Small business is at the heart of the Texas economy.
There are so many ways to pivot your small business during this pandemic economy. Each guest on today’s show quickly embraced the chaos and learned to do business with a big grey elephant in the room while they worked hard to stay afloat. Learn from them as they give insights into their journey.
Episode 2 Guests:
Lori Schneider – The Cupcake Bar, ATX
Amelia Raley – Sweet Ritual, ATX
Oliver Steck – Freelance Musician, ATX
Linsey Lindberg – Artisan Oddities Entertainment, S.A. and Austin
Jonathan Jow – Bootheasy Photo Booth
Hayden Locakbee – Red Velvet
Bios and business information for all the guests featured in Season 1 can be found on EmergingTexasStrong.com. Find out how you can work with them and support your Texas small businesses.
This episode of Emerging Texas Strong is sponsored by Texas Mutual Insurance Company, a leading worker’s comp provider in Texas, and is a production of Earnest Media.
If you are interested in sponsoring a heartful podcast focused on the journey of Texas business owners for a focused market audience email, contact@EmergingTexassStrong.com
Episode 2 Transcript:
Texas Mutual Sp…: 00:00 Support for the emerging Texas strong podcast comes from Texas Mutual Insurance Company, a Workers’ Comp provider committed to helping companies build a stronger, safer Texas.
Host: 00:09 On this episode of emerging, Texas strong,
Lori Schneider,…: 00:14 We were able to pivot and now everybody hates that word, but literally it is what it is. And we were able to create new opportunities and also to be out there. Yes, let’s do this. Let’s figure it out. I think is really what helped us to be able to pivot successfully, you know? Yes. It, at the time it’s a pivot, but now I look at it as an evolution of our company.
Linsey Lindberg…: 00:34 People want Zoom shows, imagine it like Bing Crosby, except drunk Santa, what would that look like? And now my question is like, sure, we’re going to stick around. We’re going to keep doing virtual, but is anybody going to need bad Santa next year? Just some kind of vestigial organ that gets left behind of the COVID era, this sad detritus of the Christmas mess, just scattered on the floor. You just shove it in the trash can.
New Speaker: 01:12 Episode 2: Pivot. Welcome back to emerging, Texas strong, a growing collection of stories, lessons, and advice from small business owners in Texas, working hard to survive this pandemic economy. If you joined us last week for Episode 1, you know that this isn’t your typical business podcast. We follow a collection of businesses and weave their stories together. As we navigate through a full season of big picture topics like cultivating resiliency skills for making tough decisions and the silver linings of 2020 Episode 2 is on the pivot. It’s a buzzword for 2020, and frankly we’re all tired of hearing it, but it is in the way that effective businesses choose to pivot that is making dispositions and financial forecasts a lot more rosy. I specifically am not choosing to feature any businesses who decided to pivot into making or selling PPE or anything like that. I wanted to feature the businesses that really took what they do and made it special and different to work for right now, because I think it’s really important to hear the stories of business owners who made a pivot and then actually found that, introduce them to a segment of their business that they wouldn’t have thought to merge into, but that they’re not going to get rid of now. I think that’s an exciting thing. I also want to mention that since my business pivoted into virtual, that informed a lot of the questions I asked my guests and how I frame this episode. So I asked a friend interview me for the podcast as well. Let’s meet her.
Amanda Tutor, T…: 02:45 Hi, my name’s Amanda Tutor. I work at the CE Group Inc, a live event company based in San Antonio. And I have known Linsey for a wonderful four years.
Host, Linsey Li…: 02:57 Amanda asked me lots of questions, how we pivoted and why. And I wanted to be sure that we include them in the same format as the guests. So you’ll hear my voice in two different ways on this episode, both as your host and as a guest. And you’ll get to know a little bit more about what I do and what my company’s experience has been. But first let’s do a brief introduction of some of the other business owners. You’ll be sure to be inspired by on Episode 2, we’ll hear how their pivot plans got started.
Jonathan Jow, B…: 03:26 Hello, my name is Jonathan Jow. I am the co-owner of Bootheasy. I kind of equate COVID-19 to like the cause for a breakup to a good economy. You have that moment where you like a little bit in denial and then you go into grief and then you get over it and you put yourself back out there on the market. It was probably like two weeks after the initial shutdown. That’s when we were like, okay, let’s go ahead and make a board and have some ideas on what we could pivot to.
Oliver Steck, M…: 03:53 My name is Oliver Steck. I work as a musician and entertainer. The reason I became an entrepreneur is to be able to live within the music within entertainment. And to me being an entrepreneur is a very porous thing. It’s very flexible. For example, as an entertainer, I went from almost 300 shows a year to zero, and that required me to rethink what I did. So, I mean, for myself, I was able to say, I’m recasting myself now as a singing telegram people couldn’t come to live music so I can bring live music to people that could sell that. And I could work that go and play for balconies at retirement homes. I just show up at friends’ houses. Easter was not too long after that. And I put on the bunny suit, I put on the accordion, I put on the one man band outfit, you know, I had the bass drum and I walked down the street, you know, just did crazy stuff. And it was just a surreal thing where people who are looking out their windows or just happened to be go, what is going on? It’s kind of daunting. Oh yes. That’s the surrealness. Especially at this time of entertainment when no one can go out and apreciation and being able to say there is some connection.
Lori Schneider,…: 04:56 Hi, my name is Lori Schneider. I’m the owner of the cupcake bar located here in Austin, Texas. We’ve been in business for about 13 years. What do we need to do to figure out how to sell cupcakes right now, at least to hold us over until we figure out what our next thing is going to be. So, okay. What, what holidays are coming up? How can we really work hard to like, get something out of this and keep our doors open and keep our people employed?
Amelia Raley, S…: 05:20 My name’s Amelia, I own Sweet Ritual vegan ice cream, a non-dairy ice cream shop. I’ve been in business in Texas for nine years. I think personally, I am just like an insufferable optimist and I do have my moments. But between me and my business partner here, we’ve turned every pitfall into an opportunity. And we have all these different side hustles that we’ve been doing. So if one opportunity isn’t working or isn’t working as well, we definitely have a couple more that we’re working on.
Amanda Tutor, T…: 05:55 So how about you introduce yourself and tell me about your company?
Linsey Lindberg…: 06:01 Hi, I’m Linsey Lindberg. I am the owner of Artisan Oddities Entertainment and we do specialty talent, entertainment, costumes, and assorted other beautiful things. For large scale live events. You pivot, you figure it out. You show them that you are not made of sad, little mashed potatoes waiting around for this recovery to happen around you. You do not sit in your chair and just wish it was different. You figure it out. You wake up every day, ask yourself, what is your purpose as a business owner? What is it that you bring to your clients and how do you do it in an apocalyptic world? How do you, how do you do it today? If it changes tomorrow, how do you do it tomorrow? That is what gets you to the other side.
Host, Linsey Li…: 06:59 There are so many ways to pivot. I read a wonderful story about a port-a-potty business, the thought it was just done for, and then turned everything around by discovering the new markets from outdoor weddings, COVID testing sites and thousands of necessary hand-washing stations. So as we’ll see each guest quickly embrace the chaos and learn to do business with a big, grey elephant in the room while they worked hard to stay afloat, some solved for a virtual “X” and some threw out their pre COVID business models and let faith optimism and some kind of divine guidance helped them along. As Lori from The Cupcake Bar says, “Say yes, and then we’ll figure it out.”
Linsey Lindberg…: 07:39 So the pivot plan for the ice cream shop, what was that transition like for the ice cream shop?
Amelia Raley, S…: 07:46 We’ve never done online sales before, but first we were doing just all call in orders and it was clogging up the phone lines. And so we had to figure out how to navigate that. And so we had to build out a completely new platform online and then teach the stuff how to do that. We spent the summer white labeling for an ice cream company. And so that’s been like a cool project to take on, or it’s had nothing to do with our business, but it was like a little bit of side, side money for that.
Linsey Lindberg…: 08:12 So, and I don’t know what white labeling means?
Amelia Raley, S…: 08:16 We create the ice cream and they pass it off as their own.
Linsey Lindberg…: 08:20 How chic! You’re very good. You’re very good at what you do!
Host, Linsey Li…: 08:28 Jonathan Jow, Bootheasy photo booth.
Jonathan Jow, B…: 08:31 We do photo booths, photo ops, and any other kind of memorable Instagrammable moments at a live events. So we basically got a bunch of post-it notes, wrote a bunch of ideas, stuck it up on the board and kind of saying like, what is it that we could do right now during this time that’s, you know, viable that we could actually execute on that. And also still uses at least some of our skillsets are these things sustainable? Can we do this after? COVID some of the other stuff that we came up with is like, we could do virtual events because we have all the camera equipment, we have all the video equipment. We have a three 60 experience where people could stand in. There’ll be a slow motion, 360 with confetti, or we’ve done things with like, uh, like a Vogue-booth where it’s like a music video, like a hype video people go in and you just like make poses you dance and do whatever. And we cut it and then we put it to the music. You just look like you’re on a rap video basically. So we have these technologies and these workflows that already work in creating these awesome video outputs. So we were like, okay, we can do that. And instead, and we’ll make it useful for corporate events. So it’d be more like interview style, like just a talking head video, which is really popular. And so we moved into that realm quickly to help produce virtual events, uh, with planners or brands.
Oliver Steck, M…: 09:44 I started The Squirrel Show, which I call it, which I still use the bunny suit for in swim goggles. And…
Linsey Lindberg…: 09:49 Actually you didn’t ever say out loud what The Squirrel Show is. So I can’t explain it to people without me explaining what it is. So can you do like a quick 30 seconds on what is The Squirrel Show?
Oliver Steck, M…: 10:00 Right. So The Squirrel Show, which happens on Thursdays at 7:30 out of my garage, and I have a FacebookLive feed from Oliver Steck. You know, you can look me up in there I’ll be. And what it is, is me opening up the garage, putting out my computer, Uh, I’m basically there in a bunny suit and swim goggles with an accordion, for the most part, just taking whatever comes up to me. It’s a work in progress. I kind of use as a platform for myself to learn and also to do it with absolutely no prepared material. Yeah. As a solo performer, I’ve enjoyed being able to personally bring a surprise and the joy to people in live music in person in unexpected ways where it’s appreciated and can even be remarketed where people say, ‘Oh, I’m looking for this to happen.’
Host, Linsey Li…: 10:51 So did you have to completely change your business model in order to complete this pivot that you’ve got going on?
Lori Schneider,…: 10:58 We 100% had to change our business model to make this work. And that’s, what’s been interesting and exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time. But also again, in the whole idea of like not saying, no, we were like, we’ll figure it out. Like literally that’s everything that would come in the door, let’s figure it out. Like everything was figuring it out. So I think for us being flexible and being able to turn and, and having that team support to, to be there to say like, yes, let’s do this. Let’s figure it out is really what helped us to be able to pivot successfully again, before we were doing these interactive dessert stations. Now we’re doing virtual cupcake, decorating, pickup and deliveries, interactive kits because people really want stuff to do at home. And then how can we get that to them? Oh, and by the way, now we’re shipping! We make a joke. You see our shop here and we’re like, ‘Oh, go to the shipping department.’ It’s literally not a shipping department, but it is now! And then like doing our corporate gifting that has nothing to do with cupcakes, which is great. But how do I communicate that to clients that this is what we’re doing. One of our pivots is these corporate gift boxes for clients out of New York and California. We’ve been so grateful for that. And the interesting thing with these corporate gift boxes, it’s been anything from let’s send all of our employees, these boxes and we’ve curated branded logo, coolers, and sunglasses, and all kinds of things, again, that have nothing to do with cupcakes. And it it’s been really, really fun to work with our clients to say like, what are your needs and how can we help you make that end person feel extra special. So we’re loving that. And it’s really saving us, too.
Hayden Lockabee…: 12:43 My name’s Hayden Lockerbie. I am the senior director of business development here at Red Velvet, a full service creative agency. We specialize in activations experiences, events of all shapes and sizes. We of course like many other, uh, agencies like ours have pivoted mostly to virtual this year. Um, but our bread and butter really is with live events and experiences.
Host, Linsey Li…: 13:16 So tell me about how COVID has made. You have to shift your business model.
Hayden Lockabee…: 13:22 The shift that we have had to make because of COVID shifting to an agency model, ironically was in our future anyway. And it just so happened that we had started to make that transition just around about the time COVID hit. Our future really is in the long-term relationships that we’re building with clients and servicing them in a deeper and more strategic way over time.
Amanda Tutor, T…: 13:53 So what gave you the confidence in your transition into this virtual space?
Linsey Lindberg…: 14:01 What gave me the confidence to transition? Not having any other option? I don’t think any of us were confident at that time. I feel like I could ask any business owner that I’ve interviewed and maybe some of us fake it better than others, but we didn’t know what we were doing. Pivoting is creating an entirely different company from scratch. The essence is the same, the fact that we want to bring live heartfelt, connected energy and entertainment to people that’s the same, but I created a new company. It was a huge challenge. You know, having these conversations, Oh my gosh. All of a sudden, I’m not, I’m not a talent coordinator. I’m not costumer. I’m not this creative visionary of ‘how you’re going to have all of these fantastic stilt, walkers surprise people at the start of your convention?’ Instead, now I’m this tech mama who’s quality control on Microsoft and Zoom and all of the plugins and giving people stats for their internet connection and telling them if their background is off center! It was a year! By the time I felt good at it, we’re coming out the other end.
Texas Mutual Sp…: 15:28 Support for this program comes from Texas mutual insurance company, a safety-focused Workers’ Comp provider, supplying information and resources that can help Texas employers stop accidents before they happen more at texasmutual.com.
Host, Linsey Li…: 15:58 And now back to our show. 2020 has given all of us the opportunity to understand what our business provides better than we ever could have before. Because I think this year has really helped a lot of us figure out the nugget of the service that we provide. And it’s giving us a new way to look at that service and hone in on it. Do you feel like it’s helped, you know, your brand better?
Hayden Lockabee…: 16:22 Oh gosh. Yeah, absolutely. We have. I think this has forced us to truly turn in and examine what we’re really about. I’m seeing all types of companies and businesses and industries react to the pandemic in different ways. And the ones I think that are managing it well are the ones that are taking an opportunity to truly assess what they stand for and really hold true to those values and ideals. And I realize that sounds very heady. Um, but with less time, less resources, potentially less, you know, less manpower from a staff perspective because of, you know, revenue reasons. We have to be a little bit more discerning about where we’re going to put our passion and energy and we have to like truly feel it and believe in it. And I think for us this year, we, we discovered that at the core at the center of it all was human connection and it’s driven every decision that we’ve made every recommendation to our clients to make sure that what they put forward is enabling a true human connection. It’s much harder to do that in a digital environment. So we are constantly looking for ways to improve and enhance that experience for our clients, customers, and the passion for creating those connections is what I think drives us to stay curious and ahead of head of the curve.
Jonathan Jow, B…: 17:57 I took like a week out this year to kind of like redo our framework of who we are and what we’re going to do and how we’re going to tackle things. Uh, just so just so we have better clarity of like where we’re going. It’s um, I think that, that was one of the things that we had to think hard about too, is more pivoting is like, what is it that we do? What’s the core essence of what we do and what can we do now in this world that we can’t see anyone, how can we still do what we do well, and for ourselves create amazing visual things that people can engage with.
Lori Schneider,…: 18:32 I do feel like having the more intimate conversations with our customers about what they want out of this is definitely helping us refine who we are. And I think a big part of that is like listening, like really trying to be in tuned to listening, into helping them and also getting creative, being able to not only apply that to like this example of the corporate gifting, but also be able to take that same level of detail using that into, for example, our virtual classes. So it’s not just a virtual class that we’re doing now, it’s, you know, with the help of our team, we’ve created this whole like syllabus and it’s called the cupcake class and it’s this whole, like when you’re done, you get a certificate of buttercream and then you get all this training stuff to follow it up. So it’s this whole, like idea, this whole experience. And so how do we take everything that we’re doing it and make it into an experience still make them feel like they’re a part of something. Cause you know, we all can feel isolated being at home. And so like that’s really our goals. Like what can we do to help make them feel that same level of like experience and excitement as they would add an event.
Linsey Lindberg…: 19:42 I love that. I love that, that understanding that it isn’t necessarily about cupcakes, it’s about how you make people feel the touch point and how you can do that. And it doesn’t have to be in-person and it doesn’t have to be cupcakes that’s yeah. It’s really beautiful.
Amelia Raley, S…: 19:59 Some of the downtime we’ve been using to really refine what goes into the ice cream, what ingredients we want to use, kind of dig into more of those, those bigger questions do we need to use almonds? Does that use too much water? Should we use more sunflower seeds instead and have a more ecological impact on the long run?
Linsey Lindberg…: 20:23 So I did a lot of soul searching about what is the purpose of my company? What does it do? What’s it for? What’s our, what’s our reason for being on the planet. Your purpose is to bring joy it’s to bring beauty and joy to the world, just because you can’t do that at live events anymore, does not let you off the hook. So you just get your button gear and you figure out how do you bring joy and beauty to the world, no matter COVID or not, people still need connection. People still need to be engaged. People still need to find moments of joy and of being in awe of, of something unexpected.
Host, Linsey Li…: 21:14 In this episode, I promised you inspiration and I promised you advice. Each business has strengths and skills that you can learn something from. So I asked each of my guests point blank. What have you learned from this experience? And what advice do you have for other small business owners for how to stay the course, embrace, change, keep spirits high and move with the times.
Lori Schneider,…: 21:37 Gosh, what lessons have I learned? I laugh because I learned lessons every single day. Um, but I think if we look at like the overarching, like what have I learned, um, as a whole, I think one is just to be open and be flexible to listen, listen to your customers because I know one of the things like we noticed, for example, for our pickup and deliveries, um, if we were just to have done pickup and deliveries, we would not be sitting here right now. I just would not have been able to generate the revenue I needed to keep my doors open. That said, what we noticed and what I was watching very closely was who is ordering and why. So I kept watching who’s ordering and why and why and why. And what I realized is most of it was, it was a birthday, it was a celebration of some sort. So it was like, how do I get that ticket, average up? What can I do? What can we sell as an add-on to get that ticket, average up so we can bring in more to that bottom line to pay the bills. So just being Uber aware of like, why do people have a need for what you’re doing right now? And how can we help them create a better experience?
Hayden Lockabee…: 22:46 So two things come to mind immediately, um, with respect to embracing the new and staying with the times. Um, the first is you got to mind the hell out of your network. Um, and everyone has a network and thankfully, due to technology, there’s access to that network. Even if you haven’t spent the time building it up, there’s this little platform called LinkedIn. It is just a treasure trove and we have utilized it to a degree. Um, but never have we tapped it like we have this year as individuals, as a company. And, and, and what we’re seeing across the board is everyone else is tapping into it too. So it’s kind of becoming this mega-house of a place to go and to network, to learn and to try to grow that’s. My first recommendation is get on LinkedIn right away. But my second piece of advice is if you don’t know what you’re doing, find someone who does and try to as much help as you can be aware of your blind spots, be aware of what you don’t know and get some help. The other thing that I have seen a lot of is businesses coming together in creative and different ways. It’s not just a person to person network it’s business, to business networking. And the by-product of that just means that our clients will benefit from exponential effort, right? It’s like a one plus one equals three kind of situation. And we are able to channel this into creative ways that will help benefit all of us. And so it behooves us all to stay with that and keep that right in our forefront. So, um, so we don’t get down and we were able to make it through
Oliver Steck, M…: 24:28 Creativity is a great resource. As, as artists, we use it all the time and to reapply it to the business of what I do, to be able to say, I’m going to take my creativity. I’m going to retool it and then send it out this way. For me, at some point it meant shifting gears and then eventually trying to find different ways to reapply myself and yeah, and put out in another way that will let me survive. You know, it may not be the optimal way to do it, but it certainly gets you through a crisis and possibly becomes maybe it becomes the new thing that I, or others.
Linsey Lindberg…: 25:06 But I do want to say, I want to stop and say for one second, in case we’re going to move the conversation in a different direction about the creativity that presented itself. As soon as I stopped being afraid of what was going to happen next. And as soon as I started opening myself up to the fact that like we are in this brave new world, there is no one who is great at this. The best thing we can do is bring our creativity to this problem. And now I’m going to envision, what would I want to see in the world? Not just, what’s the easiest thing to slap dash put on zoom. My question was what can be created? What can we do? How do we, how do we create the world that we want to exist in? There’s so many wonderful opportunities. I just want to say to anybody out there who is still in doom and gloom, please believe me, if you can just shake up your brain for half a second, there are ways that you can be creative, even if you’re not excited about it. But I tell ya, even if you get pushed to go ahead and, and transition into something different, there are opportunities there, and there is life and future and changes that you could never have imagined for yourself. This is a future that is beyond our planning as small business owners. This is not something any of us put on our 10 year goal plan, like survive a pandemic recession? That was not my plan! But I tell you, what I’ve said to a number of small business owners. That if we make it through this, I have no doubt in my mind. I can make it through absolutely anything that’s going to be thrown at us in the future. I have no fear after walking through the Valley of death.
Host, Linsey Li…: 27:18 Thank you for joining us on this episode of Emerging Texas Strong. Let’s take a second to review some of the advice we learned from this episode. Number one, get creative and retool your services. What skills do you have that you can offer in a different way? Number two, if you don’t know how to do it now, you can always figure it out. Number three, mine, your network. There’s gold in them there Hills number four, use this time to refine your brand and what you stand for. And number five, don’t be afraid of change. There’s a world out there waiting for you to add your unique talents and skills in a fresh new way. And as I prepare for episode three, I want to make a note that my goal is to do all interviews safely in life so that I can meet and soak in each business that we feature. However, this podcast has been shaped by the pandemic from start to finish, because unfortunately I’ve had to postpone multiple recording trips to different parts of Texas based on the dangerous COVID surges in El Paso, Del Rio, The Valley, and most recently an upcoming trip to Tarrant County, which surrounds Fort Worth and runs uncomfortably close to Dallas. Emerging Texas Strong will do everything possible to feature diverse business owners across this great state. But the reality is with a highly contagious strain of Coronavirus newly circulating, and an abundance of caution, I’ll just be taking it episode by episode. And we’ll just have to decide when it’s safe enough to travel to certain regions for recording trips. Podcast production, interviews, edits, sound design and office snacks for the Emerging Texas Strong podcast are done by Linsey Lindberg. Special thank you to our featured guest interviewer on Episode 2, Amanda Tutor of the CE Group, Inc. If you want to take a virtual cupcake decorating class with Lori and The Cupcake Bar team, watch The Squirrel Show live on Facebook, or find out more about the virtual entertainment options available for corporate and private COVID safe events; bios and business information for all guests featured in Season 1 can be found on emergingtexasstrong.com. Find out how you can work with them and support your Texas small businesses. Please be sure to follow, like, rate and subscribe to emerging Texas strong on the web so that you can always get the latest episode directly to your phone. And if you’re enjoying the show and want to show us some love, leave a five-star review, it will help more people find us. Follow us on Facebook @emergingtexasstrong or Twitter @Texasstrongpod, where I’ll be sharing some special treats from Episode 2, like a photo of Oliver Steck in his bunny suit and swim goggles doing his very first COVID neighborhood parade, a walkthrough of the shipping department from The Cupcake Bar’s pivot, the latest specialty flavors from Sweet Ritual they’ve concocted in their ice cream kitchen and the anthropological artifact YouTube video of Bad Santa mentioned in today’s show. And if you’d like to be interviewed, please reach out firstname.lastname@example.org. Emerging Texas Strong is a production of Earnest Media. And if you’re interested in sponsoring a heartful podcast focused on the journey of Texas business owners for a focused market audience, we’d love that email email@example.com. I’m your host Linsey Lindberg. Join us next time for more stories of Texas small businesses on Emerging Texas Strong.
Linsey Lindberg…: 30:50 You think that on YouTube, there is going to be all of these promo videos of all of these weird COVID shows that people put up there? And that one day some archeologists or anthropologists is going to find them and go, “This is a Relic from the COVID era! Can you see the deep seated fear in their eyes!? And yet, and yet they put on the show; but underneath you can see how existentially terrified that their way of life is over.” Uh, what a year.
Texas Mutual Sp…: 31:26 Support for this program comes from Texas Mutual Insurance Company, a safety-focused workers’ comp provider, supplying information and resources that can help Texas employers stop accidents before they happen firstname.lastname@example.org.