Creativity, Innovation, and Resilience: How Small Businesses are Surviving COVID
By Megan Rosati
It’s now been five months since the COVID-19 pandemic began to rock our country – and our small businesses. With 1 in 3 small businesses already closed, and 41% percent of small businesses reporting a 50% decline in revenue in the past four months (via Small Business Majority) entrepreneurs are getting creative with how they offer their services in order to survive.
Thanks to social distancing, online content has become more important than ever – and small businesses are no exception. From Instagram LIVE sales from our favorite vintage stores, to socially distanced take-out from our local cafes, small businesses have taken advantage of social media to find new ways to reach their customers. Even though some small businesses have lost their retail space, online shopping has given them the breath of a second life online.
Innovation doesn’t just stop at how small businesses operate; many owners have even pivoted their very operations to address the specific needs of the pandemic. We’ve seen clothing manufacturers pivot to producing PPE, and merchandising companies pivot to create branded masks and signs. Local restaurants have held pantry sales to help people recreate the dining experience at home, and donated food to help out their communities. Even during this stressful time, small businesses have found ways to continue giving back to their communities.
Although this outbreak has been tragic for many small businesses, with women and people of color owned businesses being hit the hardest, we are inspired by those who have adapted to keep their businesses afloat. Without further ado, here are some of our favorite creative pivots by local entrepreneurs in the Los Angeles area.
Given the pandemic we find ourselves in, we risk more at risk of losing the small businesses that make our neighborhoods feel like home than ever before. A recent survey by Small Business Majority found that 44% of small businesses are predicted to close. For those of you interested in supporting Black-owned businesses in LA, we’re shining the spotlight on a few of our favorites. From natural hair care to art and fashion galleries, check out the entrepreneurs we’ve FOUND.
Flybrow is an eyebrow shaping service located in Los Angeles. Like many aesthetic-oriented businesses, Flybrow relied on in-person customers for their business. Although they tried offering their mobile in-home brow shaping service the first week of shutdown, it became increasingly clear that visiting clients wasn’t a valid quarantine option. Unlike retail stores and restaurants, who were able to quickly transition to an online or delivery experience, Flybrow couldn’t recreate their experience virtually.
Using her son’s school iPad and the illustration program, Procreate, Suzie began to offer virtual brow consultations, using her experienced aesthetic to “draw” after brows on pictures of her clients. Thanks to technology, Flybrow at Home was born. Now that some version of quarantine life has become everyone’s “new normal,” Flybrow anticipates keeping their virtual brow service as part of their business model for the foreseeable future. They’ve also expanded their offerings to “Pod Pop Ups,” where they do the eyebrows outside for you and your quarantine pod. As founder Suzie Moldovan says, “Who knew that brow services could be done virtually!”– Suzie Moldovan’s business, FLYBROW
Robinne Burrell is the founder of Red Flight Innovation, a company that helps create apps and other virtual tech experiences. Through FOUND/LA, she received a scholarship to go through the Multicultural Executive Women’s Leadership Program last fall (2019) because of her social impact strategy which is to teach STEAM and technology to underserved communities.
When COVID hit, all of Robinne’s clients paused their contracts. She was declined for both the PPP and the EIDL loan. She was also denied unemployment. She thought she would have to close her business when one of her clients reached out and asked if she had any kind of kit that could be shipped to the families who normally participate in her STEAM camp. She didn’t, but like any true entrepreneur, she said yes anyway and went on to figure it out.
Combining her corporate tech industry knowledge with her non-profit educational experience, Robinne created Code.Chella. Code.Chella is an at-home STEAM kit that recreates what goes on behind the scenes at those music festivals from home. The virtual camp takes place over Zoom, with kids using items from the kit to learn about coding and programming at home over the course of three days. From creating algorithms for TikTok dances, building electronic synthesizers, engineering a kinetic structure, experimenting with the chemiluminescence of glow sticks or designing LED wearables, Code.chella has created a kit that stands at the very intersection of art and technology.– Robinne Burrell’s business, Code.Chella
Good All Day launched their event and creative agency in early March 2020 to help brands connect to people through experiential marketing, with humor and love. They left their jobs with major creative agencies to launch an event marketing agency during a pandemic and an atmosphere of civil unrest. But in this unrest, founder Alex Stark said they saw an opportunity: “Our CEO grew up in downtown LA. Her friend’s salon was looted, but they were still out marching anyway, so our first campaign was around Black Lives Matter. That was the first effort that we self-funded, because we just wanted to do something good, and that ended up becoming our initial campaign.”
Their first activism campaign put the spotlight on looted neighborhoods in Los Angeles in support of the movement for Black lives, with free downloadable posters on their website, 1,500 red roses and lots of heart. Being in the events and creative branding industry during a global pandemic (when in-person gatherings come to a halt and marketing budgets are stripped) meant the team had to rotate and get virtual in all they offered, pretty much from Day 1.
As Stark says, “”The biggest challenge is being okay with less money than we anticipated. We’re all optimistic people obviously, but it’s been hard to admit we’re not going to make what we were making before or what we’re planning on making. You have to figure out what you value and what you want to do with your life. If you follow your guiding principles, the money will come later.” Staying true to their core values, and leading with innovation to help their community: that’s the value of small business.– Alex Stark’s business, Good All Day
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