Bellevue Small Businesses Embrace the COVID-19 Pivot
This pandemic has challenged all our wellbeing—mentally, physically, and emotionally. For small business owners, it has also tested their creative and inventive strategies to adapt. As businesses figure out their unique path forward, we’ve been hearing several stories of how small businesses are shifting their model to survive this crisis—and often helping others while they’re at it. While many have been forced to close, there are several who are pivoting.
One of the first Bellevue small businesses to pivot was Café Cesura. When business was down 80% in late March, owner Shawn Nickerson got creative and opened his café to displaced farmers market vendors. As of April 23, Café Cesura has provided over $2,000 to flower farmers who have been displaced from farmers markets. Customers can now order from the “fresh pantry”, which includes flowers, veggie packs, eggs, cookies, and other items sourced locally.
Café Cesura also started the Bellevue Relief Blend, which is part of their mission to provide coffee for the homeless. Donations from their GoFundMe page will go towards providing all the coffee needs for the staff and patrons of Congregations for the Homeless-- the organization that runs the Bellevue Men’s Homeless Shelter.
GIX has been producing critical personal protective equipment for the UW Medicine hospital system. In partnership with UW Medicine, University of Washington College of Engineering, Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, and Design that Matters, they expect to manufacture and assemble 240 face shields per day. The plans and instructions for all projects will be open-sourced and shared for broader adoption throughout the US and world.
This well-loved bagel shop launched a “Bagels for the Brave” campaign to “fuel the frontline”. All money raised will provide bagel breakfasts at Greater Seattle area hospitals and feed their staff. Blazing Bagels realized they could increase their impact by engaging the community for support. So far, they have raised over $8,100.
Although doors are temporarily closed, Molly Moon’s created an ice cream pint club. Customers can pre-purchase pints of ice cream to support the shop until they re-open. Each purchase helps pay the health benefits of one of their employees for an extra week.
At the beginning of April, Molly Moon's also began expanding distribution into local grocery stores in the Puget Sound region. You can now find 18oz scooper's pints or a single-serve minimoon at a number of neighborhood stores.
In an effort to create jobs for as many of their employees as possible, John Howie Steak reinvented their offerings to focus on simplicity and value. The well-known chef John Howie recently sold some of his own wine and spirits collection to raise money for staff. Those sales, in addition to sales from takeout and delivery orders, have allowed some of the laid off employees to return.
Their packaged food options have also been reinvented. Customers can pick up a curbside Butcher Box, which includes raw meats for 5+ family meals. These boxes include simple instructions on how to use the ingredients in each kit. John Howie Steak is also offering a unique selection of spirits, including custom cocktail kits.
With sales down nearly 80% since the pandemic started, Trophy decided to launch a “Pay it Forward” campaign, where customers can purchase cupcakes that get donated to a local non-profit partner. Since launching, Trophy has donated nearly 10,000 cupcakes to local healthcare workers, first responders and nonprofits. With their cupcake-for-cupcake match, they've donated 20,000 cupcakes so far.
Never Stop Innovating
Even as things begin to slowly re-open, creative marketing and business approaches will need to stay in effect. Perhaps now more than ever we need to think, buy and support local. We’re all in this together.