Small business owners need to learn techniques such as “fail fast”, the right courses, and go to default – and some do.
In early February, things were going well for Practice San Francisco, a center that offers one-on-one psychotherapy and lessons for children and adults to boost physical and mental health. The business was so good that owner Nina Kaiser, who is a psychiatrist, had just refurbished and moved into a larger space in an effort to double the income.
Then the coronavirus epidemic struck. In early March, Ms. Kaiser moved all of her classes and consulting services online. However, the video fatigue quickly started. “After a few weeks, we saw a sharp drop in attendance in all of our programs, even psychotherapy,” she says. So began the “Infinite Axis and Troubleshooting” period.
Like many other small businesses, the San Francisco practice, which has been around for three years, is essentially back to being a startup, using a strategy similar to the “quick fail” approach well known in startup culture: change made to an aspect of business, If it works, it stays, but if it fails, data is collected and something else is tried.
“There was a lot of thefts near the seat of your pants,” said Ms. Kaiser. “We see what doesn’t work, as we get into problems and fix our course. It’s this iterative and continuous process.”
The process is important now for small businesses, whose number fell by 22% – 3.3 million – between February and April, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.
With Practice San Francisco’s application delivered remotely, Ms. Kaiser has partnered with a local yoga studio to provide co-programming, increasing the business’s visibility and revenue. It worked for a few months and then became a problem. “It turned out that bringing the two societies together with different expectations turned out to be more difficult than I expected,” she said. Get in the fast approach: Collaboration has been severed and is being reshaped.
Subsequently, Ms. Kaiser decided to change her class model from a series-based one, while keeping a cohort of students together for an entire series. “It creates relationships in the classroom,” she says. “We are now deliberately focusing on community building.” Attendance increased from one or two per class to between eight and 15. Once it became clear that the epidemic was not going to be short-lived, the demand for remote psychotherapy began to increase. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Ms. Kaiser expects 2020 revenue to increase 50%.
The Greater Knead, a gluten-free and allergen-free company in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, is poised to have a good year in 2020. The eight-year-old company, which sells bread in supermarket bread stores, has finally made a profit. Its revenue was less than $ 1 million. In February, sales were up 20% and the company was well on its way to its best year yet, owner Michel Carvagnio said.
But in early March, sales fell sharply as stores closed and customers stayed home. Supermarkets began running out of Great Knead bread and they didn’t order again, instead concentrating on stocking items like toilet paper and cleaning supplies. In May, revenue fell 60%. However, a small bright spot was web sales, which were slowly increasing. Carvagno decided to capitalize on this and invested in social media ads, which it had never done before, to drive traffic to her website. Now that people were staying home, they were searching for Greater Ned Bagels online and she wanted to make sure that they could find it.
“Before the pandemic, people heard about us through word of mouth, signs in stores and demonstrations in the store,” she said. “It’s all gone.
Soon after, Carvagnio decided to work with the West Coast Distribution Center, enabling it to ship across the country, something she hadn’t previously considered due to the high shipping cost. Shipping of frozen bread. It turns out to be a smart move: By September, web sales are up 250%. “We are now seeing this as an opportunity to establish a direct relationship with clients,” said Ms. Carvagno.
It abandoned the planned move to a larger facility and instead decided to alter the physical layout of the manufacturing space to increase efficiency. It has also invested in automation, purchasing a state-of-the-art bread making machine as well as a packaging machine, which will vacuum-seal the bread, eliminating the need to freeze it for shipping. . Carvaneo expects revenue for 2020 to be about 5% higher than last year. It’s not the 20-30% that she expected, but the changes she made – and will continue to do so – have helped her in ways she never expected.
“We are now much more efficient,” she says. “And since we have consumers who buy directly from us, launching a new product is much cheaper. We are looking for other products that we can sell, perhaps a whole range of gluten-free baked goods.”
Anthony Casalina, founder and CEO of Squarespace, a website builder and hosting company with more than 2.5 million customers, most of them small businesses, sees a growing desire among these companies to try new strategies, including fostering a direct relationship online. With their customers. “The companies creating new websites on our platform and email marketing campaigns are at an all-time high,” he said. “Online sales on our platform have doubled.”
Before the pandemic, Seattle-based Snapbar, which set up selfie stations and photo booths dedicated to events, was the kind of company that did business over the phone and in person. Its employees in five cities used to set up “luxury photo booths” on events such as weddings and charity events. Snapbar has also introduced “selfie stands” – easy-to-install photo booths that use LED light and an iPad – for use at sporting and corporate events. In early 2020, the eight-year-old was on track to more than double its 2019 revenue, which was $ 3.2 million.
But by mid-March, Snapbar was losing all of its business and remote operation was not an option. During a sleepless frightened night, Sam Itzen, co-founder and CEO of the company, came up with 50 ideas for “themes, changes, adaptations, and reinventions.” Ultimately, he, his brother and co-founder, Joe Itzen, settled into Keep Your City Smiling, a direct consumer site that sells gift boxes filled with items from small, local businesses in a particular town. Sam Eitzen said, “We haven’t called ourselves or closed Snapbar, we’ve built something new.”
In its first three months, Keep Your City Smiling generated $ 500,000 in revenue, 50-60% of which goes to the small businesses whose products are included in each box. But as the pandemic progressed, orders slumped, and Itzen shifted his focus again, this time from consumer gifts to corporate gifts. This kept your city smile afloat, but it didn’t generate enough revenue to support Snapbar.
But during that time, Snapbar’s engineering director worked extensively on developing a product that he said could save the company: a virtual photo booth. “Most of the virtual corporate events are like conferences or webinars,” said Sam Itzen. “We are creating a personal and personal photo booth that is linked in a link on the event site. Therefore, one participant still consumes information, but can also participate in another way, by taking a selfie at the event and posting it to Instagram.”
This hub turned Snapbar into a tech company. The virtual photo booth is now the fastest growing product. Revenue – after the company goes bankrupt – is expected to reach $ 2 million this year.
“My brother and I have struggled with this big question,” said Sam Itzen. “After eight years of hard work, is it better for us to put all our savings back on the line? Or cut our losses and let the team go? But we really love the people we work with. That’s why we stayed there.”