It's not all doom and gloom on the small business front in the coronavirus pandemic.
An Atlanta entrepreneur has seen average daily sales skyrocket more than 700% for her plant-based hair product company, Moisture Love, which specializes in care for curly hair.
Jeannell Darden's good business fortune came as a result of timing, faith, and a firm business push. In the early weeks of the virus' spread in early March, but before businesses were prompted to shut their doors with voluntary curfews and stay-home orders, Darden and her husband put their heads together to determine whether they'd step on the gas, or take their collective foot off the pedal, save cash, and ride it out. The couple prayed about it, and then moved ahead with an aggressive business strategy.
"Pre-corona, we were struggling to gain traction," says Darden, "because there are so many brands in the natural hair space. Figuring out a way to differentiate our message was difficult for us."
Darden saw an opportunity to have a more captive audience who would be at home, using technology, spending time on their social media accounts. Moisture Love increased advertising, and stepped up interactive, step-by-step tutorials in Facebook and Instagram Live broadcasts. The result, she says, has been "absolutely phenomenal. We've been able to integrate our message more in a time when people are able to listen more."
The Georgia Tech Industrial Engineer graduate was confident that the products she had formulated with proprietary technology would speak for themselves once customers tried them on their tresses. Retaining customers isn't hard, she says; it's just finding new ones--many of whom are skeptical of trying new products. The challenge was simply standing out in a crowded field, and at times, she had thought that she might just use her Tech degree to land a well-paying job somewhere else. But her entrepreneurial spirit kept her going, and the renewed marketing quickly paid off as salons everywhere closed down for safety.
"I hadn't even thought about it on the front end, but people weren't able to go to their stylists. So old customers were reaching out like, 'Listen. I haven't bought product in a while, but I can't go to my stylist now. I need some product, and I need you to tell me what to do,'" says Darden.
The multiple Facebook Lives per week, with styling tips and hair care education, also brought in new customers. Darden says before the pandemic, a "good" sales day might average $150. Now, mid-April, a typical day sees $1,300 in sales.
"Amazing," she laughs. "It's been really good." Then, at a calculation of the percentage difference--a 767% jump--Darden seemed stunned. "That's crazy. I could cry!"
Darden's team is strategizing ways to keep increasing business as salons eventually reopen and need quick access to quality product.
Her gratitude about the uptick in business and satisfied customers is not all she's feeling these days--it's also grief. Coronavirus claimed the life of one of her aunts days ago.
"It's hard to almost gloat in it, because we've lost a family member to COVID, and we know a number of people have lost family members to COVID, so it's hard to say, 'Corona's been good to me,' you know what I mean?" says Darden. "But I look at it from a silver lining perspective.
"It's changed the course of my family. I'm able to help support our household, and if my husband's job falls back, for once in a very long time, I'm able to step in and fill that gap--and there's just no words to really explain what that feels like."