:
· For operations: How can social media supplement your current operations? Harlem Cycle uses social media platforms like Instagram, as they’ve transitioned to streaming classes, coordinating community events and conducting client outreach.
· For marketing: Your clients are using social media to stay connected. Make sure you’re also in that space to spread the words about your offerings, changes to your operations and more. By expanding his digital marketing platform, Kris was able to increase publicity for Slickfin Brewing Company.
4. Find the right funding for you
While it may seem overwhelming to search for funding, there are many options out there for COVID-19 relief. Leave no stone unturned by searching online, on social media, and through your business networks to find the right match for you.
Tammeca found several grants for Harlem Cycle by expanding her search to social media. There, she found numerous grants specifically designed to aid women- and minority-owned businesses.
Kris stressed that the most important thing for a small business is to keep the cash flowing while limiting your overhead expenses. He’s received federal loans such as the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Borrow what’s necessary for your business but only what you can realistically manage and afford.
5. Work with other small businesses
Your fellow small business owners know the challenges you’re facing, and together you’re in a position to provide mutual support. Working together proves beneficial for not only both businesses but your clients as well. By teaming up to rally your community for a socially distant event, such as a fun run, or for a virtual joint program, your clients will enjoy the benefits offered by you and other business owners while you get more exposure and publicity.