Navigating the Uncertainty of Coronavirus as a Startup

New businesses the world over have had their worlds turned upside down in the midst of the ongoing pandemic. Business plans developed meticulously for months or years having to be overhauled almost overnight, just as they start to build their brand. In this piece, FastGrowthBrands speaks to four such companies, Bee & Kin, Thelma, Nudea, and Wild, to hear how Coronavirus has changed their daily activities, and what they have done to adjust to the new normal.   

Freddy Ward, co-founder of natural deodorant business Wild, explains that mitigating external issues in their supply chain has been a big part of their management of Coronavirus. He saysIt has certainly been a challenging few months to try and relaunch any business and I think our entrepreneurial spirit has been tested to the maximum to keep the business going from an operational perspective. On the other side there has never been a better time from a marketing perspective to launch an e-commerce business with low CPMs and engaged audiences across social media platforms.

“The hardest challenges we have faced as a start-up is not having a robust supply chain. This meant we got hit badly at the start of our launch by delays and various suppliers closing, which forced us to launch in pre-sale rather than having products instantly available. 

“I think we were fortunate as sustainability messaging really seems to cut through which enabled us to hit 10K sales in our first month. This demand has then caused further challenges as we try and ramp up our operations working with new suppliers over video conferencing. It has also meant we have not been able to have as much oversight as we would have liked with the manufacturing and ensuring the customer experience is perfect.

“From a longer term perspective I think this will force start-ups to look at profitability much earlier in their existence as outside capital becomes hard and expensive. This is certainly our focus in the coming months so our destiny remains in our own hands.”

Meanwhile Tracey Hummel, founder of Bee & Kin, a women’s handbag brand, notes the difficulties of realising which costs are integral, and which need to be cut for the time being. She explains that “As a young brand, just almost a year old, Bee & Kin has had to pivot by cutting costs, managing cash flow, while continually building a community through social media and the website. Due to these challenging circumstances we’ve had to significantly reduce certain areas of spending—marketing, production, development, and even the scope of work for our wonderful team. 

“We are still able to process and ship out orders, while maintaining the specific sanitary guidelines laid out by the CDC, which is beneficial, but we are really using this time to connect and engage with our customers on a deeper level without being too sales driven. We recognise that this is an extremely tough time for everyone and we are doing all that we can to keep Bee & Kin afloat, so that when we come out of this, we become stronger than we were before.”

Tweaking offline strategies, and utilising virtual meetups

Priya Downes, co-founder of lingerie brand Nudea, outlines the shifts her business has been forced to make to its offline strategies, which were previously a great channel for customer acquisition: 

“As a newly established start-up just trying to build traction and scale growth in our first year, the Covid-19 pandemic is unfortunately timed in our pursuit of growth. Whilst our top sales channel was our website, we were seeing significant sales coming from offline via our Fittings & Fizz parties and Pop-Ups. With lockdown firmly in place, this has been stunted but we also believe it will continue to be post lockdown. Social distancing will make it harder for physical fittings to be re-established, so we see that offline opportunities will be limited for the foreseeable future with it being upside when full normality resumes.

“The good news is that Nudea was established to modernise the fit process and move the fitting experience away from the traditional fitting room. We already have online tools built through data collected from working with 1000 Women, that allow Women to size up for a Bra in their bedroom, via our bespoke measuring tape that customers can order online OR via our online fitting room. We see a massive opportunity to push this proposition further and quickly migrated our Fittings & Fizz parties to virtual versions via zoom which are run by our ambassadors but also with influencers and with more and more influencers at home we have now a lot of Women signing up to run and be part of these. The great thing about this format in the virtual world it is much easier to organise and scale so we see this good acquisition tool well into our future.

“Given that Bras are generally a must have rather than a luxury purchase, coupled with our strong comfort and fit the message, the WFH culture that we are now all-embracing resonates well with our offer and we have been seeing a PR boost as a result. All this has resulted in our online sales actually increasing 60% MoM in March vs February, and April sales are on track for double-digit growth on March.”

Amanda Greeley, founder of Thelma, meanwhile, says “we definitely aren’t spending money on anything extra… I don’t have any photoshoots planned, I’m not traveling (I suppose that’s obvious). We’ve been lucky that we’ve still been able to ship orders that come in. I think, for the coming months, the plan and expectation is to run as lean of a business with existing inventory as possible. Then I think there’s a bigger-picture conversation to be had about what moving forward looks like & how the company’s offering should evolve in light of the times.”