Over the past several weeks, we’ve seen the impact of the coronavirus on small business owners growing at an exponential rate, as more and more businesses have to be shut down with their main revenue stream cut off. In these dire circumstances, entrepreneurs and employees alike have a bleak outlook on what the future holds.
We’ve been in touch with a few small-business owners to see what they’ve been doing to cope with the current situation at hand.
Thankfully, not every business is facing doom and gloom; in fact, some of them have managed to make the best out of these rough times to come up with new initiatives
Without further ado, we’ve compiled 10 of the best responses we’ve received from business owners on how they are coping with COVID-19.
1. Renata Castro, Castro Legal Group
My name is Renata Castro, and I am an immigration attorney, founder of Castro Legal Group (castrolegalgroup.com) in Pompano Beach, Florida. Immigration practice is one of federal jurisdiction, and as a result, I have always pushed to have a national presence with cases all over the USA. Some of the pushback we received in the past was related to resistance to phone/video consultations. Now with the world, in its majority, in quarantine, geographical barriers are no longer an obstacle, and many out of state clients have decided to hire us.
The true currency of our time is attention, so with so many people looking to social media for comfort, we are capitalizing on the abundance of time individuals have now to listen to our message by turning up the volume in participating in live Q&As on different platforms.
Last year we grossed 1.3 million and the goal for 2020 is to gross 2 million, and we are on pace to meet or exceed that goal.
2. Kim Hawkins, EventsWholesale
As an entrepreneur in the special event industry, it is hard to stay calm during these times when the majority of events are being cancelled. As a CEO, it helps me to stay informed and plan for the future. While I can’t do anything about events being cancelled, what I can do is stay on top of what the government is doing to help small businesses. I can also spend my time preparing for when events start happening again by looking into customer financing options and improving our product offering.
Although we are an online company, we have been making preparations due to the spreading of the coronavirus. We import many of our products, and the coronavirus has slowed and even halted production of some items that we sell. We are placing large orders to stock up on all of our best sellers and have even had to locate new suppliers, as springtime (our busy season) is quickly approaching.
3. Sean Pour, SellMax
My name is Sean Pour, and I am 25 years old and the co-founder of SellMax, a car buying service. I started the company when I was 14 years old and have since scaled the company into a nationwide service. I also graduated with a degree in computer science from San Diego State University while running the company. The current COVID-19 crisis has certainly had an impact on our business.
One thing that we are really focusing on is cutting expenses on unnecessary tools and services. We were signed up for a lot of things that we weren’t truly utilizing, and it was additional expenses every single month. When things were going well, we didn’t care much. But, now that the economy is facing a bit of a downturn, we need to get rid of these unnecessary expenses. So, we are thinking about our spending more.
It seems counterintuitive to be spending more money at a time like this. However, in my opinion, this is the best time to be spending money on advertising. A lot of our competitors have backed off ads, so the cost per click has gone down. We are fully taking advantage of this. While our profit margins are lower at the moment, we are trying to deal in more numbers to make up for it.
We are in the automotive business, and we purchase cars from individuals who are looking for an easy alternative to selling. Revenue was in the range of 5-8 million. We estimate we will be closer to 5 million this year.
4. Sa El, Simply Insurance
My name is Sa El, and I am the Co-Founder of Simply Insurance, an online digital insurance agency. Our primary focus is insurance education for the average person and helping customers buy insurance.
We saw our traffic go from 1,000 visitors per day down to about 500 visitors per day; however, our revenue increased from people who were panic buying life insurance.
We also have seen an increase in purchases of other insurance products. This signaled to me that people might not be searching for things like “what is life insurance,” but they are searching for words like “instant life insurance” and that’s where my focus is now.
We have doubled down on creating content that focuses on people being able to go directly to the content of purchasing the product they need.
Our previous revenue was around $180,000; our revenue goal for this year was $600,000, but we will probably be closer to $500,000.
5. Natasha Tatton, EdsBred
I am the owner and operator of an organic sourdough bakery in a ski resort (Whistler, BC, Canada). We had a team of 8, and operate from 7.30am-5pm five days a week before COVID-19 hit Canada.
We were selling out of baked goods every day, but once the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort shut down, we knew we could not operate anymore. It was too much risk for public health, but we would also lose all our tourist traffic, and local workers going for morning coffee were being laid off.
We laid off all our staff, and most of them headed back to their homelands. We would sell between $2-4.4K a day, an average of $3K per day. We took $660K in the past year, and it will probably be half of that in the next 12 months – if we are lucky.
Before our closure, customers had always been disappointed if they drove up for their weekend break from Washington or Vancouver in the afternoon, and we were sold out of bread.. They often asked if they could pre-order it. They often asked for gift cards, too but we did not sell them. We are a zero-food waste company and aim to always sell out.
Now we have had to close our bakery, we have set up an ecommerce store through our website. It is easy to create and sell gift cards through this SquareSpace platform, but we had to upgrade the site and invest some money to do this.
It would make sense for us to continue to operate a pre-order system and gift card sales online once we have reopened. This will hopefully boost sales more while improving our customer service.
We are now selling bread through our website in the shop section with pick-up in-store by appointment only. Once someone has ordered, we will contact them with a Saturday afternoon pick-up time by email. We sell around $3K a week now. It is not profitable, but it is keeping our regular customers supplied with good healthy bread for now and increasing their loyalty to us. Our customers respect the five-minute window to ensure they do not come into contact with other people. They take their bread from a collection point located by the door.
We are spending a lot of time collecting google reviews from our loyal customer base to boost our ranking and ensure a rapid return to profitability when we open our doors again.
It’s time-consuming dealing with emails with every customer and we are looking into a CRM system to alleviate some of this admin.
6. Billie Patterson, The Intern X
I work for InternX, a tech company that works with universities for in-person career fairs to create more valuable, efficient connections between employers and students (for both internships and full-time job opportunities). As a startup, we began to feel the real impact of Coronavirus affecting us when universities began closing. A main part of our services is providing a platform for employers to pre-select students to meet with at in-person career fairs, so the concept of no open universities to host career fairs took away part of the foundation of our company’s revenue.
As a team, we discussed viable options to pivot our value proposition to universities, and we decided to shift our focus to providing virtual fairs. We already have the platform to create the employer-students connections; we just needed to build a component where we could then host these virtual meetings once recruiters selected the students they wanted to meet. We’re now working with universities to help them host virtual fairs or plan limited-attendee-size fairs with pre-set meetings for the fall, depending on the university preference.
Creativity, flexibility, and persistence are crucial in times like this. Our company was centered around in-person connections, and colleagues were commenting on what a difficult time it had to be for InternX. If we had that mindset, we’d be stressed and stagnant. Instead, we went from limited business opportunities during this pandemic to a plethora of options for the current state-of-affairs and the future!
7. Obi Omile, theCut
My name is Obi, CEO of theCut, a Techstars LA company (Summer 2018). We’re the #1 Barber booking platform in the country. We launched in 2017 and since then have grown to over 1.3M users nationwide and more than 50k barbers have joined our community. Growth has been our priority but in a heavily trafficked, service-based industry like the one we’re, Stay at Home Orders has significantly impacted our business. We’ve seen more than a 50% drop in new appointments and users. Which is expected. As the year ends, we expect to see a sharp rebound with the abundance of pent up demand.
Due to our inability to bring new customers to our barbers, we decided to discount their monthly fee from $20 a month to $5 for the next month, reevaluating as new COVID-19 updates exist. We’ve also kept our barbers up to date on the relief bill and how they’re impacted. Many barbers are classified as 1099 employees, who are now eligible for unemployment insurance. Providing them the information needed to apply for benefits and loans has been our priority. We’ve also launched a relief program where clients can donate Visa cards to their favorite barbers.
In the midst of it all, we’ve continued to be a resource to our barbers. If it’s not via our mobile app, it’ll be our social and web platforms constantly updated barbers on how to maneuver the effects of COVID-19. Much of our content now has shifted to entertain and educated vs convert. We want to be the first place barbers can turn to understand how the pandemic has impacted their business. One thing that has remained consistent is our goal to be the go-to place for barbers.
8. Lauren Herpich, Local Food Adventures
I am the owner of a guided food tour business in Oakland, CA. Needless to say, my business completely shut down as the San Francisco Bay Area became the first area in the country to announce shelter-in-place directives.
My business lost over $10K in tour cancelations and refunds just in the period between the beginning of March and end of April (not considering all tours that would have been booked – the first high season of my year). I do project annual revenue to be around $100K versus the $200K I projected at the start of the year.
However, I am staying positive. While we don’t know how society will respond when everything settles, I am currently:
• Working to bettering conversion on our website; building meta descriptions on all pages and reviewing UX
• Completing a new sales funnel booking flow with my booking platform provider
• Increasing SEO efforts through development of blog content and video
• Supporting my restaurant and specialty food store tour partners by giving away a $25 gift card every day on Instagram as a way to promote gift cards being a great way to provide cash flow to small businesses
9. Jacqueline Basulto, SeedX
I am the owner of a digital marketing company that works almost exclusively with e-commerce brands. We are based in Los Angeles, but our team works with clients across the country. Our revenue is around $1.5 million.
We have restructured our business to focus primarily on helping existing clients through this difficult period by coming up with alternate solutions for businesses that exist in impacted industries. For example, we are helping a client of ours who hosts professional networking seminars move all of their scheduled events online — coordinating the marketing messaging and technology for this. We’re also helping in-person retailers develop intelligent email marketing campaigns to keep their customers engaged and feeling supported. We know that even if we take a hit financially right now, giving value and support to our current clients at this time will lead to more success for us all in the future.
With most of the news coverage surrounding the economic ramification of the outbreak has been focused on bailouts or the stock exchange, we hope this piece gives you some awareness on how small businesses are dealing with the pandemic.
Bernard currently works full-time as a growth hacker and content researcher for HUSTLR. When he was studying in the US 2 years ago, he flipped Yeezys on eBay as a side hustle to fund his degree and living expenses. He’s currently working on his Amazon FBA business & dropshipping on the side.