The Coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a brutal decline in economic activity that is hitting many Black owned businesses and professionals hard.
In this series, we will be sharing personal stories from Black entrepreneurs and professionals about how they are dealing with this new reality.
What were your initial thoughts when you learned about the outbreak?
As entrepreneurs, our first responsibility is taking care of our team by making sure we (Grovara) provide resources and support to keep our team going when things get rough.
So, my initial thoughts were to immediately re-strategize, work with team members to come up cost cutting strategies, reroute some of those funds saved to payroll operations in order to guarantee we weather the storm together, intact.
We were at the point of scale where development for our B2B Global Marketplace platform for wellness brands had just been completed, readying for launch and scale, and then BOOM – there’s a global pandemic. Rapid problems at this scale calls for rapid decision making and execution.
How has it affected your business?
We had a strong January + February, crushing our numbers when compared to the previous year and then all of sudden our sales have come to a screeching halt. A good number of recurring sales and almost all of the new opportunities has dried up.
Our customers in Hong Kong, UAE, Kuwait, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Netherlands, France, Belgium, South Africa are all in countries going through complete or partial lockdown.
However, even though the entire global economy is looking bleak, I see this an opportunity to keep providing excellence services to both our brands and retail partners, continue a strong push with business development, keep perfecting our platform and get ready for scale once the pandemic has subsided.
Believe you me, Grovara will be one of the first companies out the block once countries open again for business across the world.
How has it affected your lifestyle?
I am naturally an extrovert so most definitely the socializing part of life, enjoy time with friends, family, and business partners has changed. However, I see this as a good opportunity to hunker down and get back to the basics while doubling my efforts on the business front. This will ultimately help improve the lifestyle once we get past this .
What new strategies have you implemented or do you plan to implement in your business?
I consider this as a time when your strategy needs a strategy. We now find ourselves in a situation where we quickly needed to re-strategize with pretty much everything.
From business development, technology development, sales approach, operations, cross utilizing team members with more responsibilities, account and market focus, down to negotiating with banks for grace periods.
It’s been an interesting exercise and I have to say this is the first time in my 10 years of entrepreneurship that I’ve seen the caring side of banks lol…they need to keep that same energy after the pandemic.
If you had one ask of your community right now, what would it be?
This is the time more than ever to truly support each other in the community, and make an effort to buy from other each other and keep patronizing our businesses.
There are a lot of entrepreneurs that are hurting out there. We already know that during normal times, more than half of companies that have black owners were turned down for loans.
The most important way to support our community right now, is by supporting with our dollars. Outside of this, during hard times let’s do the ultimate good which is spreading love.
-Tony O. Lawson