It’s no secret that the coronavirus crisis has wreaked havoc on small businesses.
A recent Yelp study indicates that at least 800 small businesses are closing per day in the United States, either temporarily or permanently. And ramped-up restrictions on businesses of all sizes — anticipated as cases spike throughout the nation — certainly won’t help matters.
But businesses around the country are staying afloat thanks, in no small part, to quick thinking from their owners. While “pandemic pivot” may be 2020’s most overused business buzzword, we’ve seen entrepreneurs find success by selling new products or services that speak to the challenging times we now live in. Or they’re moving their in-person offerings online, or even throwing out original plans for the year entirely and refocusing on the virtual components of what they do, make and sell.
[Related: These Life Coaches Know How to Pivot During a Crisis — Here’s Their Advice]
To be sure, not everyone is opting for such significant shifts. Take Tania Isenstein of doggy daycare Camp Canine in New York, who has staved off changing how her business operates in favor of simply chasing new clients who adopted pets while quarantining. Others, though, have made changes big and small to everyday operations in order to survive, often saving jobs and providing valuable resources to others in the process.
Below, we take a look at five savvy shifts from women leaders that kept businesses going — and in several cases, growing.
1. Karen Colberg and King Arthur Flour
Talk about adapting to the times. This Vermont brand is over 230 years old, but is going stronger than ever thanks to an uptick in home-baking during the pandemic. Rather than merely rest on its laurels — and a reported 600-percent increase in sales when lockdowns began in earnest — the company and its female leadership took to social media to engage with a new legion of at-home chefs in their kitchen explorations.
2. Heathyr Lawrence and Mantrap
Lawrence launched her small fashion boutique in 1989, and has weathered every earthquake and economic downturn that’s come her way since opening up. When the pandemic hit, she turned a spare bedroom in her California home into an at-home studio where she could continue to craft clothing and accessories in isolation. Then, when she got into the mask game for herself — after donating supplies to fellow makers and seeing how it was done — she ended up going viral on Instagram for her innovative bat-shaped masks. The edgier offering even opened her up to a new client base, Lawrence says.
[Related: 2020 Is the Year of Emerging Business Opportunities]
3. Brenda Stoner and Pickup
When 2020 began, Stoner’s Texas-based large-item shipping company, Pickup, had a presence in 51 U.S. markets and partnerships with national retailers like Buy Buy Baby and Pier 1, as well as scores of smaller sellers. Then, the pandemic hit. In addition to tightening her budget — which involved cutting her own pay — and ramping up contact with those large partners, she also added grocery store deliveries to the services she offers, at lower rates than what she charges for moving things like furniture. Thanks to her quick thinking, the company is still going strong today.
4. Christina Geist and Boombox
Boombox lets people celebrate others’ milestones by providing an online way for customers to gather letters, photos and more, which are then crafted into giftable boxes full of professionally designed cards. The New York City company is actually doing well at present, thanks to a new product — one Geist says she had no intention of launching in 2020. But the virtual version of the boxes, which can be enjoyed on recipients’ smartphones or laptops, has resulted in sales figures that were 182 percent higher in October 2020 than they were in October 2019, she reports.
5. Ali Rose of Genusee
Rose’s eco-conscious glasses-making venture has also expanded despite the negative impacts of Covid-19. She started the year with three employees — now, she has 12. New products like fog-free lenses and services like at-home try-ons have contributed greatly to her company’s growth. But Rose attributes much of the uptick in interest to the overtly values-driven nature of the brand, and the greater desire consumers now have in using their dollars more ethically.
[Related: Here’s a Look at the Post-Pandemic Business Picture]