Female Entrepreneurs vs COVID-19

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Female Entrepreneurs vs COVID-19

Sunday, March 29, 2020

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Female entrepreneurs have been pivoting to meet the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic screams global headlines. It's no idle boast! But they are, however, doing lots more: soothing frayed nerves, homeschooling, juggling laundry and spreadsheets, concocting culinary reductions, and teaching themselves to breathe better to boot! SO shares the coping skills of 12 female Rock stars.

Marie Hall Smith

Managing Director The Face Place Ltd.

COVID-19 has taught me that... no matter what plans and forecasts you may have made or are making for your internal environment, the external environment in which you live and operate is not in your control!

My focus right now is... to take advantage of the time off to strategise on recovery using all positives learned to guide and make good on reoccupying a strengthened position in our industry. Despite the abrupt interruption of business as usual, I am optimistic that when this period has passed we will continue to thrive in our respective share of the marketplace.

The impact on my business has been... significant with an immediate 60 per cent decline in services of which I anticipate could go up to 100 per cent if all businesses are to be closed.

I would encourage my fellow entrepreneurs to... learn from the experience and think positively on how, moving forward, they will incorporate what they have learned into the pillars of their respective businesses.

The song that keeps me upbeat is... Bob Marley and the Wailers Three Little Birds.

My name is… Ingrid Riley

My business is… Rebel Grrl & Co. I started this late last year, fresh off a year-long sabbatical when I was getting some rest, reflecting and figuring out what I wanted to do next and how — after over 15 years in the Caribbean tech space.

Rebel Grrl & Co is a rainmaker and digital marketing consultancy focused on women in this digital age. My company works with women entrepreneurs to leverage unconventional business, digital and wellness strategies and tools to grow their business, live life well and on their own terms.

Because of COVID-19, however, I'm being asked to work outside of this focus, so we'll see.

COVID-19 has taught me… that uncertainty has different levels and flavours. At some point in our lives we've lived through loss — of a loved one, a relationship, and a client/business. We just have to accept that we live with uncertainty every single day, and we can only control how we respond to all of that.

COVID-19, however, is an unprecedented disruptor. It has challenged the number one asset we have — our health. It has turned upside down everything we've come to accept as the norm. How we live, work and do business have changed in so many ways. I thought surviving and thriving through Hurricane Gilbert was going to be my forever badge of honour, but it will be replaced with COVID-19, for sure.

It has reminded me, to stay nimble, look for the lesson, the good, the opportunities, all while staying true to what feels right for me. It has also reminded me, in a very big way, about the secret to be financially successful in business and being personally financially free….multiple revenue streams.

The impact on my business has been... whooo, lordie!! My initial contracts blew up…poof!!! They were linked to the events and tourism industries. So it was a helluva gut punch. I had to take a seat, go to a deserted piece of deserted beach in Portland to breeze out my brain, to swallow, recover and think things through.

My focus right now is… being the bolder, more open, more experimental, more innovative than I've ever been. I'm also leveraging my global network in ways I've never done before. I've been listening a lot online, on phone calls, to a lot to the pain points people are having and seeing how I can be of greatest value. I've done a number of free strategy sessions for the past couple of weeks and helping women entrepreneurs especially to get their heads back in the game and answer their most pressing problems and guiding them to take their best next step. Plus I have to remain healthy, so I've also doubled down on my daily meditation and more consistent in taking CBD oil daily, as it helps to keep me calm and makes me fall asleep with ease.

I would encourage my fellow female entrepreneurs to… not let COVID-19 steal your joy. Do whatever it takes to take care of their head space first. It could mean talking to a friend or your therapist; taking CBD oil, screaming, cussing, praying, dancing or doing 100 jumping jacks.

Then remind yourself of why you got into business in the first place. Are you clear about your intentions? Are you happy with how you've been doing your business? Then follow up by assessing your business — for example, where are the areas that you were doing very well in? Are there areas you know you were dragging your feet? What have you been too scared to take a risk on? Do you need to ask for and get help with something? Ask yourself some tough, radically honest questions.

Then figure out what remains true for you, because now is the time to double down on acting on your instincts and ignoring what everyone else is doing. Trust yourself.

The song that has kept me upbeat is... Where I'm Coming From by Lila Ik. I've been playing this every single day for the past 10 days.

The first verse says:

“Thankful for the blessings that have fallen on my table

Learning all my lessons now I'm willing and I'm able

To do just what I can, as humble as a lamb

Working towards the goal and we give thanks for helping hands

Pray for health and strength, a life of length and peace of mind”

The hook says :

“When I think of where I'm coming from

Looking back at where the journey began

I really haffi say that I'm strong, I'm strong

All praises to the most high One.”

Listen to the whole song and you'll see why it resonates with me right now and it helps that Ik's voice is distinctive and soulful. Side bar, I expect her to be the next to take off from our reggae scene, like Koffee.

Roxanne Shields-Barnes, principal, Roxanne's Salon

In business for 13 years.

COVID-19 has taught me a few things:

1. Expect the unexpected — things can change at the drop of a hat; whether it be this crisis or another we need to be able to adapt to any situation.

2. Stay informed from reliable sources only. Don't listen to the noise. Keep calm and grounded!

3. To establish a plan C & D. Most of us in business have a plan B, but this pandemic knocked that out the door as well.

In my business we have always maintained a high level of cleanliness and sanitisation. It's the hallmark of our trade. But we have implemented additional measures to safeguard our clients and staff, who are my priority.

My business has definitely suffered, but... I'm positive that when this is all over it will be strengthened by the improved systems.

My resolve is... to keep my clients and staff safe and happy while maintaining the mandatory requirements expected. One of the hardest parts of this is not being able to greet my clients with a hug and kiss as I usually do.

I would encourage my fellow entrepreneurs to... continue to be strong leaders and trust their judgment! This too shall pass!

The song that has kept me upbeat is... Tones and I's Dance Monkey... it's my children's favourite tune which has become mine also. It's on constant replay.

Summer Lopez

Business: Body Forte' Physiotherapy and Pilates

COVID-19... Nothing is the same... Body Forte's revenues have plummeted. My children have home school, our helper is at her home with her children (on full pay), everyone in our household has to pull their weight. Routines are disrupted. It's hard not to be anxious but I'm staying focused on actions I can take now to make life better for my family, my clients and those around me, not just now, but after this crisis is over.

COVID-19 has taught me... the importance of a financial cushion for a small business. It's easy to spend profits or plough them back into the business, but if you do that, then there's no surplus to help you ride out a downturn. This situation has forced me to innovate – to experiment with online classes, a more flexible schedule, smaller class sizes, and to set priorities for the clients who need us most, like those who require physiotherapy as they recover from injuries, illness or surgery. We all remain focused on our big-picture goal: enhancing life through movement.

As difficult as this time is... I've noticed much that is positive. The Body Forte team has pulled together so well. We've improved our office systems. We've taken time to weigh what really matters. We're focused on the safety of our clients and ourselves, so our hygiene measures have improved and I'm happy to see this also happening in the wider society.

As we all navigate this tough time... I'm thinking about all the people on the front lines — health-care workers, people in grocery stores and pharmacies, those cleaning the streets and collecting the garbage — and I'm grateful for them all. I'm hoping that we will all support the small businesses we use and appreciate — pay in advance if we can, buy gift cards, offer to volunteer from home, if that's an option for you. Most of all, though, I'm using this time to reflect on what really matters and finding solace in family, friends and nature.

The song that keeps me upbeat is... DuaLipa's Don't Start Now

Attorney-at-law Annaliesa E Lindsay

Lindsay Law Chambers

Conducting business during COVID-19 has taught me… greater patience and the importance of down time and quiet time in getting things done in the most efficient manner. It has also reinforced for me staff care and welfare. I also have older relatives that I have to be looking out for at this sensitive time. They are also restless, so keeping them quiet is a challenge.

The focus right now is… responding to clients' queries and using the time productively to get a lot of paperwork done, which includes general research and reading. At the end of the day time waits for no-one and our clients' business concerns need to be addressed.

The impact on my business has been… the reduced access to courts for those clients who have litigation matters. For the others, we still have access to clients and other attorneys, which leads to client needs being addressed. Of course, one has to have even greater patience in relation to being paid as we are all in these challenging times together. But, bills still have to be paid.

I would encourage my fellow entrepreneurs... by highlighting that nothing lasts forever so stay nimble to grasp any and all opportunities that come your way. Where diversification is possible, don't hesitate.

The song that has kept me upbeat is… Bob Marley's No Woman No Cry and Chronixx's Legend.

Aiesha Panton

Principal, Pussbackfoot — An event planning and design boutique.

COVID-19 has taught me… that my work is even more important now. Many people have underestimated the importance of beauty, of gathering and of celebrating life every day; the critical role it plays in overall mental health. This experience highlights our connectedness, which to me is the most important point of our human experience. It has ignited my passion a little more intensely to impact lives, one event or one magical moment at a time. It has also made me even more grateful that I know God, so that I can know peace and promise instead of panic at this time.

The focus right now is… taking the time to deep-dive into my Pussbackfoot wish list, which focuses on brand extension ideas and the overall upliftment of our brand experience.

The impact on my business has been… a direct hit, really. We are in the business of gatherings and gatherings are not allowed for the time being. So, there have been postponements, thankfully, rather than cancellations! Obviously, this disrupts cash flow which has a ripple effect on not only me and my family, but my team and their families. So, there is even more pressure to be creative and innovative than ever before, not just with product offerings but also on the back-end of the business as well... but I'm up for it!

I would encourage my fellow entrepreneurs to… not be paralysed by panic and fear, but instead to take the time to work on developing their business, to sense and adapt, to do an assessment of where you are now, to determine what you can do better and differently given the global shift brought about by COVID-19. It will pass and we need to be ready. In fact, there is opportunity right now, in the midst of it.

The song that has kept me upbeat is… Reckless Love by Stefanny Gretzinger.

Janelle Pantry-Coke

Principal, Spaces Limited

My business is... creating beautiful homes. I help clients furnish the home of their dreams and create “the house they want to come home to”.

COVID-19 has taught me... that to survive in business one must be nimble and ready to adapt quickly to an ever-changing environment.

The focus right now is on... our interior decorating services. This situation might very well be our “new normal”, as with persons spending more time at home, the comforts of home are more important than ever before. Whether you're working remotely, home schooling or simply dining together as a family, we're helping our clients improve their homes to reflect their new needs.

The impact on my business is... based on the prime minister's request for non-essential workers to work from home, we made the decision to temporarily close our showroom. However, we remain open and ready to serve our clients through our online store www.spacesjamaica.com. We've also extended our interior decorating services to include e-designing services and we continue to offer home delivery.

Having survived the recession of 2008, I would encourage my fellow entrepreneurs... not to be discouraged by the current downturn in business and, if they can, to take this time to re-evaluate their business processes, products and services and seek to improve their efficiencies in order to position themselves for the upside to come.

The song that has kept me upbeat is... Chronixx's I Can.

“Oh every morning, oh every morning I rise, I stare at the sun. I know it is a blessing. So when the evening comes I lift up my eyes to the hills. I'm blessed, oh man. With my two hands in the air as far as I can, as far as I can, I can, yeah, my two hands in the air as far as I can..”

Lisa Hutchinson

Lisa's Salon principal

COVID-19 has taught me... that things can and will change overnight. Stay prepared!

The focus right now is... keeping myself, my family, my clients and staff in a safe and healthy environment.

The impact on my business has been... both our clients and our team members have been taking this threat very seriously and so have worked together to restructure our appointment system. As a result, we've been limiting the amount of clients we service per day as well as spacing appointments further apart, in order to ensure that we are in compliance with the health ministry's rules and guidelines.

I would encourage my fellow entrepreneurs to… make sure to create the safest possible environment for yourself and for the persons around you. Know that this period of uncertainty must pass and we'll need to be physically and mentally healthy to keep moving forward.

The song that has kept me upbeat is... I can't say that it has been a song that has kept me going, but Bishop T D Jakes is my go-to person for daily inspiration.

Mina Robertson

Founder & Creative Haveli

My business is…

Haveli — a sustainable, lifestyle brand and eponymous boutique in Kingston. Our purpose is to create a connection to the divine energy in all of us. We've started with women's ready-to-wear, mindfully creating pieces within an inclusive size range, using sustainably sourced materials and production practices that celebrate the heritage of their origin.

Doing business during COVID-19 has taught me… to focus on what is truly important and to empathise deeply.

To be solution-based and get creative to keep the wheels turning. One of my mum's classic refrains is: “There are many ways to skin a cat” and that's echoing constantly.

What it means to step up and be a leader. To answer to your team, remaining open, calm and decisive despite so much uncertainty.

To temper expectations, let go of the 'should haves', 'would haves' and 'could haves' and approach the situation day by day with gratitude.

That it's OK to acknowledge how I'm feeling and that suppressing the sadness I feel for our world, the fear and the anxiety does no one any good.

“To let go of the pressure to magically resurface from quarantine as Michelle Obama (my friend Alysia gave me that gem).”

That I need to just do my best each day to be productive, supportive and at peace.

Perspective is a source of gratitude and gratitude is a source of happiness.

This is one world and we all have to do our part. Please take the precautions very seriously.

The focus right now is… the health, safety and well-being of our team and our community and serving them as best we can. Staying home, staying connected, fulfilling orders and developing strategies for our 'new normal'.

The impact on my business has been… Haveli's birthday is January 4, 2020 so you could say that this is baptism by fire. It's definitely been a steep learning curve and we're evolving day by day. I've personally been grappling with the dark realities of what the world is experiencing and it just has not felt right for us to be promoting our products this past week. We've been trying to work through what role our brand and company is going to play in all of this; thinking about how to serve our Goddess community and bring light and joy without being insensitive. I think it's a delicate balance and we're still figuring that out. We aim to embody the power of fashion as an agent for social change and we recognise the importance of the release and empowerment that fashion can provide once the worst is behind us — so we are in a planning and strategising stage.

We've become more of a digital business — operating primarily through Instagram and WhatsApp. We closed our brick-and-mortar space temporarily on 13/03 which was really disappointing for our small team here but nothing compared to what so many other businesses and their teams are going through right now. Our thoughts and prayers are with all Jamaicans during this painful time.

We started to offer our virtual shopping tours which are essentially personal shopping experiences via video call which are actually really fun. Coming to Haveli is a bonding experience and we're trying to recreate that as best we can online. Beyond shopping, we've opened our platform to become a space to engage. We're connecting to our little village in a way I never expected, supporting each other and talking about everything from silk to spirituality.

Our pieces are produced in Jaipur, India which is currently in total lock-down and our thoughts and prayers are also with our India family. If it's one thing this has shown us is how deeply connected we are and that we are all in this together.

I would encourage my fellow entrepreneurs to …

Hold the faith and hold on to your purpose. We might have to let go and change some of the 'hows' and 'whats' of our businesses but not our 'whys'. By focusing on why we started, we will be able to innovate and evolve to inspire our communities to support our missions. Compassion and empathy are key — 'Freaky Friday' with your clients and think how they need to be served right now. If you have a passion for something, that overwhelming drive we feel is us being called by a higher source to serve in a specific way. Centre and tune in to exactly what that passion is and you'll find exactly how you're supposed to serve society — that's your unique power and it's time to own it.

The song that keeps me upbeat isWake up Everybody by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes.

Rene Rattray

Education consultant

There has been a paradigm shift in education! We revert to the traditional/tried and proven to our peril.

Education is perhaps the only industry that has not kept pace with others in society. A factory in the early 1900s, a telephone, a car, have all evolved tremendously when compared to a classroom. The irony is that the students within these classrooms have changed drastically over the years and have outgrown the steady diet of outdated teaching and learning approaches that we have fed them. This COVID-19 pandemic has caught many off guard, and provided the push to a few, who have been hungry to do more for our children. The time has come for everyone, not just schools, to take a closer look at the value we place on education and to take bold steps to invest and ensure that we create equal opportunities for all children. As Malcolm X said, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

COVID-19 has taught me... the importance of being as prepared as we possibly can for a world that is unknown. It has reinforced the call to be still and mindful of the things that truly matter. I recognise that more than anything else, we need connection and kindness. Despite all the chaos around, I can still see the power of the human spirit rising with creativity and resilience.

The focus right now is... on keeping my family safe, maintaining contact with friends and loved ones. All while homeschooling rambunctious seven-year old twins, growing a new consultancy business and continuing to do my part to support teachers, schools and the education system in practical ways.

The impact on my business has been... to reinforce the urgency that I have felt about the need to rethink and reimagine education. For many years, I have been at the forefront of pushing back against the policies and practices that have sought to cripple our education system in Jamaica and stifle the growth of our young people. I will continue to support, advocate for and build bold, innovative programmes that will disrupt the way we do things in education. Although I have seen nothing like the crisis we are experiencing now before in my lifetime, I am hopeful about the future and will be honoured to be part of the many opportunities that will inevitably arise in the days and months to come.

I would encourage my fellow colleagues in education... to always remember your 'WHY'. When things become challenging, your 'WHY' will make your 'WHAT' that much easier. Yours is a calling! Step into your power and recognize the value you bring to this country and the power you have to create lasting and meaningful change to a generation. Use the time to teach yourselves new skills, hone your craft and stay ahead of the game. Be keen to figure out how your students learn best and truly understand who they are and what they bring to the learning space. It is clear that schools are not just about academics, but they provide so much more to the society and this cannot be underestimated.

Finally, I encourage you to say to parents and others who are heaping praise on the teaching profession and who have a now-found respect for what we do, to go further to become advocates for teachers everywhere. Education is a team sport.

Eroleen Anderson

CEO of Interiors by Eroleen Ltd, and director on the board at Supreme Ventures Ltd

COVID-19 has taught me that…

1. #Life is fragile. Check on your love ones more

2. Live a more purposeful life.

3. Nothing is for certain or permanent when your life weighs in the balance, especially when one's life depends on the rest of the wider society and citizens of the world.

4. #The world is more fragile than we've been led to believe.

5. #Global warming is just as important to our future as global pandemic is; they are interlinked. No rain means you cannot wash yourself to maintain good hygiene and fight viruses.

Lack of food due to global warming can't sustain good health to fight virus.

6. What you cannot control leave to God.

My focus right now is…

My loved ones and their health.

Staying healthy.

Spending less money on personal wants and frivolity.

The rainy day has come and financial health is imperative.

Putting my business and finances in order.

Focusing more on self and mental well-being.

The impact on my business has been…

Loss of new business and stoppage of some construction and interior design projects in progress or to start.

Clients over 65 years whose construction and design projects were in progress, we've closed or postponed.

Completing quickly residential construction projects, that affects families' ability to live or motive in.

I haven't had to lay off or let go my staff at this point. We have many projects still to complete.

Monitoring staff health and deciding plan B.

My business is 24 hours a day operation; this period adds added stress to keep things going.

I would encourage my fellow entrepreneurs to…

1. Be careful using loss leader strategies at this time. Larger businesses can afford this strategy during difficult times.

2. Put finances in place to sustain your business for another six months.

3. Reduce waste and clutter.

4. Seek and focus on matters that are profitable and not risk-averse.

5. Be smart.

6. Seek new opportunities that this change brings and supply the market. Growth is available to fill the needs to supply the pandemic.

The song that keeps me upbeat is… Bee Gees' Staying Alive

Nadeen Matthews Blair, chief executive officer of the National Commercial Bank Foundation

Things I hope are here to stay post-COVID-19

Life as we knew it just a few weeks ago has been interrupted in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have changed the way we do everyday activities, from learning to partying, disrupting many commonly held beliefs about what activities could be conducted remotely or digitally. The nearest comparable for this kind of disruption in Jamaica is when we have a hurricane. Many activities cease for a short time, until we can return to business as usual. Post-COVID-19, many things will not return to business as usual and for that, I am grateful. When everything settles, I look forward to resuming hugs, travelling to see my family, and my daughter really misses playing tag with her friends. However, here are a few things I hope will be here to stay.

1. Greater appreciation for teachers and nurses — As a daughter of a nurse, I have always understood how much nurses give to their patients, and how much they are under-appreciated. While they are highly educated and knowledgeable, patients also often underestimate them. With respect to teachers, I found a renewed appreciation for teachers long before COVID-19 when I dropped my daughter off to her kindergarten class early one morning and found her teacher cleaning all the children's desks. That same teacher offered to meet with my daughter after class for an entire week after she had been ill for some time so she could catch up on the work that she missed. Every time I think about her dedication, I get teary and I am reminded of the tremendous sacrifice that our teachers make every single day. I hope this translates to better treatment, respect and enhanced benefits for teachers and nurses across the globe going forward.

2. Digital learning — While children need the physical co-location to build bonds and participate in physical play, digital learning can effectively complement physical learning. Parents sometimes send their children to school even when they are ill, in fear of having the children miss critical lessons or class time. If these lessons were available digitally, children could stay at home and still be able to access the material. This would be a win for all as fewer children would become exposed and the sick children could still learn while recouping at home. Access to digital content developed by the teacher would also enable parents to better guide their children at home when doing homework. Digital learning may also assist students unable to travel to school for financial or safety reasons. Finally, diverse content on any particular topic provides students with an opportunity to deepen their understanding of a particular topic, were it not initially clear from the in-classroom lesson.

3. Remote working — Physical work enhances connection, collaboration and communication; however, it can be effectively balanced with greater adoption of remote working. Beyond the benefits such as employees saving on gas and not having to contend with limited parking, and reduced pollution, it also provides an opportunity to disrupt the flawed correlation between hours in office and performance. A remote working culture forces us to focus on outcomes. Combined with flexi-time options, this can really begin to enhance our ability to create greater work-life balance.

4. Online banking and commerce — Without my mobile app, I would still be building my house. During the construction period, I was able to send money to workmen and the hardware store without being physically present, which helped me avoid delays in material delivery to site and worker downtime. The productivity gains in terms of time and money saved from banking online are indisputable and I hope those initially reluctant will experience this personally during COVID-19. Businesses, too, stand to benefit from increased productivity and greater transparency. Paying employees and bills electronically versus via cash and cheque is not only less costly, but also reduces the downtime from having employees go to bank to encashcheques or from employees standing in line to pay bills. Using online banking also allows entrepreneurs to have greater visibility of their financial affairs. Selling products and services online and not just in physical stores allows companies to scale and grow efficiently. I am heartened by the number of local companies now selling online and delivering products, which better enables them to continue to generate sales in the context of social distancing, while also creating new jobs. Amazon is hiring 100,000 new workers to support the spike in online orders, which is a testament to the need for businesses to accelerate their online commerce strategies.

5. Uninterrupted family time — Under normal circumstances, there is always something to do or somewhere to go — supermarket, kids' birthday parties, hair and nail salon, watch sports game, etc. With nowhere to go and families together in the same physical space, uninterrupted family time has taken on new meaning and it is quite enjoyable. Netflix, Just Dance, board games, reading and, oh my gosh, having actual conversations have taken over. While access to smartphones can still be somewhat disruptive, it is definitely an improvement. For family members not close by, the frequency of FaceTime and WhatsApp video calls has increased to check in and keep the connection. The main question on my mind is how I can be more deliberate about this post-pandemic.

6. Greater scrutiny of fake news — While fake news still exists, I am seeing greater scrutiny of information and quick responses to dispel fake news. I even saw a call on social media to “social distance” spreaders of fake news by unfollowing and exposing them. Pre-COVID-19, I was often the person directing persons to snopes.com<http://snopes.com/>, or asking people to check their sources on a post. Many times, persons would defend the fake news. It can definitely be tiring to be this person. I have not had to do much of that of late as many more people are trying to stop the spread of fake news. My mother-in-law asked me this weekend if it was true that Kenny Rogers had died. This is huge because she normally takes the news that people send her via WhatsApp as fact. People are prefacing their messages, getting information from credible sources, and aggressively shutting down fake news, which is absolutely wonderful. This must continue because fake news is destructive.

In all things, even challenges, I give thanks. I am grateful for the disruption, praying that we stop the spread of COVID-19 and the mortalities, and hopeful that some changes will be here to stay. What do you hope is here to stay post COVID-19?


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