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What Female Small Businesses Owners are Doing to Make It Through the Covid-19 Crisis

Lynn Morrison  |  March 17, 2020

From refocusing their business strategy to using downtime to prepare for post-coronavirus customers, these women are adapting their companies to survive and thrive during current times.

Schools are shutting, flights are cancelled and borders are closing. As a small business owner, it is all too easy to feel anxious about the COVID-19 crisis and its potential impact on our short- and medium-term prospects. 

However, we women entrepreneurs are nothing if not resilient. Instead of melting down into a puddle of anxiousness, the female business owners I talked to are already finding ways to survive (and maybe even thrive) during this inevitable business slowdown. Here’s how.

Be flexible and meet customers where they are

One of the hardest hit fields are businesses operating in the events, travel and entertainment space. The key to survival for small businesses in these sectors is being flexible and forward-thinking.

Christella Morris, owner of Oakwood Photography in Toronto, is revamping her service offering to be less reliant on professional events. “Where possible, I am offering alternatives like in-home sessions, and I’m hoping once the initial panic dies down people relax a bit and I can continue to work,” she says.

Dr. Cody Gao, owner of The Movers Club in New Jersey, has seen a drop in attendance at her group exercise classes. “I’m promoting our one-on-one online coaching,” she says. “People will need to move and exercise even if they are stuck at home.”

Kennedy Bramer, a strategy and social media manager, says she’s taking extra care to keep her travel and restaurant clients thinking about what comes after the crisis. “I’m voicing to them that momentum is key and we can’t stop our efforts even though it can feel like the world is coming to an end,” she says. “Once the quarantine and closures end, local customers will no doubt be looking for things to do outside of the homes they’ve been stuck inside.”

Minimize costs and maximize payment terms

Now is the time to look hard at your business running costs, trimming any unnecessary expenditures. Emily Traylor, co-owner of SWFL Print in Florida, is leveraging her background in finance to keep her business strong. “Our fiduciary responsibility lies with our employees and our debt service. It’s not so much a cutting back but a re-allocation of priorities,” she says. Traylor and her business partner have paused their own salaries to pay employees. Hunkering down now means her company will still be around in six months when clients need them fast, she says.

Samantha Ettus at Park Place Payments offers further advice: “Make sure you aren’t overspending on credit card fees and losing time on bad service that keeps you on hold for hours…” She recommends calling vendors to ask for extensions on payments. “Some will say yes, some will say no but the extensions you do gain from this will help you when your own business slows down or when your own customers extend their payments,” she says.

Invest time and energy into your business and yourself

Many business owners are using the down time to focus on their capabilities. Most of us have folders full of online tutorials and stacks of business books waiting for a free moment. If your business quiets down it could be the perfect opportunity to deepen your knowledge within your field or add on a new skill. 

The same holds true for your company website, blog, social media plan and marketing materials. Polish up your existing materials, fill in gaps and bank blog and social media content so you are ready when business picks back up.  

Lean into your community

If you are a new business owner or recently made a significant investment in your business, you may feel particularly stressed. You are not alone: There’s a wider community of small business owners out there, so reach out and lean on them for support. 

Angila Peters, CEO of Digitelle Creative, understands the feeling well. “As a marketing consultant who just leased a new office space, I am being mindful of an overactive panic mindset that wants to creep in right now and say, ‘Worst Idea EVER.’ I can’t do that. I am here to help other businesses grow, even in the bad times,” she says.

Peters manages a Facebook group for local women entrepreneurs and is investing her time there: “I will lead my community by helping them calm down, collect their thoughts and prepare them for the boom to follow incubation.”

Focus on what is manageable

Psychotherapist Julia Hochstadt, owner of TherapywithJulia.com, offered this advice for those of us struggling with anxiety: “In the actual midst of a crisis, making sure that basic needs are tended to takes priority. Food, water, shelter.” For business owners she recommends developing a safe and strategic business plan for the next days and week — focusing on what’s manageable in the here and now and just taking things as they come. “Don’t rush now to plan for the next fiscal year,” she says. “Think in terms of manageable, digestible chunks to help ease feeling too overwhelmed in the current moment.”

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