Over the past two months, small business owners across the UK have faced new worries over their futures. But in exceptional times, living creatures have an intrinsic drive to dig deep, to find previously untapped reserves of strength and resourcefulness. And often, adversity is a catalyst for creativity.
All over the world, small business owners are finding new ways of generating income and fostering community ties. And from their side, communities are coming together to rally behind their local small businesses. In this mutual relationship of care and support, heartwarming and inspirational stories are popping up all over. Stories that are worth sharing – ones we can learn from, to help guide business strategy moving forward.
Here are a few things that have happened since lockdown. At the end of each one, we give our main takeaways. You’ll see a common thread of community and togetherness running through each example.
You can read other practical info, like UK-specific small business grants and benefits, in Holvi’s coronavirus information package.
1. Offer your products/services online
When footfall falls, digital sales rise. The tide might be turning, but the UK is still on lockdown. And for a population sheltered in their homes it’s the perfect time to adapt your products and services to digital. We’ve seen a shift towards people attending virtual yoga and fitness classes, even virtual gigs.
Many small business owners have already used their resourcefulness to move services online. But if you’ve run a traditional business your whole life, it’s okay not to be first on the bandwagon. Finding an approach that works for you is paramount for long term success.
New target groups are emerging, such as parents who work remotely while their children stay home from daycare. One British business has found special success in filling this much needed service gap.
Day Out with the Kids is the UK’s biggest website for parents looking to find family activities outside the home. But with lockdown, families are forced to stay in. So Day Out have switched focus to providing suggestions for indoor activities that keep the kids busy while the parents work. From ‘day out’ to ‘day in’: busy kids means focused parents – everyone wins!
Folk-punk troubadour Frank Turner is performing live gigs from the safety of his home and streaming them on social channels. Each gig is free to watch, with donations accepted to support a different independent venue each night. Turner’s international fanbase lets the musician use his considerable reach to support small businesses close to his heart, regularly surpassing his target of £10,000 raised – all while staying connected to his fans and doing what he loves.
Empathy is the driving force behind both these success stories. People buy into businesses they believe in, ones that show spirit and humanity – and this is now truer than ever. In the absence of physical footfall, how can you move your product or service online to connect with your audience and continue flourishing?
2. Raise awareness through community-based campaigns
Going back to the new target group of work-at-home parents, London-based childcare app Bubble Babysitting is running an initiative to connect key workers in need of childcare with medical students whose time is freed up by postponed work placements. For Bubble, this is a way of giving back to the community and providing support to key workers who risk their lives each day. For the medical students, it represents a chance to thank their tutors and mentors in a meaningful way.
Bubble workers say it’s the best they’ve ever felt about their jobs – giving new meaning to their daily responsibilities. Plus it’s earned them some favourable press and boosted their trust value as a brand.
3. Launch delivery/takeaway service
Even if you can’t run your product or service totally online, you can still run your business without opening doors to the public. One way is to offer a pick-up/delivery service.
Old Chang Kee, a London restaurant specialising in Singaporean puff pastries, is now offering frozen meals by delivery. Sandra Leong, the restaurant’s owner, sees their frozen meal service as a way of engaging with the community, keeping in touch with their customers and providing an essential service.
Outside of London, Birmingham-based GlassHouse Beer Co. started a can delivery service to reach people in isolation. Payment takes place prior to delivery, and the cans are left on the customer’s front step, porch or near the garden gate. In their first 24 hours, GlassHouse sold more than £2,500 in pre-order.
As normal business slows down, now is the time to try offering food delivery for busy key workers or elderly people living at home. But restaurants are just one example. There are countless stories like this – like the London indie booksellers who are now delivering online sales via skateboard. Think how you can adopt these learnings in your market, with your customers.
As a small business owner, you know that each connection is valuable – now is the time to nourish connections and strengthen community ties, wherever possible.
4. Invest in your future
Going digital might not work for every business – let’s face it, for some it’s just not doable. Hairstylists and massage therapists can’t exactly work their magic via webcam. But there are other solutions out there.
London-based Crudo Cevicheria has paired with Local Small Businesses to sell online vouchers that buy customers future meals, available for pickup once the restaurant reopens. This keeps cash flow coming in, and loyal customers can feel good knowing they’ve helped support a favourite business. Plus, who doesn’t love the idea of a free meal in the future, after you’ve forgotten the £10 you paid that one time?
How the Light Gets In (HTLGI) is a non-profit contemporary festival focusing on philosophy and science, with a healthy dose of music and comedy thrown in. After cancelling their physical festival slated for May in Hay-on-Wye, Wales, they shifted some debates and roundtables online. On top of offering refunds, HTLGI is politely asking festivalgoers to push their payments forward to 2021’s festival or consider donating as part of their crowdfunding effort to absorb the financial loss.
Every business should plan for the future, no matter the times. But when circumstances dictate that you shut down shop, future focus becomes the number one priority. Reflect on how you can create financial well-being in the future with promotional activities today. This is an exercise in limitations – but you might be surprised how creative you can be under pressure.
Another way of investing in your future is to teach yourself new tricks! This is where online courses come into play. When it comes to your business, can you improve your SEO skills, learn how to advertise on social, or master Google Ads? Or maybe you finally take that bookkeeping course your sister-in-law recommended. Improving your skills and knowledge keeps you mentally sharp – and it’ll pay dividends down the line.
5. Switch to online banking
Right now, it’s not business as usual. As high street banks encourage customers to use online services, now is the time to go all the way and make the permanent leap to online banking. Holvi has everything you need to run your business in one place, online.
For the self-employed, opening a business bank account is the first step in finding financial success. Digitalising the financial side of your business helps connect different elements like invoicing, expenses and bookkeeping, simplifying life so you can focus on what matters.
Read our ‘7 reasons to open a separate business account’ article for insights into how Holvi can help your business grow.
Key learnings and connecting threads
Here are those learnings again:
Offer your products/services online
Raise awareness through community-based campaigns
Launch delivery/takeaway service
Invest in your future
Switch to online banking
And if there’s one thing we’ve learned from these stories, it’s that people want to feel connected. You can see this everywhere you look! Small business owners’ voices have been heard, and communities have founded groups and campaigns focused on providing support to those in need.
Times are tight financially right now, and people are realising that taking care of each other comes first.
Small British businesses adapting best show three main traits:
- Adapting to digital
- Future focus, and above all
- Empathy for their customers
After all, we’re all in this together.