By Ted Sheppe
Before applications opened for Paycheck Protection Program relief loans, our phones in the Axiom business banking office were ringing off the hook. We spoke with entrepreneurs and business owners who were concerned, even terrified, about their businesses surviving the lockdown. Three or four months prior, they had record sales and were thinking about expanding – and almost overnight, they had to shut down.
It’s hard to overstate the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on Florida entrepreneurs. Without a solution, the businesses they had poured their lives and savings into were at risk of collapse.
But even as clients such as hair salons, tattoo parlors, restaurant dining rooms and live event venues closed, ingenuity blossomed – and people found new ways to be competitive. At Axiom, our team sat down with business owners and did our best to encourage them to brainstorm ways to reinvent their companies. What were the most creative, extreme ideas we could come up with to get through this?
Across the country, it has been inspiring to see entrepreneurs find outside-of-the-box ways to cope with COVID-19. In New York, a tattoo artist sold his tattoo designs online as art pieces instead of ink. A sound and lighting team that staged conferences and concerts rented a warehouse, built a set, and then leased it out to companies to host virtual shareholder meetings and other live events safely.
Here in Orlando, one of my clients, a popular Mexican restaurant called Black Rooster Taqueria invented a “margarita-gram” as a gift to a friend or to thank a colleague with a great drink delivered to their door. The idea took off. The restaurant generated plenty of sales and buzz – and, just as important, the margarita-gram led to a spike in demand for takeout and meal delivery for them.
[Some businesses have adapted to operating safely during the pandemic with business COVID-19 testing in Miami. A service such as Drip Hydration comes to the workplace to administer tests and provide results in 30 minutes or less, helping keep employees and customers safe.]
A pet-grooming business followed what others had done and outfitted a van to visit clients’ homes for curbside grooming. Not only did they recoup a significant amount of their sales during the pandemic, but they also maintained client relationships. When lockdown measures eased, they were able to return to a storefront – but the van was so popular, they are still offering it at a premium price.
Creative entrepreneurship helps you stay connected with clients by reminding them that your product or service is resilient and essential – all while developing new revenue streams for the future. Adapting now isn’t just a way to get through COVID-19 – it’s a potential avenue for growth even after the pandemic passes.
Ted Sheppe is the executive vice president of commercial banking at Axiom Bank, N.A., a nationally chartered community bank headquartered in Maitland. He can be reached at TSheppe@AxiomBanking.com or by calling 407-732-5604.