Building a Better Business During Covid-19: Strategies from the Hudson Valley Community
There is no road map for steering your business through a pandemic. Though past recessions offer some insight into weathering an economic downturn, the almost-overnight shuttering of New York’s economy in mid-March threw many business owners into uncharted territory. Even as the state’s economy slowly begins to reopen this summer, non-essential industries like service, hospitality, travel, and retail are still facing the reality that it might not be business as usual for quite some time.
One benefit the pandemic’s widespread impact offers is an opportunity to lean on the advice that others have to offer. We spoke with local Hudson Valley businesses on their pivots and what they’ve learned along the way.
Embracing the Change
It might be easier said than done, but simply acknowledging that this is the new normal can provide some clarity on where to go next. “When things are fine, it’s pretty natural to not want to disturb what’s working,” says Adele Abide, a Rhinebeck-based interior designer who recently closed her own business to join her husband Joshua Pulver’s architecture firm A+C as head of marketing. “Covid-19 gave us time to reflect and redirect our energies,” Abide says. With the majority of A+C’s business based in New York City, the couple knew they needed to strengthen their position in the local community. “We quickly realized we needed to start marketing in the Hudson Valley,” she says.
Whitney Bowers, director of communication for Poughkeepsie-based Dutchess Tourism, Inc. says her organization has pivoted to serve local residents right now, “keeping them updated on the ways they can continue to safely act as tourists in their own backyards.” They’re providing up-to-date resources for local residents, including businesses offering takeout and curbside pickup, open farmers’ markets, and events residents can attend virtually or with safe social distancing.
Increasing Digital Services
There’s no denying that shelter-in-place policies have increased our screen time. In addition to digital entertainment like streaming services to fill our evenings, we’re also conducting much more of our lives online through social media. “[Social distancing] has really increased the visibility of marketing through social media, digital notice boards, and email newsletters,” says Phyllis Emmerich, founder of Warwick-based marketing and public relations firm Branded 845, which works with a small portfolio of clients in the food, beverage, and service industries. “I’ve had to expand where I was reaching out to, including town and parents groups on Facebook.”
Some of Emmerich’s clients, like Move Physio, a manual physiotherapy practice with locations in Warwick and Monroe, rely on in-person visits to diagnose and treat clients. In addition to strict safety protocols for in-person visits, they’ve pivoted to offering virtual education on social media.
When interior designer Denise Gianna, owner of Denise Gianna Designs in Beacon, noticed that her clients in health and hospitality were disappearing in February, she knew she had to pivot, too. “When I saw people close shops and walk away, I thought, ‘No way. This is my baby.’ I’m so passionate about what I do,” she says. Gianna started offering virtual design consults and no-contact reupholstery services that allow customers to drop off furniture at her shop. “I’ve always done virtual design, but I just started marketing it more,” she says.
For Catskill Art Supply, the pandemic prompted a full transition to online retail after 42 years of face-to-face business. While it required a significant amount of investment to build the functionality and add their extensive inventory to their site, local residents now have another option for art supplies outside of the big box stores. According to owner Paul Solis-Cohen, “We’re now making it easy and fun to “Keep it Local.”