Celebrating the innovation, resilience and perseverance of small business owners is what Small Business Week is all about — this year more than ever. Faced with crushing challenges as a result of the pandemic, small businesses had to reinvent themselves almost overnight.
Just about every Thumbtack pro we’ve talked to in the last few months had to ask themselves the same question: how do I make sure my business survives so I don’t have to work for anybody else again? Here’s how three pros answered that question.
Create new product offerings and services
After leaving her corporate job at a rooftop bar a year ago, Tannaz Kalhor took a leap of faith and started a luxury mobile bartending service, Curly Bartender LLC. What started as a one-woman operation quickly grew to 15 on-call bartenders and servers with a packed calendar of events scheduled. Then shelter in place hit and everything was cancelled.
For three months, she had no events and sitting still with nothing to do was hard. That’s when she came up with Boozy Brunch Baskets — personalized for any celebration, from birthdays to new home purchases. Delivered to the recipient’s house, the baskets gave people a way to celebrate life’s big moments when they couldn’t do it in person.
“Running my own business is the best thing I’ve ever done — even during COVID. So many wonderful people ordered baskets — this really was a blessing to be able to connect friends and families in this way.”
Move classes online to reach more students
Before the pandemic struck, Vaughn Chung taught 35 music lessons a week — all in person at his students’ homes or in his studio. Learning how to adapt to remote lessons was the only way he was going to keep his business going — one he’d built on his own after dropping out of college to pursue his passion for music.
“Starting my own business was an opportunity I had to take. I’d never taught online lessons before, but I knew I had to make it work — I never wanted to work for anybody else again.”
Vaughn’s list of students has grown 350% since March — he now has 73 music lessons a week and has even hired five teachers to expand his guitar, voice and piano lessons. The diversity of his students has been one of the most fascinating aspects of moving to an online model — from healthcare professionals needing a therapeutic diversion to college students at top music programs in need of additional personal instruction.
Go above and beyond for customers
Pre-COVID, Patryk Gawlak had a thriving family-owned residential cleaning business, with more than half of his income coming from vacation rental properties. When travel stopped and the cancellations started rolling in, his vacation property clients dropped nearly to zero almost overnight. To keep the other side of his business going, he quickly made adjustments to help his cleaners and customers feel safe and secure.
“Some of my regular clients were afraid to have people outside their family coming into the house. We offered additional deep-clean sanitizing services to help them feel at ease — high-touch areas, doorknobs, light switches — wore personal protective gear during cleanings and disinfected all cleaning equipment between jobs.”
While travel has picked up in Arizona, it’s nowhere near where it was — so Patryk continues to find ways to expand. Some of his latest clients include commercial properties getting set to reopen and apartment complexes that want to make sure everything is properly sanitized for their residents.
“It’s so important to support local businesses right now — it’s going to take time for things to pick up.”
What it means to think like a local
Small businesses are the very lifeblood of our communities — with more than half of all Americans either owning or working for one. At a time when we are all staying closer to home, it’s crucial that we come together in support of these local entrepreneurs — by investing in their success we are ensuring our own.