| April 28, 2020
As the COVID-19 pandemic affects businesses around the world, we continue to discover inspiring pivot stories from young entrepreneurs across the country. The fates of Canadian SMEs hang on a thread, but with funding from the Government of Canada, Futurpreneur can provide solid support for the many young entrepreneurs in our network. Meanwhile, our small business owners are discovering and creating initiatives to keep their businesses afloat while the economy bears the brunt of the shut down. These three women-led companies have each come up with unique business pivots that are proving popular with customers.
KITE co-founders Michelle Tirmandi and Claudia Marion launched their start-up in early January 2020 with the intention of starting small and building out a retail customer base across Canada. Their business plan was ambitious and was meant to go national. However, when COVID-19 hit, they needed to think fast.
KITE’s plan straight out of the gate was to set up a wholesale business focused in Toronto and Ontario and then eventually to expand nationally. Their product is a sparkling beverage that unleashes the power of adaptogens, which come from certain botanicals that help keep the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) system balanced. In laymen’s terms, the ingredients used in their beverages are aimed at restoring balance and reducing stress. They had landed some distribution deals with large retailers shortly after launching. But as the economy started to slow, some wholesalers reduced orders while others understandably chose not to launch new products.
The duo decided not to take this turn of events lying down. Spurred on by the “need to do something,” Tirmandi and Marion decided to do a 180 pivot and go hyper local. They are presently building an online system that will help to meet the demand of local customers and they plan to offer home delivery soon. KITE also teamed up with like-minded companies who are seeking to add additional value for their customers. Toronto’s plant-based meal delivery company Bio Raw and vegan nutritionists Ripe Nutrition both include KITE Sparkling Beverages in their local delivery packages. Once Tirmandi and Marion have their online store up and running they will be able to deliver their stress-busting beverages to a wider customer base. Regardless of how we’re coping with the various stresses that come with social distancing and other impacts of COVID-19, KITE’s luscious sparkling botanical teas could be the perfect antidote.
Anna Chan launched her myMomentum wellness platform in 2017 just as she became a new mom. She built the platform based on her desire to combine technology, wellness and meaningful offline connections all while supporting local businesses. The free app, which can be downloaded from the Apple Store or Google Play, was wildly popular from the start. myMomentum challenges users to get out locally in Vancouver, join events and keep active.
When COVID-19 hit Canada, Chan recognized that she’d have to act fast. “It took maybe a minute to just absorb all of this, the impact on society, me personally and my business, and then I was like, ‘Okay, I have only two choices: to quit, or to find a way forward,’ ” says Chan. “One of the biggest inspirations to move forward has been my team and their belief in myMomentum and what we are building.”
And move forward they did. Chan says the company barely skipped a beat. “My strategy was not to pivot the business but rather to lean heavily into our already existing tech. This meant focusing more on our M app and moving all of our events instantly online.”
Within days, the app was offering virtual events. The turnout has been incredible and most events have sold out. The team aimed to not change events but rather sought to mimic their in-person offerings. A key draw for myMomentum’s events are their swag bags, which are now delivered directly to event participants.
The company’s M Box initiative was also launched in early April. The boxes feature locally sourced healthy snacks and other ingredients from 19 local vendors and was developed to support other small businesses even before COVID-19 hit. “It was something our team has been thinking about for a while now but wasn’t sure if the timing was right. With COVID, we knew this was something the community needed right away,” says Chan.
The first set of boxes sold out in less than 48 hours, with some boxes being donated to front line workers by myMomentum. The team is now exploring expanding their box delivery service out of the Vancouver area to cities across Canada.
Find out more about myMomentum by visiting their website at itsmymomentum.com
or check out their M Boxes on Instagram
While they may be young entrepreneurs, Black Market Provisions founders Angela Farkas and Alana Fiks, aka A&A, are old hands at pivoting their business model. They started out as “Pop Cart Girls,” flogging their icy Popsicle treats at local markets around Winnipeg from a cart. More recently they settled down into a bricks and mortar store that creates homemade food to go, treats, and what they call “rad things” that have been a hit with locals.
Alana and Angela realized as COVID-19 began to have an impact in Canada that they were going to have to make a quick and drastic pivot. The duo knew they’d likely have to close their doors so they started to strategize early. “We knew that we would likely need to close, but wanted to prioritize modifying how we did things first before having to close entirely,” says Fiks. “For some reason we were a bit ahead of the curve on this, so we had the luxury of figuring things out before there were any official government requirements to close.”
The founders’ first concern was for their staff’s safety, so they initiated more stringent sanitizing protocols, and they shifted to online orders before their province implemented emergency procedures.”We also had to ‘train’ our customers through social media about the new way we would be doing things and we adjusted our staff schedules so that no staff are working at the same time,” says Fiks.
A&A understood that their customers would still want to buy their homemade foods and would also be trying to limit their exposure by reducing visits to other stores so they have added provisions like flour, milk, toilet paper, chips, and chocolate to their online offerings.
The pair remains optimistic about the impacts of the pandemic. “We love the focus and attention this has brought to small businesses and we’re hopeful that we will all come out of this stronger and continue with the kindness and generosity we’ve been feeling.”
Learn more about Black Market Provisions on their website www.blackmarketwpg.com
or check out their “rad” items on Instagram