At this point, we know the past year has devastated small business owners. Between March and June 2020, small business employment plummeted to record low numbers, and for Black business owners, their business declines were three times that of others. For those who were fortunate enough to stay afloat—with or without a PPP loan—the pandemic remains a test of perseverance and creativity where small business pandemic tips are welcome with open arms.
Though we’re still navigating a global health crisis (mask up, y’all!), the hope of vaccinations has entrepreneurs in reflection mode as we enter a new phase. Nikita Gibson, the owner of Joire’s Spa and Studio in Brooklyn, NY, is one of them. Like most places, her brick-and-mortar business closed its doors last March and faced an uncertain future. Gibson, who was inspired to launch Joire’s Spa in 2014 after losing her mom to cancer, knew she had to pivot fast.
What felt like a gamble ended up being a blessing in disguise as she launched several products and boosted the brand’s engagement on social media. Ahead, she shares more about the beauty of her process and what it taught her about product development and being prepared for emergencies.
Take us back to March 2020. How did the pandemic impact your business?
When the pandemic hit, I was just as scared as everyone else. Especially as an entrepreneur, you’re worried about whether or not your business will survive this time. After we were forced to temporarily close Joire’s Spa, all I could think about was how my staff would maintain their livelihood if they aren’t able to work so I paid them until I no longer could.
I didn’t see the pandemic ending anytime soon so I had to start thinking about other ways to keep our business alive, which is how I ended up launching our book Self Care – A Guide To Holistic Healing: Internal & External, which can be used at home to implement the various spa services we offer at Joire’s. We also began to release our skincare products that clients could use at home, in between appointments with our team.
We reopened our spa as soon as we were allowed to back in 2020 but COVID restrictions are still in place and they will most likely impact our daily operations for a long time to come. We can’t have nearly as many clients and staff members in the spa at once and we currently don’t offer some services that were available prior to the pandemic. Even though I’ve had to pivot our business, we’ve still seen much success in the changes that were made, and most importantly my staff and clients are safe.
Did the pandemic reveal any blind spots in your business planning?
The pandemic didn’t reveal any major blind spots, other than the fact that we didn’t have products available for our clients and patrons to use at their leisure. Our plan was to always expand the business to include our own skincare products and items that people can use even if they aren’t currently in Brooklyn. We just didn’t anticipate having to develop and release the products in 2020.
We were almost forced to roll out our product launch earlier than anticipated so we could continue to engage our audience and clients as well as maintain the business during this unprecedented time. In some ways, I see it as a blessing in disguise because it pushed me to take that leap of faith and pursue the ideas that I had been holding on to. Since we’ve released our products such as our Joire’s Skin Essentials Kit, Immunitea line, and Signature Collectors Self-Care Box, we’ve received nothing but positive feedback.
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Was your social media strategy impacted?
Like everyone else, the news of the pandemic had a negative impact on my mood. After a few days, I was tired of feeling down so I decided to use my personal Instagram page to facilitate live tutorials for my followers to show them how to do various self-care activities at home since at the time many of us couldn’t go to salons or spas for services. It was a way to get our minds off of all the bad news and also give people solutions while we waited for some level of normalcy to return.
Just by being myself and connecting with my audience, my engagement increased and I even came up with the idea of releasing our self-care guide which truly kicked off our initiative to bring our spa experience home.
We’ve always focused on social media but since March 2020, we’ve put a ton of our efforts towards growing our audience and engagement. Right now, social media and connecting virtually is really all that we have since we can’t gather the way we used to. We’ve been experimenting with new and different features on social media to promote our various products that our followers can use at home and I definitely think that it has paid off for us and has kept our business relevant.
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Did you make any other changes to your marketing strategy?
We haven’t changed much other than putting more effort into focusing on social media platforms to get the word out about our business and products. Prior to the pandemic, we could rely heavily on word of mouth, which is always great but with gathering limited, we have to go the extra mile to reach new customers.
We also shifted our focus to market the products just as much as we highlight the services that we offer. At any point, we can find ourselves in the position that we were in last year when we were forced to close our doors. Now we have more of a safety net, which are the products that can be used at your leisure to bring the Joire’s Spa experience to you.
What are the biggest lessons you learned from creating and launching a new product during the pandemic?
I learned that everything doesn’t have to be aligned in order for you to put that new product out. If the pandemic wouldn’t have happened, I most likely would have waited much longer to release our Immunitea line, skincare products, or even our signature collectors box. Sometimes you have to just trust yourself and go for it, especially when your back is up against the wall.
Most importantly, always have a backup plan so you are ready for almost anything. No one would have thought that we would live through a pandemic of this magnitude. Now, I truly believe that anything could happen, which is why as a business owner you should be prepared for literally everything. Entrepreneurs need to periodically take the time to make sure we’re protected so we can survive even in the craziest of times. Making sure you’re protected could be a number of things: monitoring your savings, working on an alternate plan, applying for grants. Whatever it is, I definitely will be implementing it into my business rituals going forward.
What are your predictions for the small business landscape this year?
I think we’ll see more business owners and entrepreneurs joining the industries this year and going forward. If anything, I believe the pandemic has revealed how important it is to protect yourself regardless of external factors. Many people have been left unemployed because of the pandemic which could push a ton of them to consider going after the business idea they’ve always had.
The stay-at-home and lockdown orders also left a lot of us with time on our hands to put towards a passion project or business ideas that we may have been sitting. So I think we could see many people considering entrepreneurship in the near future.
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