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Businesses survive pandemic with creativity, grit

By Amanda Converse

The COVID-19 pandemic turned many of Cape Cod’s small businesses upside down in 2020. Since March, business owners had to shift, reimagine, juggle, and make multiple changes to their business models simultaneously. All the while adhering to new health and safety protocols, regulatory guidelines and reduced capacity and demand.

Many business owners met the moment with creativity, grit, and determination — resulting in success stories and best practices other small businesses can learn from.

After Gov. Charlie Baker’s stayat- home order left small businesses with few options for connecting their customers last spring, most turned to the internet. And the first thing they had to do to ensure success was to reinforce their online presence — updating their Google page, fostering their social media presence and/or making sure their website was up to date. In short, they had to make sure their website represented them well and provided an effortless and informative experience for their customers.

Retail stores such as Titcomb’s Bookshop in Sandwich and Cape Cod Package Store in Centerville offered an easy online shopping experience, allowing customers to browse their entire inventory for curbside pickup or delivery.

The Chocolate Rose Bakery in Mashpee made ordering its cakes, pies, and cookies seamless and convenient, providing vivid descriptions and allowing customers to choose the day and time to pick up their order.

These businesses have all continued to promote and foster online purchasing options even after they reopened for in-person shopping.

Video conferencing platforms such as Zoom allowed many small businesses another avenue to engage with their customers.

Chef Michael Ceraldi, owner of Ceraldi in Wellfleet, has been offering interactive cooking classes online, and Salt Yarn Shop in Dennis hosts knitting circles on Zoom.

Health and fitness businesses used video platforms to keep their clients engaged, fit and sane. Centerville Yoga has offered its full schedule virtually since April, allowing students to access the classes, which are recorded and can be accessed for 24 hours. Quench Fitness in Hyannis sent its members home with a set of kettlebells and resistance bands so they could fully engage with Quench’s online training sessions.

Sundance Clothing in Chatham and The Plum Porch in Marstons Mills created a more personal and curated online shopping experience through Facebook Live. And several downtown Hyannis businesses came together to create a Facebook Group, the Hyannis Main Street Marketplace, on which they sell their products. Items for sale are posted and customers use the comment section to purchase items for pickup or delivery.

When businesses were able to reopen in June but with reduced indoor capacity, many moved outdoors to space afforded to them by their neighbors, municipalities and surrounding outdoor environments. Business neighbors of the Underground Bakery and the Mercantile in Dennis Village set up picnic tables for outdoor dining in their shared parking lot. Red Fish Blue Fish in Hyannis spread its retail store onto the sidewalk when the town of Barnstable decided to block off one traffic lane on Main Street for pedestrian traffic, and Sal’s in Provincetown set up an entire section of its restaurant on the beach.

Others were able to expand in other ways, by incorporating new services that make doing business with them as hands-off as possible. Both The Local Juice and Colombo’s in Hyannis acquired branded vehicles for customer deliveries. This allowed them to engage with customers that needed to stay close to also home while also marketing their business as they made deliveries.

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Friends Marketplace in Orleans offered some of its staff as personal grocery shoppers for customers who didn’t want to shop in person.

Some businesses took elements that were already part of their business model that worked well under the new rules and guidelines and made them their sole focus. Unable to incorporate outdoor dining into its customer experience, The Talkative Pig in Chatham, which already had a small takeout business, switched entirely to a takeout business model. And when the State of Massachusetts temporarily allowed for cocktails to-go, it was able to capitalize on that trend as well.

Through it all the businesses that communicated clearly and consistently with their customers, emphasizing their safe and convenient consumer experience, were able to not only bring in customers but to keep them coming back.

Fitness centers such as Chatham Works in Chatham implemented strong protocols that were consistent throughout its facility, and it shared all of its how-tos with its clients via an instructional video that was simple and easy to follow.

Sheryl Baba, owner of Sheryl Baba Skincare in Yarmouth Port, sends her clients an email with her COVID-19 requirements before every appointment, reminding them she is taking all of her clients’ safety seriously.

Creative Edge Hair Salon in Yarmouth has its hairstylists walk their clients through its masking, cleaning, and sanitization procedures step-by-step at every appointment.

Many of these businesses did not figure all of this out on their own and were not afraid to ask for help. They received advice and marketing assistance from their fellow business owners and local business and mentoring organizations, such as SCORE.

They were also able to access Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans government funding programs thanks to Cape Cod’s local banking institutions. There was also other financial help available from funds such as the Cape Cod Resilience Fund. And, of course, they relied on staff members and customers to go along on the journey with them.

We are not out of the woods yet, so for the business community to get through these next few months more of this assistance, strategic innovation and perseverance will be needed. There is no doubt that Cape Cod’s small businesses are up to the task. Amanda Converse is Founder & CEO of LoveLiveLocal, www.lovelivelocal. com. Tips from SCORE is a weekly offering of business advice. For Free and Confidential mentoring contact SCORE at www. capecodscore.org, capecodscore@verizon.net, 508-775-4884. We go where you are. To get a SCORE Reopening Kit visit: https://capecod. score.org/resource/scorereopening- toolkit-small-business

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