How small business is pivoting to remain strong during Covid-19

Throughout this pandemic, a strong sense of goodwill has prevailed. Businesses and their communities are finding new ways to support each other. While loyal customers look for ways to help their favorite businesses stay afloat, companies are pivoting, shifting their business models to deliver exactly what is needed at this point in time.

Prior to the pandemic, 15-20 percent of businesses were estimated to transform to a different operating model in line with changing markets. Since February of this year, more and more businesses are changing tack. Many are doing so out of necessity, facing the biggest threat they’ve ever encountered. Others are doing so to make good use of equipment and technology, producing materials desperately needed in the healthcare industry. Flowfold in Maine has built its business manufacturing wallets and backpacks from recycled sailcloth. Now, the company is creating face shields for healthcare workers. The Listoke Distillery near Dublin, Ireland is using some of its gin stills to produce hand sanitizer.

At a local level, restaurants and cafes are shifting gear to serve their communities in different ways, displaying the innovation, values and entrepreneurship their businesses were built on. One of these organizations is Jenna Marie’s Deli in Stamford, CT. For 25 years, this popular deli has flourished within its community, offering a friendly, relaxed environment for lunches, take-outs and deliveries to local workplaces.

COVID-19 and the resulting stay-in-place measures could have floored the business, as a large proportion of its customers from local businesses began working remotely. Instead, the founders quickly identified how they could help others, support their community and continue trading. Known for its freshly prepared home cooking, the deli has existing connections with local food producers and suppliers, and extended these connections to develop new contacts, too. “I had to research and find new suppliers quickly,” said co-owner Joe Claps.

Jenna Marie’s Deli quickly transformed into a minimart, offering milk, eggs and other groceries to its customers and extending its opening hours from the previous three and a half hours around lunchtime each day to being open eight hours a day. Good will from the community played a key role in what happened next.

“I have a lot of very good friends,” says Joe. “They immediately purchased significant gift cards and told me to use them to help those in need, those on the front lines from our police officers to healthcare workers. Some said please use this to help families in need.” Jenna Marie’s Deli began delivering to local hospitals, to boost healthcare workers on the frontline of the crisis.

Joe and his team are learning new skills and adapting its working practices to the new safety measures. “I’ve learned how to cater to the new hospital environment, with everything individually wrapped and labelled,” Joe states. The deli has also been experimenting with new marketing channels such as Instagram (@jennamariestamford) and website Stamford Moms.

These wise moves have meant that Joe’s business has retained its workers throughout this period and the deli has continued its important role in the Stamford community. “Hey, I’m only 70,” said Joe. “It’s a great time to learn new things!”

Jenna Marie’s Deli and other businesses that have pivoted during this pandemic share six success factors:

• Strong, motivational leadership
• Flexibility, adaptability and a willingness to change
• Highly motivated, engaged employees
• Creativity, innovation and a desire to do things differently
• Thoughtful consideration of their assets, and how to apply those assets for good
• A spirit of entrepreneurialism which runs throughout their organization

The determination to triumph over adversity is strong among small business. It’s why they are finding ways to adapt to stay successful during this difficult time.

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