Covid-19 has brought the global economy to its knees, and it’s taking many startups along with it. But entrepreneurship isn’t dying, it’s evolving.
Sure, we’re facing big challenges. But what if these big challenges are the catalysts for even BIGGER ideas? Ideas that make our world a better place. A world where we innovate continuously, and together.
And couldn’t this be the wake-up call we need for our community to lock arms, support the little guys, and make those big ideas not just a possibility, but a REALITY? We think so.
You don’t have to believe us, though. Here are some sterling examples of local small businesses who are thinking creatively, collectively and generously.
Examples of startups giving Covid-19 the middle finger
These are just a few of the South African businesses that are striving to solve something, rather than sell something. If you can think of any other inspirational examples, please mention them in the comments below!
Kamersvol Geskenke brings the market to the people
The incredible Kamersvol Geskenke had planned for their popular Johannesburg craft show to take place from 23 to 27 April 2020. With hundreds of craftspeople relying on the exposure and sales that this show typically brings, lockdown became a threat not just to Kamersvol, but to the entrepreneurs who depend on them, too.
So, they decided that if they couldn’t take the people to the show, they’d bring the show to the people! In record time, Kamersvol managed to move their show online. Now, consumers from Johannesburg and beyond get to browse unique crafts and much-loved local brands from the safety and comfort of their own homes. Kudos, Kamersvol Geskenke!
Yoco launches a small business directory
If you are a startup, or have ever bought from a startup, you’ve probably used Yoco’s payment solutions. No matter how popular Yoco’s card payment machines are, though, they’re just not super helpful when (literal) shop doors are closed, and people are social-distancing.
Yoco’s Co-founder and CEO, Katlego Maphai, says “...we have seen up to a 90% decrease in in-person transactions since the lockdown began”. So Katlego and team scratched their heads for a solution that would be good for business, and good for entrepreneurs.
Not only did they create a comprehensive Covid-19 Guide and make it freely available to all business owners, they also launched three new payment solutions. The Payment Page, Gift Vouchers and Payment Request solutions were quickly built to enable small businesses to make secure online sales.
The best part, though, is that they didn’t just ‘sell’ these solutions. They created an online business directory where customers can support small businesses by buying an online gift voucher, donating or shopping. If you haven’t registered your business yet, do it!
SweepSouth reaches for the (Sweep)Stars
If you haven’t heard about this pioneering tech business before, they’re an online booking platform connecting domestic workers to clients in most of the big cities in South Africa. In its 6 years of operation, SweepSouth has been a huge success, having facilitated over 9 million hours of cleaning!
Until… Covid-19, social distancing, and finally, lockdown. Bookings on their site have, of course, suffered. But this isn’t their first concern. SweepSouth is worried about its SweepStars, the cleaners who depend on their site for an income. So, they’re doing something about it.
A few weeks into lockdown they announced the launch of the SweepSouth COVID-19 SweepStar Fund, and their aim to raise R12 million towards the essential needs of the cleaners who depend on them. Last we checked, they had raised over R7 million (holy moly!), and intended to use this to pay up to R450 per week towards the living expenses of cleaners.
Advantage Learn gives kids free education
We’re proud to say that these cool cucumbers are Startup School alumni, and that their founder won our online Entrepreneurship course startup funding prize back in 2017.
Like us, Advantage Learn is in the education space. They provide workshops and online learning to prepare high school kids for university.
When news of Covid-19 broke, Advantage Learn knew that high school kids and teachers would need their help. So, without waiting for lockdown to be announced, they jumped into action and made their Maths Online (grade 8 – 12 maths video resources) completely free.
This gesture has been hugely successful, with thousands of kids, parents and teachers taking full advantage (pun intended 😉 of the free educational resources. A byproduct of this generous act has been impressive brand exposure.
This is not the first time we’ve seen kindness pay. Often, acting for the good of the community is acting for the good of the business, right?
5 ways to succeed in spite of the global pandemic
The businesses above have, in many ways, led the way.
Kamersvol Geskenke and Yoco have shown us how to adapt our products and services to the changing landscape. SweepSouth and Advantage Learn have demonstrated the business benefits of being generous. And all of them have considered the collective needs of customers and communities.
Now, it’s time to challenge yourself. Don’t give up, give more! Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Lock arms with other local entrepreneurs
Every business and customer has been affected by the coronavirus crisis in some way. But just like 100 pieces of paper glued together is tough to tear, we too are stronger together. So, look to your fellow entrepreneurs for opportunities to collaborate.
For example, if your brand has the same target audience as another brand, think about ways to market each others’ products or services, or offer a shared prize for a social media campaign. A single social media post could double the brand exposure for both businesses.
Or, if you need similar tools or skills as another business, think about sharing your premises and team when lockdown ends. For example, a leather shoe business and a leather pet accessory business might work side-by-side, producing shoes and collars, to reduce operating costs.
Repurpose your resources
Customer needs are different, and they’ll stay that way for a while. After all, even when lockdown is lifted or eased, social-distancing is likely to be a lasting reality (at least for a few months). So, adapt your products, raw materials, equipment etc. to the current limitations of the economy.
For example, an events company might consider renting out the trucks they use to transport equipment to other industries, or using their camera equipment to live-stream events. Perhaps they even could refocus their services on informal, intimate events with fewer than 50 people.
Be a light in the dark for your customers
Just because you can’t make sales doesn’t mean that you should abandon your loyal customers. Remind them that you’re on this journey together, keep them inspired with motivational posts on your social pages, update them about your products and let them know what to expect from you after lockdown ends.
This way, your brand will connect with its audience in a uniquely ‘human’ way. Customers will be loyal, and your products and services will be top of mind for them when your business opens again.
Get it done
In a world where time is (usually) a rare commodity, you finally have loads of it! The clock has slowed right down, so use what’s left of lockdown to get ahead of the tasks that always seem to fall to the bottom of your to-do list. You know, research, planning, strategising, admin, that sort of stuff.
Maybe you could improve your website? Update your software? Expand your list of leads? Plan the next 4 weeks of social media content? Take an online course?
If it’s the latter, we’ve got you covered! Applications for our flagship online course for entrepreneurs are open, and we’re offering full bursaries! Interested? Check it out here.
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