Due to the many challenges brought about by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, women entrepreneurs have been forced to adapt to remote workplaces, the fluctuating economy, and an unpredictable future. On May 15, as the country continues to debate regional reopenings, Glamour editor in chief Samantha Barry hosted a roundtable with CNBC's restaurant and small business reporter Kate Rogers and three female small business owners to discuss how they've overcome these unpredictable obstacles and are planning for a post-COVID-19 landscape.
Here's just some of the applicable advice shared during their one-hour discussion, which you can watch in full, below.
"It's really about accelerated decision making and learning and leveraging technology," Shyla Sheppard, founder and CEO of Bow & Arrow Brewing Co., explained. This involved moving forward on plans that would typically take about a year or so to move on, which is especially difficult when your previous business model was all about creating a social experience.
"The majority of our revenue pre-COVID was on-premise consumptions—customers visiting us in our taproom," Sheppard said. "Since the to-go-only restrictions went into place, we've been scrambling to package product in crowler cans that are delivered from our side door." Now, Bow & Arrow Brewing Co. has put a pause on opening a second taproom and is buying a canning line, an exciting pivot for Sheppard.
Letting go of ego
Erin Patinkin, cofounder and CEO of Seemore Meats & Veggies, a women-owned sausage company focused on innovation and sustainability in the consumer packaged-meat industry, was on the cusp of securing series-A funding from investors, which was pulled the day the market crashed on March 13. This forced Patinkin and her company to quickly pivot and figure out how to allocate their limited funds.
"We had to change our strategy within a seven-day period," Patinkin said, which included making some sacrifices. "When we did go out and raise more money, we did so at a lower valuation with fewer dollars…. I let go of some ego around the valuation I thought I was going to have and said, 'This is the moment that we have to get the proper amount of money in, even if it's fewer dollars, in order to move forward.'"
Facing tough decisions head-on
Agatha Kulaga, CEO and cofounder of Ovenly, made the decision to close her award-winning wholesale bakery chain Ovenly on March 16, which involved laying off her entire staff of 66 employees. "It was survival mode," Kulaga said. "It was about 'What are the decisions to make right now to save our business so that we can reopen when this crisis is over?'" Since then, Ovenly has been able to reopen two locations and rehire some staff. "For us, it's important to look at reenvisioning what the business looks like in this economy."
"Right now entrepreneurs feel stressed and pressured to reopen and drive revenues to make up the sales and money that they lost," Kulaga continued. "It's so important to pivot and rethink strategy over the next six months, year, and then longer-term, but also to not rush it." She added that these unforeseen issues have also helped her and her company to take a look at what wasn't working before COVID-19 and rethink their operations: "It's like starting a brand-new business."
Sheppard is continuing to leverage technology, not only for her own business but to foster community. "It's really tough right now being a small business, but why not amplify each other and the causes we care about?" Sheppard asked. To that end, Sheppard is beginning to use tech and social media to create partnerships with other local businesses and finding ways to give back.
Her company even partnered with a local catering business that sells picnic charcuterie plates. "We encouraged people to order from her and she encouraged her customers to pair their picnic with our beers, and people loved it," Sheppard said, adding that they saw a major bump in social engagement. "We saw that simple pairing spark some joy in their Friday, and we really want to do more of that. We want to be a bright spot in our customers' day."
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