- Dreamers // Doers is a networking community of female entrepreneurs, creatives, and change-makers.
- Many of its members are facing new business challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and have found creative and innovative ways to keep their companies afloat.
- “Instead of slashing the prices of your normal offerings, create new offerings to meet your customers where they are and price accordingly,” recommends marketing consultant Arielle Shnaidman.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Though nearly every aspect of our lives has changed in the past few weeks, the basic needs of business haven’t. Pandemic or not, we need to pay the bills, pay employees, and keep operations afloat.
But when the world’s priorities have done a complete 180, the services and offerings that made a company thrive just a few short months ago might not make sense the way they once did.
These 17 female leaders have taken the abrupt challenge of on-the-spot innovation and ran with it. In a time when it would be easy to sit back and wait for the storm to pass, these trailblazers rose to the occasion to ensure their businesses continued to survive.
Their response to this time of uncertainty teach us that no crisis is too devastating to cease serving our ideal audience. Now, more than ever, our customers, clients, and users need us to step up and deliver practical solutions to the slew of problems the world is now facing.
Here’s how they are doing it – and their advice to other entrepreneurs.
1. Bilyana Freye
Cofounder and CEO of
, a job shadowing platform that connects professionals for learning experiences across companies and industries.
How I’ve helped my business survive: Once we fully accepted that this pandemic is going to have a longer-lasting impact than originally expected, we focused on listening to the pain points of our community and thinking of new ways how to support them. People want to feel connected more than ever before, but virtual webinars, events, and group calls fall short of satisfying that need.
As a result, we’ve repurposed our technology to facilitate meaningful virtual connections, not only within the Hoppin network, but also to help other communities support and engage their members through curated matches for thoughtful one-on-one conversations.
My advice for other business owners: Think about the behaviour and structural shifts that are going to happen as a result of this crisis, medium to long term. Then shift your mindset – the sooner you adapt to the new reality, the sooner you’ll be able to tap into your creativity and find new opportunities.
2. Trisha Okubo
Founder and creative director of
Maison Miru Jewellery
, jewellery for creative living.
How I’ve helped my business survive: We’re a tiny but mighty team of four, and we pack every order with love from our NYC studio. Now that we’re all working from home, we’re offering a subset of our collection to our customers while we’re under quarantine. We were able to set up a backup shipping operation from home, which allows us to keep the lights on and keep the whole team fully employed while we ride out the crisis.
My advice for other business owners: Think ahead. You can hope for the best, but plan for the worst case scenario. We were only able to set up the backup shipping operation because we were forward thinking with our planning. As we saw COVID-19 spreading on the West Coast, we set up our new supply chain, moved our inventory home, and spun up new processes – so by the time the stay in place order went into effect, we were already ready to make the switch to operating from home.
3. Isis Nyong’o
, a content and ecommerce platform for new mothers in Kenya.
How I’ve helped my business survive: When the first case of COVID-19 was announced in Kenya one month ago, we were right in the middle of scaling down our content business to focus on ecommerce. We had to adjust that plan as we saw the need to create COVID-related content on adjusting to homeschooling, working from home, household staff, job loss, and domestic violence. In addition, we have seen an uptick in advertiser interest delivering health messages on hand-washing to our community. We simultaneously had to suspend ecommerce deliveries to ensure our safety and sanitation measures were strong, so the focus on content at this time has helped to shore up that lost revenue.
My advice for other business owners: Focus on staff welfare right away, and then ask your customers what they need from you. While they may not know right away, the feedback you get can really help you adjust as needed.
4. Liva Judic
Holistic executive coach at
who helps ambitious womxn slow down to the soul of who they are and their purpose.
How I’ve helped my business survive: As COVID-19 hit, the clients who are employed froze their sessions because of the uncertainty of everything, including their job stability. Those who are small business owners simply stopped coming because they had lost their livelihoods. Yet I knew the need for moral and mental support was greater than ever, so in eight days, I designed, built, and launched a 15-day mini online retreat, and in order to serve more people, I made it donation-based. The experience and feedback has been humbling and moving!
My advice for other business owners: Think “How can I serve better? How can I be of service?” and the answer will guide you to what it is you need to do to keep working while serving a purpose. You can never go wrong and once you have the why, the how will just come to you easily.
5. Lori Mihalich-Levin
, an online program and community that helps new parents transition back to work after parental leave.
How I’ve helped my business survive: Normally, my business is very focused on brand-new parents who are transitioning back to work after a several-month-long maternity or paternity leave. Now, I have pivoted to helping a much broader population of struggling working parents. I have been offering my employer clients workshops and group coaching sessions for their working parent employees, which both allows me to help a broader community of struggling parents and helps my company to generate revenue outside of our normal online course offerings.
My advice for other business owners: Pivoting is mandatory right now. The question that should be top of mind for all of us is “What does my client NEED from me right now?” Ask where the pain points are. And if you have experience relevant to helping them through those pain points, trust that you are well-equipped to propose solutions.
6. Emily Chen
Creative director and designer of
, a strategic and creative partner to purpose-driven brands and women-led ventures.
How I’ve helped my business survive: In the beginning I freed up cash flow, budgeted accordingly, and cancelled unnecessary subscriptions. In the past few weeks, I’ve started to offer some free sessions to clients and community members most impacted. For my own work and packages, I have offered more flexible payment plans and reduced rates for certain packages that meet the needs of the clients now.
My advice for other business owners: Keep your mindset and emotional well-being healthy. I have a daily routine with meditation, gratitudes, a walk in fresh air, some catch ups with friends, and any hobbies that fill me up.
7. Liz Long
Learn To Make A Product
, an online business incubator for entrepreneurs with physical products.
How I’ve helped my business survive: First, we are targeting new customers who have job stability and are looking for something productive to do during this “down time,” given that they are lucky enough to be home and healthy. We are helping them think through specific tasks and projects related to building and improving their business in this particular climate.
Second, we are introducing a new low-cost online learning program that helps people plan and build an ecommerce business in six months. This offers a more affordable option to our regular service, but it also acknowledges the fact that any worthwhile project takes a lot of time and planning. If people start the behind-the-scenes grunt work now, they will be closer to their goals once the economy rebounds.
My advice for other business owners: Think about what you would want if you were trying to save money, but also wanted to still enjoy a product or service you like. This is a good time for special allowances, such as membership discounts, pauses, pricing specials, and payment plans. If you don’t know what your customers currently need, ask them!
8. Keira Kotler
Founder and CEO of
, a lingerie and loungewear collection for women post-treatment for breast cancer and other life events.
How I’ve helped my business survive: We have been dedicating ourselves to supporting medical practices around the country and providing additional emotional and psychological support for their patients. Our offerings range from online workouts to tips for managing fear, meditation apps to stories of hope, and Facebook chats to one-on-one support. We’re also offering free shipping indefinitely on all of our orders, to help those who need surgical or post-surgical garments get them more easily.
My advice for other business owners: Reach out to one another and be kind. We are all scared, as businesses and as individuals, so holding compassion is key. As a small business owner, I also think being real and integral is where it’s at. We are all lacking and missing the social and professional interactions that help define our lives. Reach out to your colleagues and customers with genuine offers for help and meaningful connection.
9. Joanna Steinberg
Real estate entrepreneur and interior curator at
JoJo Steinberg x PLG Estates
How I’ve helped my business survive: Real estate and interior curating are tangible, in-person businesses. I have been using this time to focus on the administrative and operational sides of my business, working on digital assets for my social channels and website, attending virtual trainings on subject matters I’d like to be better versed in, document and contact organisation, and focusing on my wellness, creative hobbies, and productivity.
My advice for other business owners: Routine, routine, routine. While I sometimes struggle with incorporating a structured routine into my own life, I believe this is vital to staying productive and focused. On weekdays prepare a schedule for yourself that starts off with something nourishing to you. As an example, I wake up, write what I am grateful for, stretch, and workout. This alone is an empowering and positive jumpstart to the day. By 8 a.m., you’re ready to hit the ground running!
10. Rachel Autumn Lee
Cofounder of CEO of
, which creates fashion-forward and functional work bags and backpacks for women using ethical labour and vegan materials.
How I’ve helped my business survive: My cofounder and twin sister, Helen, and I have been making the most of our situation by taking this time to reconnect with our target users and supporters to validate our final product design. We are taking the extra step to thoroughly research and make sure that we are building out features on our bag that are intuitive and user-friendly for busy women.
It’s been difficult for me personally to witness the ways that the crisis has impacted the startups that I’ve worked with and consulted for, but continuing to source locally for our product development and communicating clearly with our partners has helped us navigate supply chain issues and continue our mission towards ethical production.
My advice for other business owners: More so than ever, it’s important to get creative and resourceful during this unprecedented time. You are not a failure if you have to adjust your goals, and it’s important to be your own advocate in finding resources and supporting others through the pandemic.
11. Victoria Repa
Cofounder and CEO of
, an ecosystem of popular health and fitness apps.
How I’ve helped my business survive: We are experiencing a download increase because of the huge demand for home workouts and meditation apps, but the load on the team is also growing. My main priority now is to keep the team spirit. I perfectly understand that it is extremely difficult to remain productive in such an environment, but working today will save the business tomorrow.
My advice for other business owners: Prioritise speed over efficiency, but in order to cope with the speed, take care of your team, and be as honest and transparent in communication as possible. People already feel the loss of control – do not make the team doubt your sincerity.
12. Melody Wilding
to sensitive high-achievers.
How I’ve helped my business survive: My clients are highly sensitive, which means they are feeling this crisis at a deeper level. Something I’ve done is created free connection opportunities for the members in my audience and my private coaching clients. Each week I’ve hosted two “support sessions” where they can come to process the situation and hear stories from one another. It’s been an amazing and scalable way to connect with community and support them at this difficult time.
My advice for other business owners: Now is the time to adapt, not quit. We need empathetic leaders like you stepping up to guide us through this period of uncertainty.
13. Kaitlin Christine
Founder and CEO of
, which improves quality measures and patient outcomes by making women the experts on their bodies.
How I’ve helped my business survive: We launched our MVP on March 13, 2020, the day COVID-19 was declared a national emergency. Needless to say, we were like a whisper in the midst of the screaming. We were finalising terms with our first customer and closing our first round. Our first customer pulled out as well as all investors. After the emotional roller-coaster of doubting and questioning our business model, I made the decision to hunker down – stop fundraising, build our product right, go back to the customer for our answers, and focus on getting customers.
My advice for other business owners: Don’t look to your left or to your right. You are the only one who knows your business, mission, and values best. If you allow yourself to tap into what is true for you and your business, you already have the answer.
14. Kate Anderson
Cofounder and operations for
, a startup funding platform providing access to capital, coaching, and a network of women business owners.
How I’ve helped my business survive: IFW is no longer just a launchpad for newer businesses, as established brick and mortars are coming to IFW to raise funds to keep their lights on. We have responded by making our business coaching platform free for the foreseeable future, so any entrepreneur can get accessible education on all the subjects that WOBs need to get smart on. Additionally, we are raising a COVID-19 relief fund that is deploying debt-free capital daily to businesses who are crowdfunding on IFundWomen.
My advice for other business owners: Many of the most innovative companies arose during or in response to the 2008 financial crisis. If you are a startup founder, this is not the time to be business as usual, but pivot in new and interesting ways that will set you up for long term success.
15. Arielle Shnaidman
Business and mindset coach and brand marketing consultant
for entrepreneurial women and startups.
How I’ve helped my business survive: In my coaching business, I started offering ad-hoc coaching sessions to support people quickly and more cost effectively since folks are reluctant to make long term commitments or bigger investments right now. In my consulting business, I’ve been helping startups revamp their messaging during COVID-19 so that they can meet their customers where they are while still driving results for their companies.
My advice for other business owners: We all still need to make money! Instead of slashing the prices of your normal offerings, create new offerings to meet your customers where they are and price accordingly.
16. Christine Miller Kelly
, an innovation consulting group focused on leveraging technology to amplify human potential.
How I’ve helped my business survive: Our clients are in the process of actively re-prioritising their annual plans, so we’re offering free webinars to help facilitate some of those discussions and help people think about what this crisis might mean for the near future, as well as the more distant post-pandemic future. Organisations large and small are being forced to improvise and innovate on the fly, daily! We want to use our expertise to help and be part of the conversation.
My advice for other business owners: Find opportunities to meet your customers where they are now. This is a time for collaboration and relationship building. How can you help your customers and partners with their current challenges? How can you contribute your expertise and/or your product to address some of the challenges we’re collectively experiencing as a society? Constraints yield new opportunities.
17. Sonali Nigam
Founder and CEO of
, a community for pet owners who want to share quality moments with their pets.
How I’ve helped my business survive: We quickly launched a free Online Pet Parenting Series in partnership with other pet care organisations, with the goal of engaging our community of pet parents by offering virtual classes that can help to maintain the wellbeing of both pets and humans. This serves a dual function of supporting small business partners through free marketing and promotion. We have seen tremendous interest with over 15 classes scheduled and averaging 150 attendees at each class held over Zoom. We even got one of our partners featured in The New York Times “Things to Do” section!
My advice for other business owners: Within a week of the COVID-19 quarantine, we received a flurry of cancelations for our upcoming retreats and events, which felt devastating to my fledgling pet travel business. But we also got many notes from anxious pet parents and small business partners, sharing how uncertain they felt about the future. I quickly realised that the new definition of success would be in keeping our community together in this time of crisis.
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