My goodness, am I tired of coronavirus! But it’s here to stay, and so many businesses of all sizes are pivoting and diversifying to accommodate the new way of life, either spotting a gap in a new market, or simply to keep their businesses alive and current.
Many of my network contacts have done just that, and I thought I’d share a few with you.
Founded by Dee Lockhart, HONEST Blends began trading in 2019 with the launch of a loose-leaf tea blend. Dee wanted to create a tea that was free from the glue and plastic found in the majority of tea bags, as well as a deliciously flavoured blend. This in turn led onto a botanical and herbal gin, free of chemicals and sulphites. One unique infusion included the HONEST Blends tea flavours, and became G &T(ea)! All sorts of exciting things were happening with the business as sales grew and interest came in from some high-profile sales outlets – and then everything went on hold with lockdown in March.
Dee had a brainwave to keep the momentum up for her fledgling business – and within the space of a week, she was up and running with HONEST Blends Hand Sanitiser, fully licensed and formulated to the World Health Organisation’s 80% standard. Distribution began to NHS Trusts, care homes, and front line workers – all with the original HONEST Blends ethos still at the heart of the operation. As lockdown continued, and we began to emerge into the new world, Dee add HONEST Blends Water, Coffee and Home Fragrances to the product range. She’s all set for an incredibly exciting 2021, as her range continues to grow, all under the HONEST Blends name and values of greener and more eco-friendly products, with a touch of luxury.
Willow and Hen Interior Design
Sue Chalmers was one of the first people I met when I started networking, and I loved her Willow and Hen business from that moment. With her wealth of experience in staging homes for the housing market, and an intuitive understanding of how to use space in the most ingenious ways, she’s just fab – and so are her beautiful home products, which she always used to showcase on a table at networking events. With COVID, no events meant no tables – and lockdown created difficulties for in-home design consultations, too.
So Sue refocused the business, and has introduced a Lifestyle arm alongside the shop and interior design. With a gorgeous new website that reflects all of the things she loves about her brand and products, she’s moved all her sales online, along with creating a Facebook community for sharing lifestyle tips tricks, and special offers in the shop. She’s also holding a pop-up shop in her garden on finer days, which she co-ordinates with the online sales events – and she’s even offering design consultation via Zoom. This is all very bad news for my home décor budget!
Busy Women Networking
Aruna Rao’s Busy Women Networking is the place to be if you have your own business in Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Oxfordshire – and soon to be London and Rugby too. Being a member myself has been one of the best things I’ve done for my business since I started it. I’ve met some truly amazing and inspirational people, and have made a huge number of connections, which have resulted in some great collaborations.
Pre-Covid, the meetings were held over lunchtimes in some of the loveliest lunch venues that Beds, Bucks and Oxfordshire had to offer, and there was almost as much pleasure in the food as there was in the company. In March, I went to one of the very last Busy Women in-person meetings, at the beautiful Claydon House for the Buckingham meeting.
With lockdown, there were two options – stop altogether, or go online. I don’t think the former was ever really an option for Aruna – not least because she knows how many dozens of women rely on the contacts, connections and experience that her many meetings offer. And ever since March, we’ve all got together in our usual meetings, but on Zoom – and they’ve been fantastic. The meetings run to exactly the same agenda, with each member pitching their business, breaking out into one to one meetings, and spotlighting a member each month to give a greater insight into their business. Referrals and collaborations are just as productive as they ever were. Instead of being served up a lunch, we’ve all been challenged to come up with the most interesting dish for our midday meal, with Aruna awarding a prize for the best one. We’ve even got a WhatsApp support group to help with interactions on our social media posts in between meetings.
I miss the meeting up – I think we all do – but it would have been a much more desperate landscape for cultivating new relationships and nurturing existing ones without it; and because you’re no longer bound by journey times, it’s easy to visit any one of the many different meetings, and get know many more new contacts.
There are examples of this pivoting and diversification up and down the land, and all over the world. It’s fascinating to see how quickly and how ingeniously people have responded, and shows just how brilliant and adaptable human beings are: when the world changes, they find a way to change with it, and I’m very privileged to be helping all sorts of different businesses to rewrite their words to reflect their business in the new world. If you’ve changed the way you do business, and would like some help with telling the world how you do it, give me a shout!