Business

So, these small companies turned to outlive through the pandemic

When the Covid pandemic broke out, small business owners across the country struggled to stay afloat.

Those who managed to stay open were the lucky ones. According to Opportunity Insights, a Harvard-based economic tracker, the number of U.S. small businesses open was down 33.8% from May 5, 2020, compared to January 2020.

So four companies spun to survive during the pandemic.

Nice jumps

Lisa McCabe, owner of California-based dance studio Lovely Leaps, during her time as a dance student at college.

Source: Lisa McCabe

When schools closed in San Diego County, California last March, Lisa McCabe did most of her business at her Lovely Leaps dance studio. About 90% of their classes were held in local preschools. Then the building where she held her in-studio courses was also permanently closed.

McCabe, 32, immediately started networking and landed a gig teaching virtual classes for mom and me. She also started running virtual free dance classes for kids ages 10 months to 3 years old every week. Still, she had to make money. In June she started a paid class for the age group from 6 to 10 years.

“Recognize early on with virtual what the customer wants [dance] really helped us outperform, “said McCabe.

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It also helped that she networked with local organizations, offered free courses and partnered with them.

“Our virtual classes took off like a rocket,” McCabe recalled.

By the end of July, it had 2,000 virtually paying students. In October she opened a new studio.

“It’s been bumpy, but it’s all moving in the right direction,” said McCabe.

Teacher Nanda

Puneet Nanda, founder and CEO of Guru Nanda, with the lavender he uses in his essential oils.

Jared Heimovitz

Puneet Nanda saw an opportunity as the crisis unfolded. He quickly turned his essential oils and accessories company, Buena Park, California-based Guru Nada, to making essential oil-based hand sanitizers and masks.

In July, when people were firmly anchored in their home offices, he saw his essential oils and diffusers take off.

“A lot of people wouldn’t use it if they were working from an office,” said Nanda, 53, who, after a health scare from his first business, Dr. Fresh, went away. He returned to practicing yoga and aromatherapy, which resulted in his newest venture.

“From their home office, they want some relief from their children and their husbands, and they probably want to be in their zone.”

However, the past year has not always been smooth. Nanda was worried about his employees and his business. In early March 2020, the Food and Drug Administration warned its company and several other companies to stop selling products that are alleged to cure or prevent the coronavirus.

Guru Nada immediately removed all information related to the treatment or prevention of Covid-19 and the coronavirus, the company said in a statement at the time. It promised to be compliant and to work with the FDA.

Golden catalyst

Jan-Ie Low (right) and Huong Pham are packing hot meals on February 21, 2021 to feed families in need for Operation #MoveForwardTogether in Fountain Valley, California.

Source: Jan-le Low

As an event planner and restaurant owner in Las Vegas during the pandemic, 49-year-old Jan-Ie Low had to make some quick decisions.

While her restaurant was closed, she focused on using her event planning business, Golden Catalyst, to consult with Asian-American companies about navigating available tools such as the Paycheck Protection Program.

She also turned to producing virtual events such as the 10th annual Chinese New Year in the desert. The weekend-long event usually included dinners and celebrations.

“We got creative,” said Low. “It’s easy for us to say, ‘No, we can’t do it.’ But we twisted it and modified it and turned it into a production instead. “

She has since been hired to host a virtual Japanese celebration, the annual Obon Festival in August.

“We’re about 50% event planning, but I’m not complaining,” said Low.

Black travel box

Orion Brown had to make adjustments to their business, the Black Travel Box, during the pandemic.

Orion Brown

For Orion Brown, 2020 should be the big launch of their Black Travel Box brand. The 39-year-old started the company in 2017 to meet the personal care needs of black travelers. However, she had mainly tested products on the market.

The first thing she did was introduce a Covid-19 Relief Kit, which was her body balm and lip balm. She also had travel candles in the pipeline and decided to make larger ones for the home, sticking to the travel theme with names like Harlem Speakeasy, London Fog, and Riviera Bordeaux.

“It’s been a tough couple of weeks trying, ‘what is a good pivot for a company like this that is still going?'” Brown said.

In the end, she made a conscious decision not to stray too far from her brand.

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