Small business proves that agility and innovation can equal opportunity, even in the direst of situations.
Small businesses are struggling to survive the initial impact of COVID19 crisis, let alone weather the storm. While most companies are re-evaluating their bottom lines and tightening operations, some have made fast, agile moves in response to the pandemic, from repurposing their target market to a complete shift in production lines.
Here are examples of how some small businesses prove that agility and innovation can equal opportunity, even in the direst of situations:
Establishing a New Target Market: Event Solutions Business Reforms
A branding and event-driven business model would seem disastrous in the current self-isolation, essential-only business environment. But two such companies are not just coping with the crisis, but rising to the occasion by repurposing their offerings towards a new target market.
Michigan-based TentCraft manufactures custom pop-up tents, event accessories and experiences. Now, in order to alleviate the burden of COVID-19, TentCraft creates ‘portable, quick-deploy medical screening and containment tents’ while increasing safety, capacity for testing and care. In a mid-March company address, Matt Bulloch, president and founder, stated: “We, together, are going to completely re-tool the company to focus on supporting health and medical applications. Our products are going to be in demand and will save lives.” Not only did the company leverage their current product offerings but also created new products, such as cots and partitions, to meet new demand.
Event branding production house, Britten, dedicates their business to delivering innovative signage, displays and other creative solutions to create unforgettable experiences. Since the crisis began to take real effect in the United States, Britten is now dedicating solutions to COVID19 response, including customizing shipping containers for mobile testing sites, handwashing stations, social distancing signage, and PPE fabrication.
Finding New Purpose: Social Impact Efforts Revive Restaurant Revenues
With the restaurant business closing its doors to on-premise dining and moving to take-out/delivery only, the shift can be detrimental. This was the situation faced by West Oakland based Brown Sugar Kitchen, chef and owner Tanya Holland. She reached out to friends and community members to encourage orders thereby inspiring local author, Ayelet Waldman in another way. With a friend in the medical profession, Ayelet promptly ordered 25 meals and delivered them to a nearby emergency center as an expression of gratitude and a way to help a local business in need. This one action grew fast to form East Bay FeedER, combining volunteer efforts, local residents, and participating independently-owned restaurants. Now, through individual donations, locally purchased meals are delivered daily to nearby hospitals, saving businesses while expressing thanks to those on the front lines.
Full Scale Pivots: Altering Manufacturing on the Production Line
From breweries to 3D printing houses, examples of extreme manufacturing pivots are ample. Demonstrating their ability to rapidly respond to new market needs, these businesses are proving sustainability and opportunity can be found when you seek it:
Designer and manufacturer of 3D Printers, New York based Budman Industries has stopped all 3D Printer sales in order to focus efforts on producing shield devices for healthcare works. They didn’t stop there. Budman is coordinating resources of individuals and companies with the means to produce 3D face shields to match supplies with health care centres and those in need. They are providing a free digital download of 3D face shield files.
Shine Distillery & Grill owner, Jon Poteet, operates a 260-seat distillery and restaurant in Portland, Oregon. Given the pandemic, he’s quickly applied his brewery operations into a hand sanitizer facility, keeping his 25 person staff employed while rapidly meeting new customer demand. “Our business doubled overnight. I realized that this was a game-changer,” stated Poteet. A big believer in community giveback, he has donated thousands of bottles to individuals and community organizations. He has also generously shared the hand sanitizer recipe with distilleries across the country.
Tampa-based company, SynDaver, makes synthetic human bodies for anatomy training. Due to COVID19, they began to manufacture respirators, initially to help with the shortage in Florida. "It is a level of protection that we’re making available to people who can’t get anything else." said Christopher Sakezles, CEO of Syndaver Labs. Since they began manufacturing, interest in the respirators has been growing. Syndaver Labs also provides the 3D version design file so individuals can develop one themselves.