In these times of economic uncertainty, small businesses around Carbondale are quickly adapting to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With statewide closures in effect for nonessential businesses, it has become increasingly difficult for small business owners who rely on farmers’ markets, word of mouth, and in-person events to reach consumers.
For many entrepreneurs, this has meant developing new and creative strategies for growth — even if it means taking a step back.
Kathy Flanigan founder of natural body care company Pura Simple (purasimple.us) has recognized that her business has come to a standstill.
As a relatively new company, Flanigan was just beginning to build her customer base, and was looking forward to events like Dandelion Days and Spring into Wellness to connect with customers.
Since event cancellations are on the rise, Flanigan has shifted her focus to the backside of her business.
“I am taking extra precautions right now and using this opportunity to work on formulas, my blog, and website,” Flanigan said. “I have essentially stopped production and plan to use what I have in my lab right now for testing.”
Flanigan is still building accounts by gifting her soothing creams to neighbors and postal workers, and while Pura Simple is available at Mana Foods, Flanigan does not intend to restock until after the peak of COVID-19.
Local artist Heather Quinn (IG @sorta_interesting) is of the same mindset.
“People are buying essentials at the moment,” Quinn said. “A painting isn’t an essential. I am taking no new commissions and instead getting caught up on my list, and hoping to make things people can use, like putting artwork on backpacks or storage bins.”
Quinn has been self-isolating for some time, and out of concern for her young family and her clients, has decided to stop all shipping until after the risk of spread has gone down.
Considering the intimate nature of commissioned work, Quinn said she needs to be extra considerate right now — a choice her clients understand and appreciate.
In addition to catch-up work, Quinn plans on creating process videos and blogs to be shared with the general public on YouTube.
“Art has gotten me through a lot emotionally,” Quinn said. “Right now is a good time to start a new hobby, and art can be really liberating. I’m always happy to answer questions and share
what I’ve learned with others.”
Pivoting to navigate the unknown
Long time mycologist and founder of Toadstool Traditions (toadstooltraditions.com) Matthew Rader believes now is a critical time for the community to support local businesses — especially those in agriculture.
“I think now is a great time to prioritize food and growth,” Rader said. “The future of agriculture is in millions of small farms throughout the country. By supporting local growers, you are supporting future educators.”
Rader, who specializes in growing and extracting Lion’s Mane mushroom, said that mushrooms are an excellent addition to one’s diet for they are more bioefficient, nutrient-dense, and comparable to meat in protein content. They also have a low carbon impact and can still be grown at a rate to support more people in need.
Despite having a good month in February, Rader expressed concern for his future as he is currently living on a monthly basis. To brace for the unpredictable, Rader has been reevaluating his offerings.
This spring, he plans to grow as many mushrooms for trade as possible, limit his variety to high-yielding mushrooms such as oyster mushrooms, and lower his prices to accommodate those with economic hardships. He also plans to launch an oyster mushroom CSA this summer.
Similarly, Mark Burrows — founder of Pollinator Chocolate (pollinatorchocolate.com) and master beekeeper — is constantly thinking ahead to ease the stress of the unknown.
“Now is the time to figure out how to think outside of the box,” Burrows said. “Everybody is hurting and we need to figure out a way to collaborate. I wake up with anxiety and to deal with it I have to keep moving and planning.”
Burrows has spent the last few months making chocolate and prepping his business for the now cancelled spring events. When the pandemic struck, he found himself with a stockpile of goods and essentially nowhere to sell them.
Recognizing the need to adapt and collaborate, Burrows launched his website, hired a marketing person to broaden his audience, and bought an electric bicycle for free local deliveries from Glenwood Springs to Basalt.
“We have to pivot quickly,” Burrows said. “This may all blow over tomorrow or it can go the entire summer. You have to take what you have and work with it.”
Right now, the top priority for each business owner is consumer safety. This means producing goods in the most sterile environments, keeping constant communication with consumers, and following CDC protocol.
With no clear end in sight, these small business owners are recognizing what is important to them right now, and that means continuing to adapt and lift each other up.
“It’s okay to relax and give yourself some time,” Quinn said. “Simplifying your life is important and recognizing that you don’t need a lot of stuff. This community is really coming together and you can take comfort in knowing that we are all in this together.”