Starting a small business is tough, you certainly learn that when you leave your “cushy” corporate life with a steady salary and embark on the challenges ahead from having finance, IT and logistics teams, and people to delegate to. And then, all of a sudden, it’s just YOU! Every decision you make, no matter how large or small, is made by yourself in a refreshingly nimble way, yet, every decision is paid for out of your back pocket or your savings. That hurts.
Spending months developing, researching, and creating a product, brand and business from scratch with a launch date aimed at February 2020 seemed a pretty normal situation for a new start-up. And it was for me with Fusspot Collagen Beauty Tea. But what wasn’t part of the plan was a global pandemic to throw out launch plans, with so much uncertainty, no end in sight, and with consumer spending and confidence shot!! I just couldn’t have predicted what 2020 would bring when I set about to launch 21 months ago!
Fast forward to October 2020, and my business has now been operating online for eight months, yet I’ve had to pivot launch plans, marketing plans, eCommerce integrations and advertising spend to prioritise the Australian consumer situation.
I had planned for many months to launch in February, so who knew that COVID-19 would hit four weeks after I launched! This really impacted my roll-out and launch plans and of course sales. By end of March, consumers began pulling back discretionary spending – people lost jobs, incomes, ability to pay rent, many were suddenly working from home and home-schooling with stress levels increasing.
What should have been the start of my business “debut” into the market, with a steady sales trajectory going up, stalled. I re-invested initial launch and PR plans into other areas and paused my planned marketing activity… media was over-run with Coronavirus news so PR was out of the question, social and digital channels started to change algorithms with a heavy focus on immunity, hand sanitiser and daily covid19 case numbers…. and I changed my messaging to be “lighter” and more about engagement than driving sales.
The best advice I can give to other small-business owners is to use this uncertain time to do those things you don’t get time to do. Focus on SEO, write great blog content, build relationships with suppliers, rollout digital integrations to make the customer your focus!! I set up my subscription service and integrated Afterpay, which helps customers “glow now, pay later” – making my products more affordable for financially hit customers. It’s also a time to focus on State-based messaging. Victorians battled 16 weeks of lockdown, high unemployment and low disposable incomes, versus Queenslanders who were “free” and maybe earning close to their pre-COVID lives, so ensuring your messaging is conscious and relevant to all customers and their COVID lifecycles.
For Fusspot Tea, well, we’re just doing the best we can, and hoping that we all come out of this back to our “old” lives when there is a vaccine or some sort of end game. My advice for other small-business owners is to stay positive, don’t give up, keep pivoting for new ideas or messaging, join online forums and groups to get advice, support and ideas, research digital apps and tools that you can plug-in to your website, (there’s many out there to help your business grow), look at what competitors are doing that you can adopt, and in the interim – hang in there! You’re certainly not alone!
Sam Arcadipane, Founder, Fusspot Collagen Beauty Teas