Surviving lockdown: the firms thriving through change

While many businesses are laying-off staff or closing down completely, some SMEs have found new ways to stay afloat, with some even experiencing a surge in demand.

Several have spoken of ways they have adapted to meet the changing landscape or are using the time effectively to prepare for better times.

They told their stories to Start Up Loans – part of the British Business Bank – describing how they have adapted their day-to-day operations to keep the money coming in during lockdown.

Mitch Lee, co-founder of Mitch’s Kitchen, an online shop which delivers home-cooked frozen vegan meals has been busy selling the virtues of its products that are free from gluten nuts, palm oil and pesticides.

The business has added veg boxes to its menu to enable it to offer customers who are self-isolating to eat fresh produce with their frozen meals. And the results have been inspiring.

“Overall, we saw a 208 per cent increase in sales in March compared to the previous year – something we could have never imagined to come out of such an awful time,“ says Mitch, from Fareham, Hampshire.

I learnt early on in starting a business that worrying and panic is a bad use of time and energy, and that it should be put into positive thoughts and actions

“The key takeaway for us has been to connect with our customers on a personal level. Our social presence has always played a big part in our marketing strategy but during this difficult period we’ve made sure that our content has been very personal.

“The messages of support we’ve received from our customers has been truly heart-warming and have kept us going, ensuring we keep our kitchen operational and replenishing stock as frequently as possible.”

Joseph Munns, the founder of Bakedin in Basingstoke, which makes home-baking kits says demand for his products since lockdown has been “overwhelming”. The business has also enjoyed a 10-fold uplift in daily sign-ups for its monthly subscription service.

He added: “We’ve had to put in a lot of social distance measures in the factory, which has effectively cut our maximum output in half, but given everything that is going on I feel quite fortunate in that we’ve managed to take on more staff at this stage instead of furloughing anyone.”

We’re working hard to innovate and continue thriving through a challenging period

Craig Rose, pictured above, the founder of Seaweed and CO, a Tyne and Wear business which sells products made from seaweed says he has been working with his customers to plan for when the lockdown ends and has developed video presentations and online meeting systems.

“These are incredibly surreal and challenging times, and as a small business it is worrying that such a huge amount of effort is under strain from uncertainty,” he says.

“However, it puts everything into perspective and gives a great time to reflect.  I learnt early on in starting a business that worrying and panic is a bad use of time and energy, and that it should be put into positive thoughts and actions.”

Sara Roberts, the founder of Healthy Nibbles, a Scottish subscription snack delivery service

has adapted her service to deliver to remote workers across the country, instead of offices.

“We’re working hard to innovate and continue thriving through a challenging period,” she says. “While previously, we provided healthy vending machines to customers including Transport for London, we’ve had to enhance our B2C services to ensure individuals across the country are aware of our snack box delivery service.”

PJ Farr of UK Connect
PJ Farr: adapting and commucating

PJ Farr, the founder of UK Connect, a Guildford business which supplies broadband and technology services to the construction industry is adapting to remote working by prioritising the maintenance of staff productivity and wellbeing.

PJ says: “As a business owner, you are responsible to and for your employees. Reassure them, be open about the situation and communicate at least daily, especially if working from home. The decisions we make now will impact their lives and the overall welfare of our companies when the crisis is over. We’re always looking for silver linings and see this as a great time to upskill and provide training to staff.

“We also suggest maintaining individual employee goals and regularly checking in to colleagues are completing their training. This shows that your care about each and everyone in the organisation.”