COVID-19: SMALL BUSINESSES ADAPT AND INNOVATE
The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing small businesses to innovate to stay afloat. It’s the speed and the extent of change that is stunning. Some businesses are now 100% online, having been 100% in-person a month earlier. Sleepless nights thinking of scenarios (good and bad) have become a reality for small business owners around the country and around the world.
At a basic level, businesses are facing shortages of materials and parts as offshore supply chains lockdown. Some local companies are not able to provide a workplace or all the products they used to. Some businesses may have depended on a market or supply chain that is now gone.
A fantastic example of adapting to this new reality can be found in the distillery industry. Previously booming boutique gin and whiskey makers supplied pubs and venues. As this market evaporated, distillers used lateral thinking and access to big quantities of high-grade alcohol to fill the sudden demand for hand sanitiser. These new products keep money coming in and keep employees in work.
What has changed most in your industry ecosystem? Changing demand patterns will need to be understood to see opportunities.
Food buying has changed. Home freezers and pantries are full. Shelf-stable and long-life products are in demand. We don’t go out, we cook at home, daily. What inspiration and what assistance would go down well? What can commercial kitchens offer as a product or a service?
The social isolation required for the coming months will have an impact on children and adults. What are the services that will be sought after for health and for fun. How can they be delivered well?
SOLFIT YOGA AND BARRE
Former NEIS client Tracey from Solfit Yoga and Barre is now delivering her classes via Instagram TV, along with suggestions for creating a sanctuary at home where you can simply roll out your yoga mat. For barre classes, Tracey’s clients are encouraged to hold onto their couch, kitchen counter or the back of the chair.
OLIVIA O’CONNOR CARVING
Olivia O’Connor makes and restores rocking horses, and runs wood-carving and rocking horse making classes. This former NEIS client took a few days to fine-tune new private carving lessons from her workshop straight into her client’s homes with Skype or FaceTime. Tools can be hired, and even timber can be delivered for lessons in letter carving, pattern and relief carving or gold leafing. “Hopefully some digital downloads for rocking horse restoration will be on their way soon as well,” says Olivia. “Let’s all stay active, creative and connected.”
If you are a retail business you need to be open to learning new things. Is your online store everything it needs to be? If you don’t have one, you are missing out to your competitors (and their online store is looking great). Get your message out through social media, blogging and emails. If the online world is new to you – it’s time to learn. Keep your brand in front of people with real and valuable offers. These efforts should work together as a campaign. Use the best free apps and media platforms available, such as Canva and Later. Your online sales may come through your website, or you might be exposed to a larger audience by joining etsy or implementing shoppable Instagram. Test your ideas and ask questions of your community – what are they looking for? Building relationships with your followers on social media is imperative, especially if you are considering a relaunch or a changed business model.
Former NEIS client Larrikin Puppets is going for exposure by including their community in a film clip for their new single ‘Dance like a unicorn’. Followers are encouraged to register and film themselves dancing, for possible inclusion in the video. When your business model involves being within a couple of metres of a packed audience, it’s time to see what else is in the toolbox. Taking performances online is an exciting way to keep reaching your audience, and is an especially good approach for one of the puppeteers, Elissa, who is immune-compromised.
“We will have a 4 track EP out later this year. We were hoping for an 11 track album but sadly we can’t get to the recording studio anymore due to social distancing and trying to keep Elissa at home,” says Larrikin Puppets owner Brett. “We’re also learning new tech and live-streaming skills so that we can perform our interactive puppet shows to online viewers. It’s the live interaction that makes our shows special, so we want to be able to feed off the audience as we always have. The music video is just one of our initiatives.”
Whatever your business, at the very least there will be some readjustment of your working day and working conditions. We are not talking about for next week – it’s going to be months! You have more experience now than when you first started, use that to understand your new situation – find the possibilities and build your business.
Take the first step to self-employment with free NEIS training. NEIS is an Australian Government sponsored new business training program, to assist with self-employment. Use the postcode finder for your local provider and contact them for a chat.
For the latest health information and advice regarding COVID-19, visit the Australian Government Department of Health website, which includes coronavirus resources such as a home isolation and care fact sheet.