Every business worldwide has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic in some form, especially small businesses without vast amounts of cash on hand or sales. But COVID-19 isn’t the end of the world for small businesses. It IS possible to survive and even thrive through this crisis. Many companies are exploring brand-new avenues of doing business or pivoting in ways they’d never expected – and finding success in unexpected strategies.
We asked Guidant employees to tell us about how their favorite small businesses are adapting to the limitations brought on by COVID-19. These inspirational ideas are just the tip of the iceberg of what business owners can do to help themselves and their communities during these challenging times.
Restaurants and Catering
Canlis, one of the most well-known Seattle fine-dining establishments, made major changes early in Seattle’s coronavirus outbreak with a notable early pivot. Understanding that there wasn’t much of an audience for take-out fine-dining, Canlis turned their operation from fine-dining to drive-through classics. They closed their James Beard Award-winning dining service and completely adjusted their business plan for the duration of the pandemic.
Canlis offered three dining options: a takeout-only breakfast spot called The Bagel Shed, a pick-up option with burgers called Drive On Thru, and a meal delivery service called Family Meal.
“Fine dining is not what Seattle needs right now,” said Canlis via its Facebook page. “Instead, this is one idea for safely creating jobs for our employees, while serving as much of the city as we can.”
By moving quickly, decisively, and in a way that supports both its community and employees, Canlis is experiencing continued success and sales, despite being in one of the most hard-hit industries.
Specializing in box lunches made from fresh ingredients, Harried and Hungry is a family-owned Seattle business with deep community roots. To help their business and support local healthcare workers, they started a program for anyone to buy lunch for healthcare workers at Seattle-area hospitals. They’re also offering free delivery and pick-up from their café.
In a smart move to help overwhelmed parents and continue to earn money despite being in the hard-hit restaurant business, this local favorite created “Kids Kits” as part of their take-out and delivery menu.
Lorenzo’s Kids Kits contain everything needed to make a pizza a home, tailored to be child-friendly. The kits come with instructions, pizza dough, marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, and a coloring page in a fun kid-sized pizza box package.
A beloved Seattle business, Seattle Pops specializes in popsicles and ice cream bars made from all-natural ingredients. Seattle Pops closed their retail location in mid-March, but by pivoting to offering their signature Pop Packs by delivery, they were able to earn more sales in just three days than they do on average for the entire month of January. This kind of swift, smart flexibility is how a business that doesn’t even traditionally do well in cooler months can manage to succeed even in difficult times.
Seattle Pops is earning excellent goodwill by working hard to help their community during the coronavirus outbreak. When delivering, they also offer to pick up then deliver donations to Seattle’s Children’s Hospital and Family Works, a food bank in Seattle Pops’ neighborhood of Wallingford. Seattle Pops is also matching any cash tips for their delivery drivers in donations to Family Works.
Health, Beauty, and Fitness
Like many businesses in the healthy, beauty, and fitness industry, Be One Yoga is facing challenges with services that are traditionally held in person. Initially, Be One reduced their class size and enhanced their cleaning procedures, focusing on the safety of their customers and employees. Now that local non-essential businesses have been shut down, Be One Yoga is taking advantage of their customer-base also being at home to launch a YouTube channel and begin virtual yoga classes.
Using email marketing and providing free content via their new YouTube channel, Be One Yoga is smartly getting the word out about their new method of business.
Learn more here.
As a medical spa with numerous health and beauty services, Ideal Image decided to focus on the health and safety of its employees and clients and closed all locations in the US and Canada.
But Ideal Image shows that even if you have to close brick-and-mortar locations during the COVID-19 crisis, it doesn’t mean you have to forget about the future. Ideal Image shifted all their free consolations to video or phone consultations. They market their virtual consultations as a way to allow their skin, face, and body specialists to safely connect with clients. With this way of reviewing and personalizing treatment options, Ideal Image can continue to book future business and keep their business relevant to customers.
Elle Marie Hair Studio has taken advantage of heavier than usual social media use by boosting both their Instagram page and the pages of their stylists. Being active and able to show off your services and products can help a business keep top of mind for their current or new customers. And without beauty services for weeks, lots of people are sure to need a substantial trim when social distancing is over.
Before Washington’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy,” measure was put into place, Elle Marie was offering curbside pick-up of retail items and gift cards – a great option for businesses who aren’t in areas with shelter-in-place restrictions. The studio is also selling retail products and kits (like a professional root touch up and color kit) they can ship to customers who are running out of their favorite products or don’t like seeing their roots visible on video conference calls.
The studio is also keeping their phone lines open to make it easy for people to schedule future appointments. They’re already planning extended hours upon reopening.
Many stores that sell games and gaming accessories – like collectible card games, board games, or tabletop roleplaying games – also act as community hubs for gaming events. With the restrictions of social distancing or shelter-in-place orders, hobby gaming stores are hit hard. These businesses are losing the ability to host events that usually bring in money from registration fees and sales from customers spending time in the store during events.
One of the best-selling events for gaming stores is Friday Night Magic – a weekly tournament that serves as the heartbeat of local Magic the Gathering communities nationwide. Losing Friday Night Magic and other Magic the Gathering events is a blow for gaming stores, but Next Level Gamers Den came up with a great way to keep events going.
Using their online ordering system and local delivery, Next Level began taking orders for all the products needed to hold an in-home Magic the Gathering event and marketing it as a fantastic way to keep stir-crazy families occupied. Next Level makes it easy and appealing for their customers by delivering faster than Amazon, including promotional prize support (generally unavailable to consumers), and offering to log event results into the official Magic the Gathering database.
Spearheaded by Providence, a Puget Sound healthcare system, the 100 Million Mask Challenge offers kits of medical-grade materials to area volunteers. These volunteers use their sewing machines to stitch masks for health care providers that are running dangerously low on crucial personal protection equipment (PPE).
When Kaas Tailored owner, Jeff Kaas, heard about the challenge, he converted his furniture factory into a mask manufacturing company in under 48 hours. Providence provided Kaas with the materials and designs for surgical masks and face shields, and Kaas even consulted engineering colleagues in other countries to improve on the designs.
“None of the [factory owners] I know are wealthy people,” Kaas said. “They’re just doers.” While Kaas Tailored is halting most of its furniture and upholstery production and “asking customers for some grace” as it puts its resources into making PPE, it’s this kind of community support and outreach that creates lifelong customers after the crisis is over.
However, that isn’t Kaas’s reason for such a dramatic shift.
“The primary motivation for this is love,” Kaas said, not money. “It’s a love-your-neighbor type of deal.”
Thanks to manufacturers like Kaas Tailored, Providence’s 100 Million Mask Challenge was so successful that they currently no longer need individual volunteers to sew masks.
“We’re pleased to report that local manufacturing companies have stepped up to rapidly produce masks and face shields for use on a large scale. As a result, we do not need volunteers to sew masks for our caregivers,” said the Providence 100 Million Mask Challenge website. “We’re also in the process of engaging a national partner to facilitate support from manufacturers and the business community to help build up our supply of personal protective equipment.”
Life can’t pause (or paws, in this case) because of coronavirus. That’s especially true for animals that still need loving homes. Before needing to close and put its animals in foster care due to Washington’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, adoption center Homeward Pet shifted to appointment-only visits. They also enforced social distancing measures by asking prospective pet parents to wait in their cars until they were called for an appointment.
It’s important to remember those in need during the pandemic, and that includes animals – and with so many of us now working from home, it’s a great time to find the right cat, dog, hamster, snake, or other companion to keep you company. If your area is under a shelter-in-place order, you can still help animal welfare organizations by donating funds or materials or even consider fostering.
Alcohol and Spirits
Unusual times make for unusual bedfellows, and the number of alcohol distilleries who are partnering with healthcare providers to create hand sanitizer proves that old platitude. Koenig Distillery uses locally-sourced Idaho potatoes to make potato vodka, but when they were contacted by St. Luke’s health system, they realized they could give back to their community.
“Who would have thought Idaho potatoes would be used in hand-sanitizer, but here we are,” Koenig Distillery president Andy Koenig said.
A Koenig Distillery team worked under pharmacist oversight to safely mix the ingredients and make about 650 gallons of hand sanitizer – so far. All told, they’ll produce about 6,000 bottles. St. Luke’s will then distribute the sanitizer to its hospitals and facilities around the state. The health system says these early efforts should be enough to help keep their supply going into May.
Small businesses that help our local communities have a better chance of being supported by their local communities both during disasters and after. Demonstrating integrity and compassion like Koenig has earns priceless goodwill and publicity.
Eight Bells Winery has kept their marketing transparent and folksy, as fitting for a family-run, local business. Their messaging is straight-forward but friendly, by reminding customers that “we look to you to help us get through this time by taking advantage of our alternate ways to purchase and telling your friends so we can deliver to them too!”
With their tasting room closed, Eight Bells is focusing on those alternative ways to purchase, which includes online ordering and free delivery service. Their pick-up service lets customers drive up directly and have their boxed order brought right to their car. Their free delivery service allows them to bring three or more bottles to customers looking to stock up.
What’s impressive about how Eight Bells Winery is adapting to the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis is that they don’t have a delivery service usually – as a family-run business, they’re enlisting the help of family members all through the Seattle area. They’re even open to deliveries outside of the city, willing to work with customers to keep business flowing and their customer community happy.
With the state of Washington requesting assistance, members of the Washington Distillers Guild shifted to producing hand sanitizer to FDA and WHO specifications. To prevent price gouging and provide public transparency, many distillers have also agreed to the Washington Distillers Guild uniform pricing structure, which includes discounts for first responders and healthcare facilities.
Heritage Distilling Company (HDC) is one of these guild members now producing and selling one of the most in-demand items during the COVID-19 outbreak: hand and surface sanitizer. Displaying excellent flexibility, HDC is even providing hand sanitizer on growler tap in their tasting rooms, including 8oz of complimentary hand sanitizer to anyone who spends a minimum of $15 in their tasting room. To prevent hoarding, HDC is limiting purchases to two 750ml bottles a day and closing tracking purchases.
With curbside pick-up, plans for senior-only shopping hours, and a strong partnership with local healthcare networks, HDC is supporting their community, gaining excellent exposure, and keeping revenue coming in with their ability to pivot quickly.