Staying Alive: Pivoting through the Pandemic
By Alex Potter, Programme Manager East London
We have all heard the importance of shopping local, increasing sustainable consumption habits and supporting our local businesses. From podcasts to news articles, we’ve been inundated with the importance of resilience in times of crisis; easier said than done – especially for businesses that have historically had less help in terms of community, resource and business support.
Forgotten Ltd – a campaign raising awareness of the lack of government support for the small business community across the UK – has shown that even for the best companies responding in the best way, they can often be overlooked and underserved by the status quo. As directors of small, limited companies, many are not eligible for the self-employment income support scheme. In addition, many do not qualify for small business grants, due to not being in commercial premises.
Due to this overwhelming wave of negative economic effect with little to no support, the underappreciated solutions implemented in traditional brick and mortar businesses may well challenge us to think differently about our local wine vendor – and how they can survive.
Throughout the pandemic we’ve seen countless examples of resilience from our NHS and key workers, families and friends. From well-known heroes like Captain Sir Tom Moore to the unsung heroes of the pandemic at your local supermarket, humanity has shown that nothing can keep us down. The same is true of your local business owner, they have pivoted, innovated, and fought tooth-and-nail to stay afloat this last year.
Here are some founders we know or have worked with, who are challenging our perception of innovation and embodying the very definition of resilience; and their stories, both before and after.
For a local café/coffee shop and wine bar – The Hive is an example the kind of business that has been hit the hardest.
Before: Marco & his team at The Hive would run their coffee shop, wine bar and café as a local hub in Hackney; educating their community to the benefits of natural, organic vegan and biodynamic produce.
After: An eCommerce and education platform for those who want to learn informally about where they source their food and drink from, even incorporating their customer into their journey of wine production through systems such as crowdfunding for their very own biodynamic vineyard!
Marco, from The Hive, told us;
“The main strategy that helped to increased wine sales both online and for the physical shop was to update ‘Google My Business’ with more details and pictures and in general have a stronger local online presence. We did this by starting a blog that is helping us with SEO and we’re using the ‘Business Model Canvas’ to evaluate which is the best next move in terms of advertising and where to use our monthly marketing budget. Also, after we added new tools typically used by start-ups, such as tech chat plugins on the website – we noticed an increase of 200% in sales as a result. We also started using more of these tech tools and strategies to grow – all of which helped with the team workflow, competitor analysis and productivity”.
Before: A professional and personal coach, Jonty worked in person through his company the_synergist_^ – with face to face coaching out of his London Fields-based apartment.
After: Nimbly adapting to the needs of the business community when the crisis struck, Jonty pivoted to helping companies serve their employees best during the lockdown – ensuring that the teams that had been hit the hardest remained productive, motivated and above all, happy!
Before: With Ayurvedic-inspired products and services, Namitha offered a range of physical wellbeing products for the range of issues that come with modern life.
After: Successfully pivoted from a purely product-based business to a wellness and lifestyle consultancy that thrived throughout the COVID crisis and lockdown.
Saisha Ayurveda has even become far more financially sustainable in the long-term by helping others maintain their physical, emotional and spiritual health through service-oriented solutions.
She says: “I now work online and in-person with adults to find that deep inner inspiration and resilience to transform their lives to their version of success”.
Before: With London martial arts group lead by the ‘Godfather’ of ‘Jeet Kun Do’ in Europe (the martial art developed by Bruce Lee) Bob Breen, these VERY physical classes involved boxing, kung fu, kickboxing, wrestling, grappling, stick fighting and more – all based locally to Hoxton.
After: Launching their ‘Virtual Academy’, one can now train in JKD, Boxing, Kickboxing, Kali and others, from their very own home – as long as you clear some space in your living room!
With exercise having a massive effect on mental wellness, this ensured that you can kick your way through the crisis and allowed their community and livelihood to expand online – instead of closing the dojo doors for good!
“The essence of JKD/ 4D Combat is to adapt to your surroundings. Our Zoom sessions offer a unique way of learning martial arts from your own home. We offer a wide range of live online combat sessions, including 4D Combat, JKD, boxing, kickboxing, stick fighting, knife play, Penjak Silat, BJJ ground conditioning and Filipino Panantukan. We also offer members, classes in stretching and mobility from a combat point of view – this balances the holistic nicely with the cardio element of our offerings.
During this time when community, training and health couldn’t be more important, we are proud to launch our virtual academy”.
Before: A physical shop that can’t open – in an industry where the social browsing experience almost seems mandatory – Dragana Perisic runs her eponymous fashion boutique as a gem in the creative quarter of Shoreditch.
After: Successfully winning Facebook’s ‘Pivot Grant’ to invest in the necessary tools and structures that’ll enable her to push her incredible designs to those that are searching out for the perfect look – for their long-awaited re-entry into society. Dragana is also now looking ahead to hosting workshops on developing your own fashion skills!
Before: A favourite with the East London crowd, Dishoom’s offered a unique spin on Indian cuisine that evoked the nostalgic Bombay/Irani cafes of old.
After: Putting YOU in the chef’s hat by allowing you to take over the action – including cooking your own fluffy naan in the oven and slowly brewing your own chai, letting the smell take over your kitchen and transporting your straight to ‘Bombay’. While it might initially seem like a lot more effort – the results are worth the wait!
Before: A legendary enclave of cutting-edge directional Belgian & Japanese fashion in the heart of Hackney, for those in the know this shop outfitted the most stylish of London’s fashion crowd.
After: Aro Archive has a very experiential and different take on your typical fashion eCommerce; visiting their site equals the sense of thrill, curiosity and #StyleInspo that you’ll get at any major fashion show with their unique videos and meticulous branding and display.
Before: Legendary venue The Vortex in Dalston has been at the heart Hackney’s cultural and live music scene ever since it opened its doors in 1984 – hosting the very best in live avant-garde, experimental and improvised Jazz.
After: Putting their audience right back in the middle of the experience, using donation-based livestreaming to help support the arts & artists – Jazz lovers can listen to and support the indie bands and musicians they so terribly miss. They’ve even gone as far as to invite socially distanced musicians to perform gigs, even if the audience aren’t in the room!
Oliver even went on to launch his own successful series of Zoom workshops on how music, arts and cultural institutions can respond and react to the crisis!
We all know that this lockdown will not last forever – but in pivoting and staying resilient, these local businesses showcase that the ‘after’ story might even unveil business models and strategies that will stick around long after the crisis is over.
Have you pivoted as a result of the lockdown? Do any of your favourites companies do things a little differently as a result? Let us know. And if you would like some support with making your business more resilient, please get in touch – we run free 3-month Grow Your Business programmes throughout the year, tailored to your needs.