As the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to present new challenges for small businesses, many owners found themselves in the position of updating their business to an e-commerce model. We reached out to Lindsay Down, a Canadian small business owner and Creative Director of Pure Colour Baby, to understand how she has pivoted her business processes to enable e-commerce and optimize online sales. In our short Q&A with Lindsay, we asked some important questions to find out how her experience and key learnings can inspire other small business owners.
Lindsay DownOwner & Creative Director
Pure Colour Baby
A retail business that provides high-quality, stylish baby clothes, using organic materials and a grow-with-me philosophy.
Years in operation: 8
Number of employees: 3
How has the coronavirus (COVID-19) impacted your business?
The largest impact on our business has been the cancellation/postponement of craft shows and in-person selling events. We have grown our business through in-person sales for several years and we put a lot of time, effort and resources into preparing for these events.
What has been the impact on your brick and mortar store?
We closed our boutique in mid-March, after only being open for 9 months. Nearly 70% of our revenue comes from in-person sales at our craft shows and in our boutique so it was a difficult time for us. We continued online sales through an e-commmerce platform on our website and after a couple of weeks, I realized there was a need for cloth face masks in our community. We had some supplies on hand and immediately started sourcing more materials to produce face masks. We have been donating and selling face masks to our online community for the past 5 weeks and these sales have been extremely helpful in keeping our business running during COVID-19.
From a logistical point of view, have your delivery operations changed?
Yes, we are now offering local delivery to our customers and curbside pickup at our boutique. We also added a delivery option to our website and have encouraged customers to shop online, which offers convenience and safety as person-to-person contact is minimized. Creating online options will bring benefits to both the customer and the business.
Your business manufactures products from your studio in Kingston, Ontario. What steps have you taken in terms of health and safety?
Since mid-March, our staff have not been working in our studio. One of our production assistants is working a few hours a week from home and we safely drop off and pick up materials without close contact. We are discussing the changes we will need to make with our production schedule and processes in order to maintain a safe and healthy workspace. We don’t have a lot of square footage but I’m confident we can come up with a plan that will work well for our team.
How do you think the pandemic will affect local manufacturers?
It’s been quite challenging for us to source materials and to continue manufacturing during this time. There are several supply chain issues and often when we think we’ve discovered a solution to our problem, we find another supplier or product that is unavailable. Because we’re a small manufacturer, we can’t purchase in bulk and therefore don’t have the buying power or influence that larger companies can maintain. I think that many of us will need to pivot or modify our operations temporarily to stay in business. I’ve seen some great creativity from local manufacturers and businesses who have pivoted during this pandemic and I hope it inspires more entrepreneurs to think creatively.
What are your thoughts on the next few months?
It’s been quite difficult to plan for the coming months. We expect to be making non-medical face masks for the next little while but we’re also working on our fall/winter collection. We started designing it in January when we had no idea how things would change but we’re adapting and working on plans to make it happen. We are incredibly excited to be collaborating with a local illustrator on our new designs and although we may have to scale back our plans, we’re determined to bring this collection to life.
What can the community do to continue to support small businesses?
Our local community in Kingston has been really supportive of our local small businesses. It can sometimes take a little more time or effort to discover small shops but it’s so rewarding to support a small business that cares about their community, their products and their customers. Often you’ll even get better service! Even if you cannot make a purchase, consider commenting on a small business’s social media post or sharing their company with a friend.
Your customer base is primarily parents. What advice would you give them during this unprecedented time?
For many parents, it’s been quite difficult to manage parenting, working, home-schooling and a household. Give yourself some alone time each day, whether it’s an online yoga class, meditation or watching Netflix. Enjoy those extra cuddles with your little ones and the extra time spent with your older kids. If the house isn’t clean or the kids’ school work isn’t finished, don’t stress about it. There’s so much anxiety right now and our kids feel it too. Some days will be better than others but give yourself some grace.
What would you recommend as the perfect quarantine outfit?
My son has been wearing our French terry pullovers and matching pants nearly every day. They are the softest garments he owns and he has them in every colour (he loves to shop in mama’s store!).
What kind of support has helped during this phase?
Support from friends, family, customers and fellow small business owners has been incredibly helpful over the past couple of months. Brainstorming ideas with fellow creative entrepreneurs on how to adapt during this pandemic, sharing each other’s businesses within our communities and helping each other when we can. The maker & artist community we are part of has been so supportive. We are also grateful the government programs exist as they will help some of the businesses who need assistance.
What advice do you have for other small business owners?
Talk to fellow business owners and friends for encouragement and support. Many of us felt very alone and nervous about the future of our businesses during the first few weeks of COVID-19. Having conversations with fellow entrepreneurs and sharing your ideas and experiences can be incredibly helpful. Think about your products and services and the current needs of your customers, maybe you can modify or adapt to fulfill a need. Also, don’t be afraid to market or sell your products. Our approach to marketing and e-commerce has changed but people are still looking to purchase goods and services during this time. Many customers are not happy about being forced to shop online but if you can be supportive in answering questions and sharing information to make the transition easier for them, they will remember you.
Small Business Support
Mental health support for you and your team
From working remotely to returning to work, there are a lot of changes that can impact how you and your employees are feeling. Read “6 Ways to Support Mental Health for Small Business Owners and Their Employees” for some ways to promote positive mental health during times of uncertainty.
Supporting your business through online shipping
You can create a shipment online with our E-Ship® Now shipping portal. If on your mobile device, download our app for IOS or Android to create a shipment, schedule a pickup, track a shipment and print your shipping label at home. If you don’t have a printer, select the QR code option and schedule your pickup. The QR code will be scanned when your parcel is dropped off at a Purolator Shipping Centre.
For businesses and shipping to the U.S., create an online account with our E-Ship® Online portal.
If you have questions about our online shipping services, see our shipping FAQs.
Resources for Small Business During COVID-19
For additional guidance and tools to support your business, visit our Small Business Resource Centre.
If there is anything we can do to help, please reach out to us at [email protected].