How did so many local small businesses survive the Covid-19 pandemic? Some relied on existing professional strengths, helping clients feel secure for in-person service. Others took time to reflect on how they could grow product lines or create more engaging customer virtual experiences, then partnered with others to deliver.
Each turned outward to help people in their communities and continue the work they’ve always done to improve lives. And all increased their P.R. and marketing efforts in response to area-wide shutdowns.
Isolated Hope: Navigating Our New Normal
We asked US Army veteran and videographer Pamela Vines if she needed to adjust her business model during the pandemic. Her company, Troop P.R, has produced a documentary for DC nonprofit Prestige Community Resources called Isolated Hope: Navigating Our New Normal, about Covid-19’s impact on the District’s most vulnerable citizens. KB Concepts was honored to partner with Pamela to spread the word about PCR’s critical work supporting DC’s most vulnerable residents and businesses during the pandemic.
“Trust and goodwill with my clients anchored me as I coped during the COVID-19 economy,” Pamela explains. “I already had protocols to make people feel comfortable in front of the camera, but extended that to helping people feel safe in their environment with my team, as well. People can trust that we’re going to maintain appropriate distances, yet provide them with a comfortable and fun film experience.”
Pamela’s local business networks have always provided word-of-mouth referrals. Meeting weekly with her BNI group of fellow professionals and business owners, as well as her network of Awesome Women (AWE), now part of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, the synergy between members not only nourished her business but continued to grow it.
Nonprofit Partnerships Were Key to Success
Small businesses throughout the DC area partnered with local nonprofits to stay open and survive the pandemic. In Arlington, VA, restaurant Sushi-Zen and fair trade gift shop and cafe Trade Roots are just two of the many businesses that raised money and goods for others while staying afloat.
Sushi-Zen collected almost 400 pounds of food for Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC). They built another fundraiser around their award-winning California Roll to raise nearly $1,000, donating $1 from each sale for West Coast fire disaster relief and Aspire Afterschool, another local nonprofit that supports at-risk children’s educational needs.
Sushi-Zen owner Rosie Gordon has always given back. She and her husband Shoji Mochizuki celebrated their 20th business anniversary three years ago by holding 20 fundraisers for 20 local nonprofits, donating 20% of sales to them each time.
When a local news outlet asked how the restaurant fared during the pandemic, Rosie replied: “Sushi Zen is going to survive and thrive—no matter what. We went to takeout and delivery only last spring and business has continued to be strong. My motto now is: I’m looking forward to celebrating 25 fundraisers in 2023!”
Pandemic Fueled Online Sales Growth
Trade Roots fair trade specialty store partnered with local restaurants, musicians, organizations, and community groups to stay open and survive the pandemic.
Owner Lisa Ostroff reminded us of her longtime support for colleagues, promoting other businesses and even sharing business plans. She collaborated with NEADS last year, an organization that trains and matches service dogs with people who need them. Trade Roots sold goods on the NEADS website, giving 10% of sales to their organization.
Closing the store and cafe to keep everyone safe from last March to October, Lisa built a robust online presence which helped offset in-store challenges. That investment continues to pay off; online sales have grown. She also partnered with local church communities to sell products online throughout the holiday season, and sold cozy blankets for use at her outdoor cafe, which reopened in the fall and became a gathering place throughout the cooler months for coffee, lunch and business dates.
“We were determined to continue being a place where our customers could safely meet and socialize outdoors during the long, difficult Covid-19 winter,’ Lisa said. “And here we are, still standing, with many in our community now vaccinated. We survived and thrived and look forward to putting this unprecedented challenge behind us.”
Increased Focus on P.R. & Marketing
All three of these businesses (and the nonprofits they partnered with) also quickly realized they would need to devote increased attention and resources to their own P.R. and marketing efforts, to keep their clients informed of changes to their operations: whether they were temporarily closing; going to online service or takeout and delivery only; and to share the partnerships they were forming to help and support others. KB Concepts was gratified to help raise awareness of their efforts and ask for their communities’ support in staying open and surviving the pandemic.
We shared their news and updates on social media and reminded all of each business’s longtime roots in their communities. We updated their websites and graphics for clear, easy sales and information; posted on Next Door and in the large Facebook group “Arlington Neighbors Helping Each Other Through Covid-19” that quickly grew to more than 10,000 members; established new partnerships with local nonprofits seeking additional support; used email marketing, digital advertising and media outreach to ensure that their customers and greater community knew how hard these businesses were working to survive. These critical messages led to new customers and even greater sales than previous months and years.
As vaccines reach more and more people and the pandemic appears to be finally winding down, we are inspired by the heroic efforts our local business and nonprofit communities played in helping us all get through this year-long pandemic. KB Concepts continues to be grateful for the opportunity to help them and other clients weather the storm – learning many valuable lessons and emerging stronger together.
Need help telling your organization’s story and managing the often overwhelming tasks of communicating how you’re helping keep our community strong? Let’s chat!