Six tips for entrepreneurs coping through COVID-19

Learning from small business owners who are getting creative, leaning on their communities and remembering to find joy. 

I’ve been talking to small business owners across the country and learning more about how they’re navigating this time of COVID-19. 

As they try to stay strong and stay in business, entrepreneurs are coping through COVID-19. 

They are coping by coming up with creative solutions, finding resources, and leaning on local champions in their communities to find funding and help. They’re coping by pivoting their businesses to help respond to the pandemic and assist those in need. And, they’re coping by remembering to take care of their own health and trying to find joy, even in these dark times. 

Watch our roundtable: Coping through COVID-19 and see how entrepreneurs and small businesses are staying creative, collaborative and connected.

By learning about how other small business owners are coping during this pandemic, I’ve distilled six tips we can all learn from them to help stay afloat and maintain our personal wellness during this time of uncertainty.

1. Identify knowledgeable local champions.

Sonya Toomer works for the Georgia Micro Enterprise Network (GMEN), an organization that supports local entrepreneurs with resources and training. Sonya has not only been helping entrepreneurs navigate the PPP and EIDL application process, but also directing them toward other local grants and loans. 

Due to the smaller market size and their knowledge of the local entrepreneurship ecosystem, working with knowledgeable local champions like Sonya and GMEN is a lifeline for many small business owners. The awareness and connections to emergency funding opportunities provides access to capital that’s only available for entrepreneurs in your town or city. 

These local champions are also a source of community, too. They can connect you to other entrepreneurs who are working through COVID-19, which helps keep our spirits lifted and helps us stay accountable.

2. Don’t rely on just federal funding, look to alternate sources of revenue, too.

Many small businesses are turning to crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe to put an ask out to their customers and broader community to keep their businesses afloat. For instance, Azalina Eusope, a restaurant and caterer in Oakland, California, raised more than $13,000 through her campaign

Check out my interview with Azalina here:

For many of us who are still working, we understand the importance of local businesses in our communities and want to support them. This is the time to take advantage of opportunities like GoDaddy’s matching partnership with GoFundMe, which is providing an extra $500 for every qualifying small business that uses the platform to raise funding.

Another way to diversify your revenue sources is to expand your customer base by asking yourself: Who am I not serving yet? When I was hosting the first season of Made in America, I met small business owner Sequoia Ferguson who owns That’s So You Boutique in Arkansas. Most of her clients were women, but she branched out to also market her clothing to the LGBTQ+ community. Generating revenue from more sources can serve as a hedge against losses.

3. Pivot your business to support the response to COVID-19. 

There’s a few ways of thinking about pivoting your business to support the response to COVID-19. We can think about how to take our businesses online. If you sell clothing or crafts in a brick-and-mortar store, could you use ecommerce tools to continue selling products to your customers? If you own a restaurant, could you use a no-commission platform like ChowNow to get into the delivery business without needing to pay for insurance or hire delivery drivers? Many of my friends who are artists are teaching classes online or hosting DJ sets on social media. Could you go online and offer classes to your customers? If you’re new to the world of getting your business online, a group of GoDaddy Guides put together this video to help.

Another thought is to pivot your business to help people cope with this new reality. For example, in-person spas could create digital experiences that provide emotional wellness and respite for those who are stuck in their homes. Or, restaurants can offer an option to purchase meals for  frontline workers. I know New Orleans-based, furniture builder GoodWood has shifted their business from woodworking to the production of protective gear for healthcare providers.  

4. Take a few minutes to notice your breath.

If you’re feeling hesitant about meditation or mindful breathing, let me use science to try to convince you: there is evidence that shows that taking a few minutes a day to concentrate on your breath can have real health benefits and increase your sense of calmness and clarity. It’s crucial to feel calm and clear during times of fear and uncertainty in order to make smart decisions.

“Just taking a minute to breathe can really shift how you spend the rest of your day and puts you in a positive mindset,” says Ashley Wray, from Vancouver-based Mala Collective.

Wray says meditation helps us sit in the discomfort that some of us feel when we’re in solitude and isolation. To her, meditation is a way to remove self-judgment and bring more self-compassion into our lives. How does she make time for meditation in her own life? She says that she leaves post-it notes around her home to remind her to focus on her breath. And, she starts and ends her days with a meditation and gratitude exercise. “Even just a few minutes a day can shift your emotional state,” says Wray.

5. Help others.

It may sound counterintuitive, but helping others can actually buoy the helper, not just the helpee. Research shows that when we prioritize reaching out to others, our own mental and physical health can flourish. 

“Really sit and listen to other people’s experiences,” says Elisabeth Cardiello, who owns Caffé Unimatic in New York. “Allow ourselves to walk in their shoes and just try and understand what it’s like to be someone else right now.” She says that’s important “because we’re all experiencing this time very differently.” 

By truly listening to the needs of others, we’re more capable of supporting them. For example, restaurant owner, Azalina, who I spoke about above, had lots of food in her restaurant fridges, but her sales were down nearly 95 percent. Instead of letting all of her inventory go to waste, she kept her employees on payroll to create nearly 3,000 meals a day for local shelters, nonprofits and people experiencing homelessness. Across the country, in New York, Palestinian restaurant and food company Canaan, partnered with The Migrant Kitchen, to keep immigrants and refugees employed in New York City and serve thousands of meals a day to first responders. 

When we give to others, we can receive and benefit from that process, too.

6. Remember joy.

Thea Monyee´ is a healer in Los Angeles who, as a black woman, has a lived experience of oppression and struggle. She says that people who are affected by trauma often focus on narratives of suffering instead of also finding joy and pleasure in our lives. 

For many of us, COVID-19 is a moment of trauma. Our lives have been upended and some of us have lost our livelihood or people we love because of it. Yet, we can learn from Thea Monyee’ and feel both heartbreak for our communities while also focusing on the moments of joy in our lives, too.

I’m not asking us to ignore the stark reality of COVID-19 and the impact it has on our lives. But, I do know that creating space to remember joy will help us get through this moment of adversity. As entrepreneurs, that’s what we’ve been called to do.

For me, I was suffocating with the doom-and-gloom news, so I ended up creating a hotline for people to call in and leave a voicemail about the moments of joy they are experiencing. I stitched this together into a six-minute piece that you can listen to if you need help filling up your reservoir of joy.

I hope you can take these lessons from other entrepreneurs as we’re all coping during COVID-19. We’re all in this together. 

Check back for more conversations with GoDaddy’s entrepreneur-in-residence, Scott Shigeoka. He’ll be chatting with industry experts and sparking conversations about the issues that are impacting us most during these challenging times.

All of the information contained in these topics is provided by GoDaddy for educational purposes only and is not intended nor implied to be legal, health or any other advice from GoDaddy. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider for any questions you may have regarding a health condition or treatment.