Every March, the United States celebrates Women’s History Month—a time for national recognition of all the accomplishments women have made throughout the country’s history. In 2020, the month-long celebration of women’s achievements has been out shadowed by the global pandemic that is COVID-19. Some reports indicate that women will be the most negatively impacted by the virus in comparison to their male counterparts: a number of industries that are most affected by the virus (healthcare, teachers, flight attendants) are dominated by women. COVID-19 has also impacted entrepreneurs in unimaginable ways. For female entrepreneurs, trying to stay afloat amidst this catastrophe may seem impossible. Women starting businesses already experience barriers to entry and a lack of funding compared to men, research indicates. Despite these challenges, many female entrepreneurs have developed creative online strategies to propel their businesses forward during these times of uncertainty. Three women entrepreneurs sat down to discuss how their business is thriving despite the COVID-19 crisis.
Angely Rojas, founder of AR30
Angely Rojas, founder of AR30: Even though the AR30 Challenge [is] a fitness virtual program with our interactive chat, one-on-one support system, and exercise app, after COVID-19 hit, it has impacted us in many ways. The gyms closed down, the ladies are out of work and some are financially stressed. Most of them are dealing with children being at home and on top of that, fighting off the urge to not eat all the snacks at home in a day. All of this naturally results [in] most of them [not having] much motivation to even workout at home or…eat well.
Instead of having everyone go to the gym we brought the gym to them, virtually via Zoom! And twice a day…holding 12:30pm and 8pm sessions, five times a week. I also made sure to regroup the girls by making an IGTV video, reminding them of why this is the time to actually focus on their health goals, and that we need have a strong and healthy immune system, now more than ever.
How have you utilized social media since COVID-19 to connect with your customers and audience? Initially I was offering the virtual workouts just for the AR30 participants. But then I decided to open it to the public. This has allowed [me] to not only unite and support my audience, but also, I want the AR30 to stand for positivity. In today’s world, we wake up to negativity, fear, sadness and dark days, so I am hoping to be a positive light, in which we provide a safe space…to help them focus on being optimistic—women’s empowerment and also enjoying a great workout. A lot of the ladies tell me it’s their ‘highlight of the day’. To see them smiling and clapping after each virtual session is priceless. I also started holding Q&As virtually about health and fitness to educate and connect with my followers. I really believe that during these difficult times, it really allows people to unite for a greater cause. Now more than ever, I feel so connected to all of them, and I cherish this so much…and this is truly why the AR30 is #MoreThanAFitnessChallenge.
Rachel Laryea, founder of Kelewele
Rachel Laryea, founder of Kelewele: My business, Kelewele, is a cultural lifestyle brand dedicated to making plantains, reimagined. As part of the hospitality industry, some areas of our business, namely our restaurant partnerships, has come to an indeterminate halt. We have had to revisit the strategic business planning we made for this quarter and next and find creative ways to supplement the lag in business. It hasn’t all been bad news, however, as we’ve been able to double down on our social media efforts and in return, raise our brand recognition and educate people about our mission and service offerings in light of COVID-19.
Since we offer pick-up and delivery services in New York City, we, like many other food services, are ramping up our marketing efforts to make sure people know that they can count on us as a safe, reliable food option during this time. We are also working with restaurants that are still in business…in order to reach as large an audience as possible on social media. Without question, our digital platforms are more important than ever before during this time, as we provide our customer base with real-time updates on our business.
How have you utilized social media since COVID-19 to connect with your customers and audience? While social media has always been an integral part of our business model because of its ability to evoke feelings of togetherness despite physical distance, now more than ever before, we are focused on utilizing online platforms to create as much person-to-person engagement as possible through videos and live sessions. One recent example of this is our collaboration with BET International for their CultureVibes Home Sessions. My business was able to teach users on BET International’s highly trafficked Instagram platforms how to make our chocolate plantain cupcakes in a 20-minute live session. This partnership, made possible through social media, was a unique way to connect with a large audience, raise awareness of the brand, and most importantly, share some much-needed happiness and joy in such a devastating time.
Alex Wolf consultant, speaker, and creator of Creative Business School
Alex Wolf, consultant, speaker, and creator of Creative Business School: I’ve noticed brands and clients reaching out about ways they can quickly innovate and still provide value with the current climate. What I’ve been suggesting is quality virtual programming (i.e. virtual summits, online events, etc.) I understand the circumstances are unfortunate but it’s truly an optimal time for brands to build a deeper emotional connection with their audience by proving to be a valuable source of inspiration and education during this vulnerable time. If customers can trust you now, they’ll trust you forever.
I’ve changed my messaging to be more sensitive. People are responding strongly to the posts that are aggressively encouraging productivity. I think it’s important to give people the space they need to process what’s happening. This is bigger than the virus causing a biological liability. There are political and economic shifts that people have to adjust to and embrace, which will be difficult for many.
How have you utilized social media since COVID-19 to connect with your customers and audience?
I was honestly born to use social media for times like this…within seven days of the lockdown, I was able to book an eight-stop “virtual tour” with some of the biggest influencers and multi-cultural platforms online. I’m a consultant and I’m a speaker, so I can still provide my value and speak to large audiences even if it’s through the screen. It’s been nice. Platforms that would’ve otherwise not have thought to provide curated virtual programming started to think about what else they can host [and] how to expand their schedule with online events after I reached out about speaking for them.