Why start a business during a Global pandemic? Well, it could be worse. “I started my business from scratch. I was in the darkest season of my life. I had no sense of purpose nor direction,” says Indeera Q. Hill, who is the founder and owner of Refresh N Flourish By Nature (www.refreshnflourish.com). Even without a catastrophe like we’re all experiencing, starting a business is a complicated process. The uncertainty of markets, the need to fund expenses and overhead and the high likelihood of failure would be enough to discourage anyone. Then 2020 happened.
However, even with the new restrictions, the spirit of entrepreneurship continues. Many entrepreneurs have found ways to redesign their current model or create a new one to adapt to the needs of the pandemic. Some liquor distilleries have decided to start distilling hand sanitizer—factories that once made heavy machinery for cars are now making ventilators; and even the manufacture of the MLB’s jerseys have shifted to making protective masks for frontline workers.
Indeera runs a company that specializes in juices, immunity shots, immune boosters, sea moss gel, elderberry syrup, and more deriving from Nature’s Healing Power. The interest in healthy eating has survived the pandemic, so Refresh N Flourish has a market.
But it isn’t easy. “With this pandemic, shipping delays have been on an all-time high. Even though I give my customers their tracking number, I am tracking their packages as well and sending them notifications of when their order will arrive, if it’s delayed or damaged.” Indeera says that being transparent with her customers helped a lot to overcome this pandemic-related problem.
And there’s social media. “Social media has been a great strategy for growing my business. Customers want to feel connected with me and my brand. So I personalize my content to build trust and increase loyalty. I use my social media to update my customers of what’s new, how orders are being processed, and to notify them of shipments. But the top priority is treating customers with respect. Always have a smile on your face, be pleasant and always answer their questions. Without them, there is no you.
Entrepreneurship today has a close relationship with new technology. It’s been great for businesses like DoorDash and Seamless. Most importantly, many restaurants have figured out that fast to-go dining options, outdoor dining spaces for customers, and contactless payment options are vital to survive.
As the Harvard Business Review stated, entrepreneurs should identify the long-term market for their products. With COVID – 19, it is hard to predict the future. But identifying current needs and estimating future ones is the name of the game. “As a new entrepreneur, I believe that business has always been this way. But this pandemic has caused a high demand for new products, like masks and sanitizers and we have to adjust. In a way, we’re all start-ups now.
As an entrepreneur, Indeera has some advice for other business owners. Just do it. Take risks, Take action and give effective customer service. Always believe that you can do it.
Claude Lewis is the owner and chef at Freetown Road in Jersey City, a Caribbean restaurant serving recipes from Antigua and the West Indian Islands (www.freetownroadprojectnj.com), where his parents grew up. A native of that City, he found that his immediate problem, as with most other restaurants, was the loss of revenue, but the need to pay his overhead. He quickly shifted to focus on take out delivery and like Indeera, credits his use of social media. “Social media has been a savior for us. Before the pandemic, we did not use it as much, but now, we needed to actively promote the restaurant.” His menu includes Curry Chicken, Vegetable Curry and Troba, a combination of eggplants, onions, spinach, okra and tomatoes.
One unexpected result of events in 2020 was the BLM movement increasing Freetown Road’s business. In fact, CNN reports that there’s been a rush of sales nationwide as customers raced to support Black businesses.
On a smaller scale, social-media influencers have turned over their Instagram accounts to Black business owners. Google sheets of restaurants and shops owned by African Americans abound online.
Claude is also openly self-reflective. What I’ve learned about myself is that I must believe in myself no matter what others say. I know my talents. I have a clear vision and I will reach my goals. My business model will not change. I’ll continue to make good food for my customers and bring the flavors of the Caribbean to them.
But any entrepreneur still has to ask herself/himself these questions: Do you have an agreement between co-founders, or partners? Have you formed your business (partnership, LLC, corporation) in the right way? Do you have the necessary permits, licenses, or registrations? Are you protecting your intellectual property and trade secrets? Do you have the proper insurance? Do you have a good form of contract for your employees and vendors? For answers, you should consult with the right lawyer.
Mike Farhi wrote this with Aleksandra Syniec, a second-year law student at Seton Hall University School of Law. She is also knowledgeable in landlord-tenant law and information technology.