10/13/2020

Small Business Spotlight

Small Businesses That Have Grown Online During COVID

Four business owners share their strategies for expanding beyond their physical stores and growing online sales during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lauren Parker

Business Writer

How Can Anyone Expand During COVID?

With the Covid-19 pandemic and shelter-in-place policies, small businesses have needed  to reimagine their business models. While many services and businesses relied on storefronts, now many are adapting their offerings, shifting their services, and finding different paths to  success with the change. These four businesses have gotten creative with their businesses and developed their services to better suit their customers’ needs in the long and short term. Check out their stories and pivoting moves below:

Luck

Owner: Lorin Platto

Type of Business: Women's Boutique

Website: https://lucklafayette.com/

Luck Lafayette opened in 2018 as a storefront in the cheerful downtown shopping district in Lafayette, CA, and then expanded in 2019. Selling luxe brands like 360Cashmere, P448 Skate and Nickho Rey, Luck’s business was primarily in-person sales. Since shelter-in-place, Platto says online sales have been “a lifeline.”

“At the beginning [of my business] I had only about 50-60% of my inventory online, and now I have 90%! My online business has grown as a result and I now have customers shopping at Luck from all over the country. It's definitely the silver lining in all of this.” 

Platto has expanded her delivery options, and offers in-store pickup for online orders. “All of our local customers now know about the website and shop with us even when the store is closed, which is amazing. Most of my customers didn't even know I had a website pre-Covid!”

Platto has maximized email marketing, focusing on sending out notices of new arrivals. Not only has this been important for Platto’s business, but she’s planning on keeping all of these processes once shelter-in-place is lifted, “I think it will be our new way of doing business. After so long, it's just become part of the overall shopping experience we provide. Providing options for people to shop with us can only help our business so I plan to keep it all going.”

Perdita

Owner: Elizabeth Lucero

Location: San Francisco, CA

Type of Business: Boutique and Event Space 

Website: https://www.perditashop.com/

Since shelter-in-place hit, owner Liz has been getting creative in how she keeps up her orders and events. Perdita is a storefront of handcrafted goods made by independent creators, including jewelry, cards, accessories, and housewares, but also a mixed use space that hosts book clubs, literary events, and crafting workshops. Since they’ve gone primarily online, they’ve built out their online sales, including offering free shipping to everyone in the city, and a virtual weekly book club (including a romance club) hosted on Zoom. During COVID, They have expanded their puzzle collection, built out their cookbook section, and will soon be available for order pickups. In the meantime, they’ve gone from focusing on the storefront to more website shopping. 

Cape and Cowl

Owner: Eitan Manoff

Type of Business: Retail- Comic Books and Collectibles

Website: https://stores.comichub.com/cape_and_cowl_comics

The comic book shop Cape and Cowl will be celebrating their 5th year anniversary next month, and have spent most of this year reforming their business model. “We’ve been a curbside-only service since March. Since we aren't having people in the store, we've had to come up with ways to make the store accessible to people from the outside. We changed our point of sale system to one that allowed us to move nearly our entire inventory online and available to purchase overnight. The system allows customers to pre-order upcoming product and pay for their items in advance before coming down for a pick-up. In addition, we do weekly live sales on social media focusing on unique collectibles, all ages/kids comics, and staff pick graphic novels.” 

His team has also been using Instagram for live sales of rare comics, moving his usual rare wares from the store wall to the digital buyer market. “This helps move product and allows us to have the live connection we and our customers are missing so much.” Most of his business happens through ComicHub, a point-of-sale platform specifically developed for comic book stores, but Cape and Cowl also uses Squarespace and Paypal to manage purchases and orders.

Cape and Cowl has been a shop focused on community, with regulars filling the shop to buy comics, pins, merch, or just hang out, events like Free Comic Book Day which is a block party for families, and partnerships with the Alameda Food Bank. At the core, Manoff’s mission has been to add to the landscape of his city, “[Covid-19] has turned us into a comic book store that nobody actually comes into. We've had to move things online in ways we may never have done otherwise while still trying to keep the personal connection to our community.” He says that although Covid is temporary, he is planning on keeping the new online systems and social media sales events they’ve developed during shelter-in-place. “The ComicHub system has been fantastic for us and the social media sales are some of the most fun we have all week!”

The Upgrade Guys

Owner: Rich Thurman

Type of Business: Physical Coaching

Website: www.theupgradeguys.com

Rich Thurman established Xodus Fitness in 2012 as a one-on-one coaching service, both in homes and in gyms. But, like most businesses, Thurman’s mode of operation has changed significantly with shelter-in-place. Necessity is the mother of invention, and the Upgrade Guys, a virtual fitness coaching and training service, has broadened Thurman’s clientele and completely shifted his business model. 

The benefit of going to virtual coaching is the tailored and more consistent revenue. The Upgrade Guys offer customers memberships, single purchase courses, and free content like their blog and podcast, which has something for everyone. As a trainer on their platform, Thurman is able to more easily connect with new clients, and give his clients more than he could before while working with them one-on-one. 

Thurman’s business has changed so much in shelter-in-place, and has had so much success under the new model, that he plans to prioritize the services he has developed once it’s lifted. “I don’t anticipate going back to a full one-on-one load. I will provide premium service to a few select clients and spend most of my time growing our membership site.” Thurman has also taken advantage of Instagram, showing demonstrations of mobility and strength training, and focusing on form and flexibility, which also serves as free marketing for Upgrade Guys.


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