How 3 Small Businesses Are Coping with Coronavirus

Small businesses are already feeling the effects of the coronavirus or bracing for it

'A lot of business owners are in this unprecedented time and we could all stand to get ideas from others'

As small businesses across the United States and around the world react to COVID-19, many have adapted to remote work or adjusted their service offerings to meet current needs.

Here’s a look at how 3 small businesses are doing just that.

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Shifting to curbside pick-up

Many restaurants and retailers across the country are now offering curbside pick-up online or reduced their hours to minimize potential COVID-19 exposure for customers and employees.

Four Color Fantasies, a comic book store in Winchester, Virginia, is in that camp. Although the town hasn’t yet required businesses like theirs to close or alter their business, co-managers Erik Jones and Stephen Kleffman have chosen to limit the number of customers in the store store and sell through curbside pick-up and mail order only.

“We are still open to the public, but trying to limit visiting customers to 10 people in the store at a time, and are asking that they cut their visiting time to around 20 minutes,” Jones says.

“For now, we figure we’re just gonna play it safe [and continue this way] barring being sick or being told to officially shut down,” Jones added.

Ordinarily, customers hang out in the store and chat about comics, so Jones felt this was a way to still serve the local comic books community while taking precautions.

“We have a great community of people who just love comics,” he adds. “More than ever, people need something to keep their spirits up. We want people to get their comics still, so we’re doing what we can.”

New inventory is still arriving as scheduled, so the real test will be New Comics Day on Wednesday.

“We’re playing it by ear and seeing what people are into,” Jones says.

The plan is for customers to call ahead so employees can pull the comics they want and have customers pay via credit card over the phone or cash when they pick up.

Since customers won’t have the chance to browse as they would normally, Jones says they may also post extra videos with comic book recommendations, which they’d previously done weekly. They’re also open to shifting from monthly to weekly fulfillment of mail orders.

“We’re just trying to cautious across the board,” Jones adds.

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Moving services online

For service-based businesses that traditionally operate in person (for instance, personal trainers, music teachers, and licensed social workers), concerns about contamination have forced them to get creative.

Filip Hord, co-owns Horderly Professional Organizing with his wife, and they have 30 employees across 7 states. Clients have cancelled over 800 hours in the past week (totally about $80,000 in lost revenue), so the couple knew they had to act quickly to keep their business afloat and their employees paid.

With that in mind, they created a virtual organizing service that launches on Wednesday, March 18 to “hopefully keep our team busy and our payroll as high as possible to support living expenses for our organizers,” Hord says. “We are paying our employees 100% of the profit during these virtual organizing sessions.”

Clients have cancelled over 800 hours in the past week (totally about $80,000 in lost revenue), so the couple knew they had to act quickly to keep their business afloat and their employees paid. 

They’re offering a version where customers send photos of their space and the organizer sends a list of recommended products and how to implement them. The more expensive version includes a video consultation and walks customers through their 11-step organizing process.

They’d already been thinking about virtual organizing, so COVID-19 spurred them to action.

The cancelled appointments have been postponed for later in the year, so Hord hopes this new service will appeal to a different customer base.

“The cool thing is we have thousands of leads that we may not be able to service [because of cost or geography],” he says. “This is opening an entire new door for our business and for people who may not have been able to hire us before.”

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Pivoting into new service lines

With the cancellation of large gatherings such as SXSW and the NCAA division I basketball tournaments, event planners and production companies have been hit hard.

Lauren Caselli of Lauren Caselli Events in Bozeman, Montana, says she’s working to pivot. For instance, consulting with clients on whether to cancel their event or take in online.

“Most of our clients are unsure what to do, so instead of fighting for our contracts, I’m seeing if we can rescope so that I can assist them in figuring out the next steps,” she says. “I’m launching a new 1:1 service to help clients assess if it makes more financial sense to cancel, postpone, or go online, with financial estimates for each.”

Caselli also contacted past clients offering to do smaller projects.

“Cashflow right now is our biggest struggle, so if we can take some smaller projects that are in our wheelhouse, despite them not being attached to an in-person event, it will give us more time to keep the lights on.”

“When we work on events, we do a variety of things like copywriting and marketing plans,” she says. “Cashflow right now is our biggest struggle, so if we can take some smaller projects that are in our wheelhouse, despite them not being attached to an in-person event, it will give us more time to keep the lights on.”

Lastly, she’s creating content for her community about how others can pivot their businesses.

“A lot of business owners are in this unprecedented time and we could all stand to get ideas from others,” Caselli says.

“I’ve been a lot more intentional about sharing what I’m doing, knowing that it’s helpful for those who may feel panicked by the slowdown, but also because providing solutions instead of hoarding ideas is part of our brand.”

 

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