No matter who you are, where you live, where you work, or what you do, everybody on the planet is feeling the tremendous impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the face of something so terrible and destructive, the people and companies who have stepped up, be it on the front lines or the digital front, to make a difference has been awe-inspiring.
On an individual level, people have showed kindness, compassion, and selflessness in more ways than we could count.
On a company level, there’s been stellar examples of large brands taking action to help their customers, better the community, and look out for their own employees and teams. But are these actions limited to large companies, afforded with financial or social resources? Far from it.
Don’t get me wrong—stepping up and making a difference as a small business (or a large one, for that matter) is no walk in the park. Often individually or family-operated, small businesses speak to small audiences, operate out of scrappy budgets, and simply may not have the human resources to accomplish everything they’d like to.
But to anyone who thinks it simply isn’t possible, or that it could never happen for them, I hope these examples of small businesses will inspire you, leave you with tangible ideas, and shed just a little glimmer of hope and light on the fact small companies who make their industries diverse, interesting, and rich with opportunities are stronger than meets the eye.
Small food & beverage brands finding new ways to nourish their communities
Without even thinking much about it, many of us support small food & beverage companies or restaurants on an extremely regular basis. From the neighborhood bar, to the farmer’s market, to the pop-up grocery store highlighting other small brands—many of these small businesses have set the backdrop for our favorite memories, our most delicious meals, and the moments that make us feel excited to discover a great small brand.
So now, as we all navigate a world indoors, and as these local spots and small businesses lose their regular, crucial patronage, many of them are faced with unfortunate and difficult challenges they could have never seen coming. All of them want to stay in business, take care of their teams, and take care of the customers who make them what they are.
The following examples of these businesses are just three out of many taking life’s lemons and doing something extraordinary, up against unprecedented circumstances.
Pop Up Grocer
Pop Up Grocer, a traveling pop-up grocery store that showcases hundreds of products from 150+ innovative brands spanning food and lifestyle verticals, is not only a small business itself, but one that lifts up other small businesses, too.
The very nature of Pop Up Grocer is reliant on travel, and reliant on customers being able to come out, discover new and exciting products, and experience the quaint magic firsthand. Today, this isn’t possible, and it left the company with two possible paths: close down, or find a way to stay open. Needless to say, they chose the latter, and did so in a way that could help others, too.
Pop Up Grocer introduced, for the first time, a box of items available for order. In doing so, customers support both them and the other small businesses whose goods they procure and sell, but customers are also supporting Feeding America, a US hunger-relief organization.
For more reason than one, this box provides hope. It provides hope for small businesses to continue being able to operate, and it also provides hope that small businesses can serve their communities and serve those in need, despite sometimes being in need themselves.
Transitioning their on-the-road organization into a shippable operation as a very lean team is, as any business owner can imagine, difficult and impossible to do without a hefty dose of perseverance. The team at Pop Up Grocer is determined to persevere.
Neighborhood bars across the country
Stop for a moment and picture it—the place you go to grab a drink after work, or laugh with friends on a Saturday evening. The place where you know the bartenders, have a favorite off-menu drink, and an extensive knowledge of the best seat in the house.
Small, family or individually-owned neighborhood bars serve as social watering holes, and right now without their regular flow of patronage, they’re faced with the fear of drying up.
The following neighborhood bars are just a few of many working incredibly hard to stay afloat, to look out for their employees, and remain a source of comfort and companionship to their local regulars, and we can all cheers to that.
The Old Gold in Portland, Oregon
A North Portland staple, The Old Gold is no stranger to caring for its community and welcoming foot traffic on the seven days a week it’s typically open.
When COVID-19 called for the bar to close its door to its neighbors, they found a way to simultaneously distill hope and keep their staff supported through their campaign “Next Round On Me.”
The bar pivoted from its usual bar snacks, unique cocktails, and craft beer on tap and created a shirt that says (and does) it all. Their staff makes the bar a place for locals to feel at home, and until it’s safe again for friends to tell one another that the next round is on them in person, they’re helping their patrons support and make sure that they have a beloved bar to come back to.
Common Ground in New York City, New York
Nestled in Manhattan’s Meatpacking district is a bar called Common Ground. Walk by any day, and you’re likely to find a line wrapped around cobblestone streets of regulars and first-time guests alike waiting to get into the small and unique spot.
Amidst COVID-19, the bar has shut its doors, but it hasn’t stopped looking for an innovative way to remain a part of its community, prepare itself to return when it’s safe to do so, and support the staff who makes its neighborhood success a possibility.
Common Ground created a detailed, tiered stress relief fund to support their employees and still add value for their important customer base.
Common Ground is offering everything from merchandise for sale, to gift cards, to packages that can be split between groups—essentially, a variety of ways for patrons who care about and frequent the bar to show their support and keep the bar going strong until the next time drinks can be shared IRL.
Scofflaw in Chicago, Illinois
A gin-focused Logan Square spot, Scofflaw takes great pride in their warm, familiar setting and service.
Naturally, amidst this time of crisis, Scofflaw isn’t able to provide that same warmth and familiarity in the way they’re used to doing, and they’ve turned to social media to share how their community can help.
Scofflaw shared a GoFundMe page, and reminds their usual patrons that they’re still open for delivery and carry out services, giving two ways that those who are able to can continue to show support for a beloved neighborhood locale.
Local fitness studios shaping their communities
Throughout this crisis, there has been no shortage of incredible fitness companies stepping up to the plate and over obstacles to be able to offer services at a free or discounted rate.
The same holds true for small, local boutique fitness companies.
Continuing to provide the ever-important physical and mental benefits of exercise while balancing the care of the talented fitness professionals who make these services possible has put small fitness brands in a challenging spot.
New York-based yoga and barre studio Shaktibarre faced that challenging spot head on and found a way to serve their dedicated community while also supporting their staff.
Shaktibarre launched a livestream virtual offering with a sliding payment scale, reaching out to those in their community who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19.
In addition to being flexible with payment options, Shaktibarre also offers members a daily mini meditation with a donation-based structure that allows members looking to continue to support the brand to pay what they are able to.
Asana Charlestown is a small yoga studio in the Boston area with a loyal local clientele.
As the studio navigates this time of crisis and continues to offer classes via Zoom, they also found a way to give back to the members of their community on the frontlines.
For the healthcare workers who are Asana Charlestown regulars, and those who’ve maybe never stopped by but now find themselves looking for a physical and mental release, the studio is offering completely free access to their live stream content.
Beauty brands doing something beautiful
Some of the largest beauty brands in the world have stepped up amidst COVID-19 to donate proceeds and help find ways to give back. Their smaller business counterparts have been incredible about doing the same, and finding ways to help others and support the small teams who run their operations.
Apostrophe is a disruptor in the field of dermatology, bringing the entire experience home and offering virtual diagnoses and affordable prescriptions and treatments.
In response to a staggering shortage in the availability of hand sanitizer, Apostrophe saw an area where they could step up and help, and they created a hand sanitizer of their own, and donated all proceeds to the WHO COVID-19 Response Fund.
They’ve since sold out of the product, but their speed in getting it done the first time around backs their commitment to bringing even more back.
Sweat Cosmetics, a female athlete-owned beauty brand, known for their innovative cosmetics and sun care products, found a way that they could honor and help the amazing frontline healthcare workers.
By offering a discount and a gift, Sweat Cosmetics is able to give a thank you to healthcare heroes and able to continue serving their customers and supporting their internal team. It’s a gesture that can be adopted by brands of all sizes, across all verticals to show internal and external support.
The bottom line is…
You don’t have to be a big brand with a big budget to make a big difference. Small businesses all over the world are searching within their own teams and resources to determine how, in any way, they can contribute to the greater good, while simultaneously considering their lean, hardworking teams and staying employed.
It can be a challenge at times, but the efforts these small brands make now won’t be forgotten by their customers, clients, and communities.
For the small businesses who haven’t quite found their way to get involved yet, we hope these examples serve as inspiration and a reminder that your message matters.