The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on our nation’s businesses, shuttering doors, stressing supply lines, and leading many companies to juggle between loans and layoffs in an attempt to stay afloat. But thanks to the power of broadband, a number of entrepreneurs have refused to let the pandemic put a brake on their creativity. Here are four stories of innovators that have turned crisis adversity into success stories.
An In-Person Health Service Goes Online
When she was in labor with her second child, Lindsey Vick had an “aha” moment that led her to realize she was meant to teach others how to birth their babies comfortably and calmly. Thus, Sunflowers Healing and Wellness was born along with her daughter, and has since provided hypnotherapy, birth doula assistance, and other healing services to more than 2,000 individual clients.
But when the pandemic began, Vick had to make a quick and abrupt pivot to the virtual space. Not only has the transition worked but, to Vick’s surprise, client success rates have also improved. “Our hypnotherapy clients benefitted immediately, as they felt more comfortable in their homes,” Vick explains. “Nearly all clients I have seen virtually have reached their goal in one session – up from just three-quarters before the pandemic! Energy-healing clients, too, have noted that sessions are just as if not more powerful remotely than in person.”
Helping clients give birth presented a larger challenge but here, too, Vick innovated by automating as much of the client management as possible in order to free up time to spend with clients in more meaningful ways. “Ultimately, having a closer bond has resulted in greater trust and better birth outcomes,” she says.
In one year, and thanks to its Xfinity internet service, Sunflowers has gone from almost entirely in-person to 90% online. What is more, its reach has now become global, with clients on three continents and across multiple time zones. “While the challenges have been plentiful, the outcomes have been well worth the extra work,” Vick notes.
Mardi Gras Carnival – In the Car
One of the casualties of COVID is New Orleans’ famous Mardi Gras Carnival, where, in normal years, large “krewes” of friends parade the streets on decorated floats. In response, residents of The Big Easy took to decorating their homes in what became known as “The Krewe of House Floats.”
New Orleans resident Elena Walker decided to take the idea on the road, literally: by creating DIY car floats. “I’ve always been bothered by the lack of any ornamentation on most cars aside from bumper stickers or business advertisements” she explains. “Whereas the small market for car decals is aimed at men and muscle cars, my idea was to reach into a female and family market, with fun, fashionable decals you can remove and re-use, wrapping them across the vehicle in unusual places, not just on the standard door.”
Walker began with one product – a design based on the ubiquitous Mardi Gras beads — in two sizes and three colors. From there, Car Floats took off.
The internet has been critical for gaining inspiration, working with digital assets, sending art to press, and marketing her business through social networks. And, thanks to Walker’s work, a “Krewe of Car Floats” will be on parade this Mardi Gras – in a safe, socially distant way. “All the repressed energy of this last year seems to be erupting in a desire to celebrate in any way we can,” she says. “I hope this will bring back a bit of the fun.”
A Full “Spectrum” Candle Business
Jasmine Williams’ appreciation for candles dates to when she was immobilized for several months due to foot surgery. “My mom would light candles in my bedroom as a way to change the atmosphere,” she recounts. “That’s when I noticed that most candles don’t have a scent that carries throughout a room. Most, if not all, only smelled when I was right beside them.”
Williams subsequently learned to make candles on her own. It was the pandemic, however, which spurred her to change her hobby into a business, the Aries Candle Co. “Making candles is a science and requires a lot of testing,” she explains. “Had I still been working full time, it never would have happened.” And thanks to her Spectrum internet service, the business is able to operate fully online, from requesting supplies to receiving orders.
Despite her success, Williams still makes each candle individually. And, unlike the competition, “I guarantee you won’t need to be near the candle in order to smell it,” she says.
Full-Service Cookie Delivery, Enabled by Internet
“I’ve always been into food and worked in food service,” says Kitty Corbin, a 2011 culinary-school graduate. “Baking is a therapeutic experience and I find joy in sharing it with those around me.”
When the restaurant Corbin was working at closed due to COVID-19, Corbin was left without a steady income. While waiting for unemployment to kick in, she decided to devote more time to her side business as a baker. The business quickly gained traction, and before long, Beard Bakes was born.
Corbin’s is a 100% online business: her weekly menu goes out by email, orders are placed online, and marketing is mainly done through Instagram and Facebook. After overcoming early issues with acquiring supplies, she created a delivery system that has been instrumental in getting her confections into her customer’s hands. “I was able to provide people with a treat to lift their spirits or to send comfort to a sick loved one,” she says. “It was a bright spot that I needed as much as they did!”
Although the restaurant has reopened, Corbin has turned Beard Bakes into a full-time job. “I’m just a grateful girl who gets to make cookies for a living,” she says.
While the pandemic has made life more challenging, broadband has enabled work to continue and, in some cases, even to thrive. As innovation continues to open new frontiers, the networks we rely on today needs to expand to all parts of the United States, giving everyone the same opportunity to harness the power of the internet. Visit our Rural Broadband page to learn more and how you can make a difference.