The past eight months certainly haven’t been easy for small businesses.
Many had to shut their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic. While some may never reopen, others are ramping up their business — and hoping they don’t have to shut down again.
Furniture firm-Love Artisan had to temporarily shutter its operation for two months when the crisis hit, laying off its entire staff of 16 employees, Sara Reeves, the CEo, called it ‘survival mode.’
Since that time, the Nairobi based startup has been slowly reopening its furniture warehouse and has rehired eight full-time and 4 part-time workers.
Reeves’ main focus now is staying as lean and as efficient as possible.
“We have revamped our retail strategy to innovate in-store sales by including contactless transactions and to-go windows to address public safety concerns,” she said.
Being able to adapt and pivot has helped many small businesses ride out the pandemic. Yet the worry is still there.
About 70 per cent of small businesses are concerned about financial hardships due to prolonged closures and 58 per cent worry about having to permanently close, according to recent studies.
The fear is not unfounded. An April survey by Main Street America found that about 7.5 million businesses are at risk of folding for good if the pandemic continues. Six months later, coronavirus cases remain high.
Love Artisan is a Kenyan furniture brand that is desirable not just for its deft use of colour and textiles, but for its clever interpretation of modern and traditional.
“If you want a bright pop of colour in the corner of your living room, or a bold, statement piece or conversation starter, that’s what we specialise in,” says Ms Revees.
She launched her workshop a month to the 2017 general elections and due to the instability experienced after the polls, it was a big challenge.
Even with that, Ms Reeves was able to retain her eight carpenters until the end of the election turmoil, which she terms as one of her “proud moments.”
“So nowadays when we have a tough week, or a tough month, or even particularly during this period of Covid-19, I think back to our beginnings and know that we have the resilience to keep moving forward,” she says.
Finding new opportunities
For Imran Shah, of Kipkaren River Resort in Eldoret, Kenya, it was really crucial to pivot his business when the pandemic began.
Pre-Covid 19, the majority of Kipkaren’s River Resort revenue came from customers visiting its nature trail and do adventurous and team building activities. At first, it completely shut down operations due to lack of customers but it has since opened up its door to the public but with strict adherence to Ministry of Health guideline and protocols.
The establishment also introduced a new activity, paint-ball.
Since then, the resort started to service take away orders for home deliveries.
“The home deliveries picked up faster than we expected, so now we are working hard to keep up with the new demand for our canned products,” Imran said.
“It’s very exciting and such a difference between the beginning of Covid restrictions, when we were challenged with ‘how do we move more food so it doesn’t sit and go stale?’ to now when we are beginning to cook more food for home deliveries.”
One of the biggest takeaways from the experience is the need to be nimble, the two entrepreneurs said.
“There have been so many twists and turns in the last few months and my team and I have been rolling with them and recalibrating and recrafting strategy when it’s needed, while also keeping calm,” Ms. Reeves said.
It’s also a reminder that while nothing is certain, you have to be 100% invested in your business, Imran said.