For many of us, self-isolation also means isolating ourselves from news, social media and any other ‘white noise’. It means slowing down, getting back to what’s really important – our health, our families, our self-education and long-forgotten hobbies. Isn’t it something we all needed so much?
But while enjoying this unexpected personal tranquility amidst the world’s chaos, we shouldn’t forget that there are also people who are not in a position to shut everything down, sit back and patiently wait for the storm to pass. These are small business owners, whose life literally depends on the income from their business. It’s them who suffer the most right now. Or not?
In the past few days, I spoke to a few friends of mine owning small and not-so-small businesses from Auckland to Dunedin to find out how this whole self-isolation situation affects them. And while I was looking for a way to support them through some extra exposure with this article, in fact, it’s these smart, positive and strong people are the ones who supported ME during our chats. Why? Because most of them, despite experiencing various difficulties with their businesses at the moment, didn’t give up and even found positive aspects of this situation. They made me believe that challenges are only here to make us stronger, to adapt, to update familiar and, quite possibly, outdated approach to work with new, innovative, creative ideas. They keep on swimming and so should you!
How self-isolation affects local businesses
Mila Arena, V On Wheels
Vegan food delivery
I’m definitely seeing big changes! Good changes but also new challenges. Speaking of the good, our website and social media are going crazy right now and it’s been crazily busy at the kitchen lately. People are staying at home and want to have their food delivered.
We don’t have enough couriers to deliver all the orders in time, it’s just impossible for the courier companies to keep up with the demand right now. And food needs to be delivered on time, it can’t sit outside the freezer for too long! We also have difficulties with ingredients – there is not enough stock, so I’m forced to quickly find replacements for some of my recipes. After all, everything is a little bit delayed but we need to be patient. There is no reason to panic or get upset, we will be fine!
I would like to spread a positive message. Changes are good! Sometimes we need them to take us out of our comfort zone, to heal and come to ourselves again. Community spirit is very important at the moment! Use any chance to spread positivity, hope and faith!
Alana Broadhead-Fryer, Sunday home store
Interior design store
Our business is run just by my husband and I – and it is our livelihood. At this stage, we don’t know just how much the pandemic will affect our business. But what Warren and I do know is that we’re grateful to the New Zealand government for taking a hard and early stance to flatten the curve, and we’re grateful we and our fellow small business owners may have some financial assistance available if needed. The uncertainty is unsettling, but it’s important in life and in hard times to consciously make a choice that you’ll focus on what you can do, focus on what is in your control (like your mental energy – we’re in complete control each day where we put our mental energy).
This will pass, and while we’re all going through it (together), we can find and create positives from the situation. There is always something to be grateful for. We can also use this time to come together more closely (just not physically!) as a community – help those less fortunate, support our fellow local businesses more than ever. Perhaps this is just what the world needs to be reminded of what’s important, and how precious life is.
Warren and I have always said that we wanted Sunday to be more than just a store, but hopefully also an inspiration in some small way to our amazing customers. We believe in buying less, but better (quality over quantity); we believe in supporting New Zealand brands (most of our products come from NZ brands and makers) and we also believe in consciously Designing a Life you Love. This situation is scary, for sure, but it’s also an opportunity to hold fast to our beliefs and hold on to the good.
Viv Conway & Tasha Meys, Ace The Gram
Instagram marketing and Instagram podcasts
It’s definitely a weird time to be a small business with all the uncertainty and cancellations.
We are choosing to change our upcoming March Instagram marketing workshops from in-person to virtual workshops using Zoom.
We are also getting more podcast listens. Normally it’s approx 2K a week and this week is around 2,500. Probably, that’s because people are staying at home and have more free time!
Amanda Wiggins, Clean Mixes
Healthy baking and raw treats mixes
With regards my wee bis in this current situation, here are my thoughts/observations:
- Clean Mixes is a small business and about half of our revenue comes from wholesale sales, about half from direct online sales. Revenue from wholesale sales is massively affected as people shop for necessities rather than high-end items.
- I spent Monday and Tuesday visiting my supermarket stockists in Wellington – a prearranged trip that happened to be right when the bombshell of Covid-19 was hitting! All of the supermarkets I visited were experiencing unprecedented demand for basics like toilet paper, pasta, pasta sauce, medications, personal care items like soap. Shoppers aren’t purchasing healthy snack options like Clean Mixes – our main selling point is these are healthy, low sugar snacks with premium ingredients. It’s not what people are thinking about right now.
- My other observation in meeting supermarket buyers this week is they are incredibly focussed on supply, but at the same time, distracted by events. Not only are they trying to keep up with supply issues, but just like the rest of us, Covid-19 affects their personal lives too. One buyer told me her daughter’s wedding will likely be cancelled and another buyer said their cruise has been cancelled. It’s stressful for everyone and the impacts are broad-reaching. So things like Clean Mixes are literally the LAST thing on their mind.
- Most of my in-store tastings have been cancelled due to Covid-19. These in-store tastings are a hugely important part of my supermarket strategy and account for around 60% of my supermarket sales. Those in-store tastings are postponed or cancelled indefinitely. The odd one is not yet cancelled but I am sure they are due to be cancelled any day.
- Another important driver of both sales and brand awareness are expos. I was booked for a stand at the upcoming Go Green Expo in Auckland. That has now been postponed until October.
- The downturn in sales – both real and forecasted has flow-on effects for inventory control – I now have more stock than I need. I’m trying to see the opportunity in all of this, after all, I still need to make money!
- My focus this week is going to be on putting together ‘make-at-home’ Clean Mixes packs. Different varieties and flavours – and have optional extras available to purchase that you need to make Clean Mixes at home. I’ll offer my customers the wet ingredients needed from our website – coconut oil and rice malt syrup. Making Clean Mixes will give people a fun activity to do at home plus some yummy healthy treats to snack on.
- So online sales will become my focus for a while – presumably more people working from home and self-isolating means more people browsing the internet. This is where I will try to get the Clean Mixes brand out there!
The key message from me is this is about seeing where the opportunity lies (online sales)
and being fast and agile to steer the ship in that direction.
Anne Buttar, WONDERLAND PR & Social Media
PR-management and strategic communications
So far it’s not affected us as a business, but I expect the impending recession will. However, I weathered the 2008 recession really well – I was laid off and in my downtime, I wrote my first book and I started my business – Wonderland. So I KNOW good can come of this if we all just look forward!
Laura Cope, Use Your Own + Takeaway Throwaways
Online directory of socially and environmentally responsible cafes + initiative to ban single-use items in New Zealand cafes
The UYO guide and the UYO Instagram have been responding to the concerns and also the solutions, presented by our cafes, their customers and our Instagram following. Social media is acting as a safe space for cafes to share their news, to connect with each other and to generally keep us all connected. Engaging with each other online is a beautiful way to keep ourselves centred.
As is taking time to breathe. We can, of course, interact with our land and water and air while practising social distancing and for many of us, this crazy time has been a catalyst to get back to what is truly important for our Haoura. The sunrises are being appreciated more. Love is being cherished more. Our beaches and hills, even parks and open spaces are there for us. UYO have noticed that – with or without coffee – the humans we share our online space with are keeping themselves wholesome by simply taking more time to just BE.
As far as cafe life goes, the overwhelming feeling from both sides of the counter is that it is vital to support community, online or in person, and engage the kiwi common sense and ingenuity that we are famous for. Aotearoa New Zealand is always a beacon of goodness, always. And it is playing that role so well today. Cafes are being flexible and adaptive in the measures they are taking to keep us and their staff feeling and actually being safe:
- asking us to hold onto our lids when we hand over CLEAN keep cups (and this is a great reminder that baristas are not our mummies and we should always present clean cups for our coffee!)
- encouraging us to ask for dine-in cups (and reassuring us that their hygiene plans are 100% following Ministry of Health guidelines
- letting us know that if they do not accept keep cups at present (and this is mostly as an over-cautious strategy to show staff that they are fully cared for and their physical AND emotional well being is prioritized by their employers), we are welcome to be clever kiwis and order a ceramic dine-in cup, then pour it ourselves into our keep cups.
7 new cafes have listed with the UYO guide this past week, and we have had only one cafe who is refusing keep cups and is not able to offer options as they are a coffee cart and do not have equipment to sterilise dine-in cups. BUT the feeling is a bright one with cafes using wording that shows they are looking forward to ‘getting back to normal’ in serving reusables. This is massive! It means that reusables are considered by hospitality to be ‘normal’! 3 years ago this wasn’t the case.
UYO and the Takeaway Throwaways campaign are both aware that this is a time for quietly treading water, of using our logic and common sense to live our ethics without compromising the health of our planet or ourselves. People are connecting with their communities, reconnecting with their families, reevaluating the way they live. Love, quite seriously, is shining through. Even just in the cafe and restaurant and foodie world, the messages of support for small businesses, the outpouring of gratitude to customers, and the understanding that we are stronger together shows us that we will be in a far better position to work together to deal with the huge issues that face our planet, once we emerge from the current situation. We are so much more aware of each other now than we were 6 months ago. We are feeling connected. We are very aware (as frightening as it can sometimes seem) that we truly are one planet, in the same situation with the same fears but also the same determination to get through together. And that is the vital element that may have been missing before in our greater fight to create climate action.
Wendy Kim & Sara Sadd, Nellie Tier
Natural skincare from New Zealand
Like all small businesses, Nellie Tier natural skincare brand is facing an uncertain year but we are taking steps to protect our staff and to move through the next winter with a positive view to the future. As a brand, we have always had a loyal following. We hope that our customers will continue to buy local and give their support. We, in turn, will look at offering ways to make purchasing more cost-effective and interesting for them.
One of our initial projects is an antibacterial and antiseptic natural Hand Wash full of our usual ‘goodness’ and active ingredients which include manuka honey, aloe vera and an essential oil blend including tea tree and lavender.
The second of our winter wellness products is a new blend of our popular bath salts in delicious Eau de Nil green (tinted with green French clay). Relax into this bath and enjoy the added benefits of the antibacterial and antiseptic steam generated by our essential oil blend that includes lavender, lemon and tea tree!