As you may have guessed, COVID-19 has not been kind to most small business owners. Stores were closed for the better part of 3 months. Fairs, markets and shows were cancelled until fall, if not for the entire year. Any type of sales avenue that required an “in the real world” interaction was eliminated. That left online sales as the only avenue to generate revenue.
While vendors and business owners got creative with online events – including Brimfield Live or Facebook Live events – these online sales still fell short of our normal means of earning an income. The biggest challenge for me and online sales is shipping. Hands down. Most of the items I sell are smalls, and most items I sell are less than $45. However, shipping costs generally start at $15 and increase from there. If someone buys a vintage mixing bowl for $30, it is difficult for them to stomach the additional $15 for shipping. Understandably so.
Still, bills for rent, inventory acquisition, accountants, insurance etc need to be paid.
As a small business owner, these are the types of economic events we all have to endure. I still love my business and intend to ride out this current economic storm.
However, there may be many businesses that are not in the position to do so.
Lest you think this is a blog post about the woes of a small business during this time, I would like to highlight some of the positive impacts of going through an economic downturn.
First, I notice almost everyone of my customers has become more aware of the importance and value of buying from a small business. More people than ever have embraced the “Shop Small” businesses movement. Thank you for that! Your support and purchases allow small businesses to get through these tough times.
Second, companies like Facebook/Instagram (same company), Google, Etsy and Square have really stepped up to the plate to help small businesses. Did you know that Instagram has an entire account, complete with videos, that’s sole purposes is to provide resources for small businesses? Check it out; they are @Instagram for Business. They have videos on how to open an online store. How to post in stories. How to increase engagement with your followers. No kidding. It is pretty amazing. These are all free resources! You guys, technology is phenomenal. Apps have single handedly allowed many small businesses to survive.
Third, I have had to take a hard look at my business and make some changes. Particularly with online sales. Recently, I have switched to selling items that are smaller but with a higher value. This helps because the shipping costs as a percentage of the overall purchase are smaller. I have also shifted to selling more items that can be mailed in a flat bubble envelope. This includes old flags or textiles. Mailing items in a flat envelope, even if large, is less expensive than even the smallest box. Another thing that I have done to save on shipping costs is offer combined shipping. If someone buys three or four items – I can usually fit them in one box, and combined shipping is much less than if each item was shipped individually.
Fourth, this pandemic has really forced me to innovate. In a good way. Being an introvert, I am not one for videos or IG stories where I show my face. However, because of the current event, I stepped out of my comfort zone and created a Sky Lark House You Tube Channel. I even went so far as to make and post my first video. While it is far from professional and definitely outside my comfort zone, it is a step in the right direction. If you notice, almost all the apps are now moving more and more towards video. So, I figure I had better get comfortable with it.
So, I hope this post inspires you. It is important not to sugar coat and glaze over the challenges of having your own small business. It certainly isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. However, I have found that this current economic situation has generated a number of benefits that will help small business owners (including myself) be more successful in the future and continue to grow and evolve.
Thank you for reading the blog today. More importantly, thank you for your ongoing support of Sky Lark House. I couldn’t do this little business without you.