By Aakash Patel, Founder and President of Elevate, Inc.
As COVID-19 closures continue to rock our economy, some of the hardest hit are small businesses. The restaurant industry alone is projected to lose $225 billion in revenue and up to seven million jobs over the next three months, according to the National Restaurant Association.
As business leaders, we strive to plan for and anticipate risks, but the coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented, almost unimaginable. One analyst predicted that the disruption to businesses from coronavirus could lead to 15,000 permanent retail store closures in 2020.
Congressional leaders are working on a $2 trillion stimulus deal, which would be the largest rescue package in history. But many entrepreneurs are already taking matters into their own hands. They are reinventing themselves to survive.
Small business is the backbone of our economy, and through this pandemic, we’re seeing the American spirit of ingenuity shine as bright as ever. Here are five inspiring stories from Tampa Bay and beyond of business leaders quickly and creatively adapting during these challenging times.
#1 From Beer to Hand Sanitizer
When Florida’s Governor closed all bars due to the coronavirus threat, Big Storm Brewing Co. co-owner L.J. Govoni knew he had to do something to keep his employees on the payroll. Instead of closing their operations, Big Storm filed the required federal application to begin manufacturing ethanol. Govoni’s plan was to convert the brewery to begin mass production of hand sanitizer to supply government, agencies, hospitals, first responders and others. It was a win-win, allowing Big Storm to retain its employees, while manufacturing a critical resource to help fight the spread of COVID-19.
#2 Introducing “collaborative takeout”
Imagine being able to pick up food from several of your favorite restaurants in one simple location. It’s called “collaborative takeout.” That’s what Tampa Bay’s award-winning chef Ferrell Alvarez came up with in order to keep his staff employed.
Alvarez merged his restaurants into one location, creating “Rooster Re-Dux – collaborative takeout.” Employees from all four restaurants are working together at the Seminole Heights restaurant Rooster & The Till. Customers can order best-selling dishes from several different restaurants, including Rooster & The Till, Nebraska Mini Mart and Gallito Taqueria – all under the same roof.
#3 From wedding dresses to making masks
Vicky Anglo’s owns a successful St. Petersburg couture bridal design house called Anglo Couture. But these days, instead of focusing her energy on high end fashion designs and jaw dropping wedding dresses, Vicky has directed her team of seamstresses to work on making medical masks for hospital workers. He seamstresses are all working from home to continue social distancing, but they are making a difference in the war against COVID-19. Vicky has also put out the call, telling followers on Facebook that she will personally teach anyone interested in how to properly make a medical mask to help meet the growing need.
And these types of stories that should inspires us all, are playing out across the country, not just in the Tampa Bay region.
#4 The more you give, the more you get
Some small business owners are taking the approach of just trying to do the right thing and help the community. In Utah, Schmidt’s Pastry Cottage started giving away free loafs of bread. The owner’s rationale is “because everyone always feels better when they do something for other people.” He didn’t expect his good deed would result in more business. People have responded with donations, purchases and words of gratitude. Even several of their suppliers have given discounts or donated ingredients.
#5 From a restaurant to a general store
In San Francisco, one of the worst hit cities by coronavirus, a local restaurant owner got creative to remain profitable. The Prairie in the Mission District restaurant started selling items they would have normally used for daily operations. Instead of operating as a restaurant, they became a general store, selling produce and supplies in bulk. It kept the restaurant in business and helped local residents as grocery stores struggled to keep up with increased demand.
During this difficult and stressful time, it is reassuring to hear these stories and to know that America ingenuity and our entrepreneurial spirit are not just alive but thriving!