Small businesses are suffering major Covid-19 pandemic-related disruptions, but now is the perfect time to grow your home-based or micro business.
Was 2020 was the year you were finally going to start a specialty jam business? Or a small catering business? Or the flavored popcorn business you dream about?
Or did your 2020 plans include growing your tiny food-based business? Were you going to attend more shows, build a new ecommerce website, or employ the help of an enthusiastic sales representative?
No matter; 2020 apparently had other ideas; pandemic-related ideas. Instead of finding new markets, businesses of all sizes quickly closed their doors. No more restaurant business. No mall shoppers. No gyms, bars, or even wedding centers. Large businesses have mostly survived (although retail has been hit especially hard), but many small and regional enterprises have disbanded, victims of a lack of customers and a lack of workers – who chose to stay home rather than be exposed to the virus.
Obviously, we home-based and micro businesses have been affected too. Suddenly, some of our most productive sales outlets are no longer an option. Craft shows and local food events have been cancelled. Farmer’s markets no longer welcome specialty items, reserving their now limited space for fresh, farm-grown produce. And local hotel and other gift shops have unceremoniously shut down.
But despite the dire situation, economic turmoil presents a few opportunities for us too:
Home-based and micro businesses are agile
Your famous strawberry jam not selling, but you still have acres of strawberries? Quickly pivot and start selling fresh strawberries instead. Suddenly your bakery can’t sell large cakes because of group size restrictions? Switch to cupcakes or mini-desserts. You don’t have to get your new approach approved by a Board of Directors or a slate of executives. No one has to write new employee procedures or train workers to make new products. Your business, your decisions. Home-based and micro businesses can make decisions quickly, and implement them just as quickly. So, when the market changes, your business responds too. Flex your business model now to meet today’s needs.
Local sourcing helps stabilize costs
Have you noticed? Food prices have been all over the place during the pandemic. Prices are up; then down; then up again. These fluctuations are due to a variety of things; supply, demand, and infrastructure interruptions. For months I couldn’t find dried beans. They were flying off the grocery store shelves faster than toilet paper! Dried beans are easy to store, last a long time, are nutritious and inexpensive, so people were stocking up. Supply couldn’t keep up with demand. At the same time, the grocery shelves were overflowing with fresh vegetables because distributors rerouted produce from now closed restaurants to grocery stores. Factory shut downs and fewer workers mean fewer products are being made, and it’s difficult to get products to the stores. We ship things long distances in this country, so when trucks aren’t full or can’t get from point A to point B prices go up. But we home-based and micro businesses tend to source many of our supplies locally, which helps us stabilize our prices. Customers bolt when prices are unstable. Stable prices help us keep our customers happy.
There is less competition
Food manufacturers and restaurants are responding to supply chain disruptions by limiting product offerings. No more all-day breakfast at McDonald’s. Fewer varieties of Progresso chicken noodle soups and Oreos line grocery store shelves. Companies are reducing their product lines, but customers still seek variety. This is an opportunity that we home-based and micro businesses can fill! Our reason for being is to provide high-quality, unique, items. Now is the time to approach local retail outlets about carrying your products; even establishments you may not have considered before like farm supply stores or hair dressers. Theses stores, which are often open at reduced capacity, are seeking ways to delight their customers. Carrying your products is one way to do so.
Everyone is home
When you run a home-based or micro food business this fact may seem like a major disruption. But put those family members to work! While younger children cannot help in the kitchen, they may be able to pack boxes or attach labels. Older children can help prepare your food items or assist with record keeping.
The pandemic is changing how we conduct business. But for those of us who operate a home-based or micro food business there are still opportunities. Now is the time to use our abundant creativity, embrace possibilities, and introduce our products to new markets.