I started a brand during the pandemic. Below are some of the learnings I’ve discovered along the way that I hope will help other female entrepreneurs starting their own business ownership journeys.
1. The Greater the Risk, the Higher the Reward
The pandemic may have thrust the economy into uncharted territory, but it also served as a litmus test for entrepreneurs to identify and respond to risks.
Launching a new business during the pandemic can seem like a daunting task — one that armchair experts would advise against — but I adopted a three-pronged plan for my business to approach the revised retail landscape.
As the world adapts to the new normal, now is not the time to take your foot off the gas — instead, this time can be employed for analyzing market situations, re-prioritizing as necessary, and reimagining the conventional approach to entrepreneurship.
- Analyze the market scenario and restructure your short-term plans to afford more flexibility in the face of sudden market changes.
- Search for opportunities to streamline everyday business functions and automate processes for increased efficiency.
2. Start Small, Dream Big
“Well begun is half done,” or so goes the popular adage. There is merit to be found in this age-old saying in the present times — there is no proverbial ‘right time’ to begin; there is just time and what you choose to do with it.
While major retailers may have once seemed like intimidating competition, with the world pledging to shop small during the pandemic, the best time to start an independent venture is now.
In the face of a future that looks uncertain, small businesses can thrive by embarking on measured initiatives that can be eventually expanded upon on a feasible scale. For launching a luxury label that tends to a niche market of consumers, we funneled our marketing energies on identifying the right platforms and reaching our customers where they are.
- Look at ways to leverage existing channels of communication instead of attempting new things on a grand scale.
- Stay vigilant about new, emerging market trends and ensure that your business model is responsive to changes in consumer behavior.
3. Consider Your Impact
The measure of a business is no longer judged solely by its successes. Conscientious consumers are now monitoring the brands they are loyal to by the impact they leave behind on the community and the ecosystem.
Inviting sustainability into your business can’t be relegated to one-off, standalone initiatives — it is essential to consider your brand’s economical, environmental, and social resonance.
For example, the brand I launched during the pandemic chooses to reduce its environmental footprint by encouraging the use of durable materials in our products with hardware constructed from recycled locks.
- Calculate your brand’s carbon footprint and look for measures to reduce the impact.
- Take all aspects into consideration: from the product’s immediate impact on the environment to ethical sourcing of raw materials to company policies that encourage sustainability in everyday processes.
4. Give Back to the Community
For a company to be viewed favorably by its patrons, the conventional definition of corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been redefined from vanity projects to include social responsibility that reflects the company’s values.
In light of the second wave of COVID-19 in India, my brand pledged to donate an oxygen cylinder refill for every product sold during the month of May. The initiative mirrors the brand’s conscious decision to give back to the community from the beginning — every product produced by the label is handcrafted by local craftsmen in Kenya, offering them a steady income through the economic instability prevalent during the pandemic.
- Engage with your consumers to understand constructive ways in which you can contribute to the community.
- Allocate a portion of funds to initiatives that reflect your brand values and are important to your consumer base.
5. Become a Storyteller
Conventional marketing is dead. For brands looking to make a lasting impression on their consumers, it is essential to opt for human-centered communication.
By putting people first in all your marketing endeavors, you’ll find a source to grow your business and build your community in a manner that feels authentic to you.
Growing your influence online is no longer the remit of vanity metrics, such as an impressive number of followers, but is instead measured by the impression that consumers derive from your brand communications.
- Don’t just hit post and consider your job done. Engage with the people in your comments, interact with them, and pay heed to what’s important with them.
- Avoid ‘selling’ all the time, and instead, offer timely and relevant information to your consumers to prove your brand to be a valuable source of information that attracts return visitors
About the Author
Samara Madhvani is the founder of Bailey & Bellini, a luxury label of pet wear. She graduated from Duke University and has since launched her own social media marketing agency, Posted by Samara. During the pandemic, she decided to leverage her work experience at Grey Group Advertising Agency, Marchesa, and ELLE magazine to introduce a stylish range of luxury pet collars handcrafted by craftsmen in Kenya.