With her indoor restaurant closed, Cheesburger Baby’s owner Stephanie Vitori sought out partnerships to help keep her business afloat. In addition to pivoting to takeout and delivery only at her location, she partnered with a bar to run their commercial kitchen, serving up Cheeseburger Baby’s delicious burgers and fries to patrons. She has also parked her food trucks in strategic locations to act as satellite locations around Miami for takeout business and deliveries. And she has led restaurant community lobbying efforts seeking needed relief and concessions from the City of Miami Beach. [Read more about her story here]
Pilar Guzman Zavala, owner of Half Moon Empanadas, had to shut all but one of her company’s 13 locations for Argentinian style-empanadas, including the lucrative Miami International Airport sites, because of the COVID-19 crisis. She was looking at zero sales for who really knows how many months. But she applied for and received a PPP loan and continued to pay her salaried managers, pivoted hard to online sales and delivery, and started providing meals for seniors, through a contract with the county. She also took the pause in store operations to put website improvements and a rebranding effort that were already underway on overdrive. She is now starting to reopen some locations. [Read more here]
OBE Power owns and operates an electric vehicle charging network and offers EV charging-as-a service at convenient locations with high levels of demand. The company had enjoyed 36 straight months of revenue growth. COVID showed up and could have ruined the party because revenue dropped by some 80% in March. But CEO Alejandro Burgana quickly put a COVID resiliency plan in place to survive and thrive again in place. That meant cutting its expansion rate in half and operating lean, burning 60% less cash and working with vendors. The plan worked [Read more here.]
Eric Wooden, owner of The COOL Miami, designs his own line of urban graphic t-shirts and opened a store in Liberty City in early 2018 to sell his own brand as well as hats, sneakers and jeans by other brands. During the pandemic, Wooden looked for opportunities. When the space next door became available at a good rate, Wooden seized the opportunity to expand – then he opened a second location in Miami Gardens and other in Palm Beach County, all taking advantage of good deals in the current climate. Meanwhile, The Copper Door B&B in Overtown pivoted to become a restaurant, Rosie’s. Jamila Ross and Akino West (pictured at top of post), the industrious founders experienced in food and hospitality, have always planned to have a restaurant at some point but COVID sped up that timeline. Now they are also operating their B&B again, and benefit from the additional revenue stream. [Read more about both businesses here]
Stories of resilience are everywhere in South Florida.
Now trending: Small business optimism
To be sure, small businesses like these are finding ways to pivot and survive during this Covid-19 crisis that has already left too many closings in its wake. We see this optimism and perseverance in action every day in these stories and others, although we can’t sugarcoat the pain in our economy: Sadly, more than 4,000 Miami-area businesses have permanently or temporarily closed since March, according to Yelp.
A new report, however, sheds light on how some small businesses are overcoming the obstacles with the right resources and preparedness. The inaugural American Express Entrepreneurial Spirit Trendex, which polled 1,000 small and midsized businesses around the U.S., showed that 75% of small business owners are optimistic about their business’s recovery and 82% feel that they are better prepared to handle a future crisis.
What’s more, 81% of business owners polled still believe the benefits of owning their own business outweigh the challenges. When asked about the top benefits of running their own business, respondents cited financial stability (89%), being their own boss (88%), turning a passion into a business (86%), creating jobs (85%) and the flexibility to set their own hours (85%).
Pivot once, pivot twice
Just as Half Moon, OBE Power and Copper Door had to do, to meet the changes in demand in the market, about three-quarters (76%) of business owners said they have pivoted to maintain some revenue. Among those that already pivoted, (73%) expect to pivot again in the next year. In fact, the survey found 77% of business owners plan to prioritize offering products/services online over the next year. Staying nimble to meet the demand of new market needs and demands is crucial to maintaining the health of your business, whether there is a pandemic or not.
“2020 has been full of challenges, from a health crisis to a small business crisis and more, leaving businesses with more obstacles, questions and uncertainty than ever before. As they always do, many of these businesses found new ways to survive and even some thrived, like Olga Sagan did with her innovation of Catch22Delivery,” said Clayton Ruebensaal, EVP of Global B2B Marketing at American Express. “Small and mid-sized businesses are the backbone of our economy and our communities and the American Express Entrepreneurial Spirit Trendex shows that Americans are rallying around those local businesses that enrich their lives.”
Beyond pivoting, let’s look at what small businesses are also doing right.
Small businesses are getting help
Florida SBDC at FIU has helped a record number of small businesses this year with everything from COVID loan applications and overcoming cash flow challenges to marketing strategy and operations in the “new normal.” In addition to one-on-one business consulting at no-cost to the small business, Florida SBDC at FIU has also launched a series of free webinars to spread the assistance more widely. Other key small business support organizations, including Miami Bayside Foundation, 10,000 Small Businesses at Miami Dade College, Accion and SCORE, are also helping record numbers of entrepreneurs navigate this crisis.
The Miami trend is reflected in the survey, which found that businesses are actively seeking virtual business conferences and webinars (47%), virtual networking events (44%), advice and resources about leading through a crisis (44%) and learning ways to destress and stay mindful (42%).
Beyond resources, business owners said right now they are looking for support with: identifying new growth opportunities (44%), marketing, branding and social media (41%), managing their cash flow (37%), flexible payment terms for expenses (34%) and knowledge about accessing capital (33%).
Cash flow is king
Small businesses understand cash (flow) is always king. In the survey 81% of business owners are prioritizing cash flow management and are identifying ways to cut back spending and increase sales, namely by moving services online. That’s what OBE Power did early on to much success. The survey found the top activities are Increasing marketing efforts (41%), Increasing products/services online (40%); Cutting expenses (36%); and Diversifying revenue streams (35%).
The small businesses GrowBiz has checking in on during the crisis, as well as those who participated in this survey, know their recovery will take some time. While the entrepreneurial spirit remains high, the survey found only 21% of owners expect it to take less than a year for them to fully recover, while 46% say one to three years and 25% report expecting three or more years. With this in mind, 86% of businesses say obtaining new customers is their highest priority, followed by maintaining and growing their current business and sources of revenue (84%) and managing cash flow issues (81%).
Managing the unexpected is a challenge and there are many ways business owners are coping with this. Some of the steps that owners plan to take are to increase marketing efforts (41%), increase products/services online (40%), cut expenses (36%) and diversify revenue streams (35%) – just as our small businesses in the Miami area are doing.
This year has taken a heavy toll on our economy in Miami and nationwide. But a silver lining is that the data and evidence on the ground shows the resilient entrepreneurial spirit remains strong.
READ MORE STORIES OF COVID RESILIENCY ON GROWBIZ