How small businesses are really affected by COVID19 (and what kind of help they’re looking for)

From coast to coast, the nation is wracked with a spectrum of emotions. Some folks are scared of getting sick. Some are worried for their families and friends. Others are bored or lonely from isolation. 

COVID-19 is certainly affecting everyone in some way. It’s also taking its toll on countless businesses. Since I work with small business owners throughout California, I wanted to find out exactly what they were going through and how they were coping with the pandemic. 

So, I started polling.

The following data represents the results from 67 respondents so far. (I will update the charts as more results come in. Add your business story here)

As you can see, my poll included a variety of businesses from local retail stores to an art studio instructor. The majority of the responses came from service businesses, followed by B2B (business-to-business) companies. 

How did the business sell prior to COVID-19

As you would expect, the majority of respondents did all of their business face-to-face. This is normal for service-based businesses.

What this graph shows:

⇨ 52 % of businesses only operated in person

⇨ 44 % of Businesses have an online store or ability to sell online

How has your business changed since COVID-19

About one-third of businesses have been forced to close their doors during the pandemic. On a positive note, business owners are actively trying to find ways to pivot their businesses to this online reality by adding virtual classes or online consultations. Many business owners are adding more email marketing and online advertising to make up for the lack of foot traffic.

What this graph shows:

⇨ 38 % of businesses surveyed have closed down their businesses since COVID-19 Shelter in Place

⇨ 19 % of Businesses have added an online store or ability to sell online

⇨ 21 % of businesses have shifted their in-person meetings or classes online

⇨ 19 % have increased online marketing efforts either via email or online advertising. 

How many employees did you staff before the pandemic?

Majority of the responses came from solopreneurs. Most businesses making between $1000- $10,000 per month. 

What this graph shows:

⇨ 71 % of businesses surveyed are solopreneur businesses.

⇨ 16 % of Businesses have between 2-5 employees

⇨ 13 % of businesses have between 6-50 employees

What this graph shows:

⇨ 23 % of businesses had monthly sales between $1000-$4999 prior to COVID-19.

⇨ 23 % of businesses had monthly sales between $5000-$9999 prior to COVID-19.

⇨ 23 % of businesses had monthly sales between $10K-$49K prior to COVID-19.

⇨ 13 %  of businesses had monthly sales between $50K-$99K prior to COVID-19.

⇨ 16 %  of businesses had monthly sales below $1000 per month prior to COVID-19

How has staffing and income changed since COVID-19?

Shelter-in-place orders have had an extreme effect on small businesses with the majority now reporting no revenue or large decrease in revenue. What does this mean for consumers? We must actively try to support our favorite local businesses if we want them to be around when this is all over.

What this graph shows:

⇨ 48 % of businesses have zero income since COVID-19.

⇨ 46 % of businesses report since COVID-19 a large decrease in income.

⇨ 0 % of businesses surveyed have increased income sine COVID-19

What type of help do small businesses need?

The number one thing small businesses need right now is cash, be it in the form of loans or grants. They are also looking at learning how to advertise online, create or fix websites, and to learn new skills. 

What this graph shows:

⇨ 65 % of businesses need money, either in form of loans, grants or unemployment. 

⇨ 20 % of businesses want to learn new skills such as E-commerce, online advertising or other. 

⇨ 4 % of businesses need help fixing their websites. 

The information below wasn’t part of the results from small business owners. However I thought it would be useful to include. 

What else can you do to support your local small business?

  1. Shop locally — right now this probably means shopping from your favorite local businesses online
  2. Buy direct
  3. Get delivery from local businesses that offer it
  4. Buy gift cards or vouchers for future services or products
  5. Donate to your favorite businesses
  6. Leave a glowing review
  7. Share local businesses on social media
  8. Send a gift of small business products to a friend
  9. Refer a friend
  10. Say “thank you”
  11. Send a sizable tip like a boss
  12. Reschedule, don’t cancel
  13. Volunteer your services
  14. Share extra sanitizer, gloves, and/or masks with local businesses who need them

10 Ways small business owners can thrive during COVID-19 + Real Business Examples


1.Get creative with where & how you operate. Take the in person online

Here are few examples from other small businesses on how they are getting online. 

Create a virtual wine tasting. 

Plumpkjack allows you to purchase a wine kit and schedule a virtual wine tasting with a member of their team. 


Take your class online. 

Yaymakers allows you now to register for online live events. Some classes even include shipping materials. 

create online event


Sell your inventory. 

Sassy Salon is selling their inventory as kits with tutorials. They are capitalizing on one of the fasted growing categories in E-commerce. Hair coloring is up +115% according to Stackline. 


Promote your delivery, donations or gift cards on Instagram Stories.


2.Use community and collaboration as currency

partner with other businesses

Epicurean Trader has partnered with different restaurants to function like a pop up in their boutique food markets. 


Create community.

Urban Adventure Club, hosts a variety of live events for their members. It keeps people connected and creates community. As well as offers a distraction from our current situation.  


Support community.

Chalos SF is partnering with Frontline Foods to support local San Francisco hospital clinicians, while also helping to keep Chalos employees working and the business open.


3.Keep marketing but change the message

It’s important to understand what people want right now and change your marketing to match your customers wants. 
    • Safety – How can you ensure that your products are safe?
    • Security – How can you give people security?
    • Free or Low-Cost Alternatives – How can you help people save money or eliminate costs?
    • Diversity – Can you help your customers diversify?
    • Education – People are at home and want to learn, can you give them free or paid training?
    • Do-it-yourself or at home – How can people re-create what you do at home?
    • Delivery – Can you send things to their houses vs having them come in?
    • Distraction – Can you give them something entertaining to distract them from this?

You also need to tell them if…

⇨ If you’re open – TELL ‘EM
⇨ If you’re delivering – TELL ‘EM
⇨ If you’re focusing on cleaning & safety – Show them what you’re doing


4.Add value & goodwill

Give something for free to all potential customers

Pizza Express is sending any families with kids under 12 years old that live in Bernal Heights San Francisco, a free pizza kit. This gives families something fun to do and creates an huge amount of good will. You should see their Instagram comments.


Give something for free to current customers

One Martial Arts when they first switched to online classes, offered free virtual classes on karate, and mediation via Zoom to their entire email.

They are still giving complementary 15 minute private lessons to their members.

Entertain & education

The Good Chocolate paired together a factory virtual tour with an Easter Egg Hunt. 


5.Add new products & services

Add a bake at home delivery

El Sur is delivering boxes of 24 frozen empanadas that can be baked at home, they are able to increase their average customer order with add ons like wine and sauces. 

Create quarantine or COVID-19 gift box

Epicurean trader has created survival gift boxes you can order and send to your friends and family.


 Add new products people now need

I don’t know about you but with two high energy kids at home this is definitely needed. Legarza Sports created a new online class called virtual PE.
KES has added face masks to their list of new products. Which with the current recommendations everyone needs in California. They are also donating masks to healthcare workers with every purchase. (Adding Goodwill in the process)
Using Google Trends is a great way to decide if you want to add that product. See the changes in search for washable face masks over the last two months.


Add takeout, delivery or curbside pick up

Berretta not only added takeout for food. They are allowing takeout cocktails. By adding signage in your windows you can easily share with the neighborhood. 


Add do it at home kits for delivery

Mr. Holmes bakery lost all his retail and wholesale sales overnight. Caddel the owner of Mr. Holmes bakery wanted to keep his employees working so they converted their production to selling $25 bread starter kids. He has already sold thousands to people in 47 states. He is aiming to scale the kits to $100K/ per day in sales next month. As reported by The Hustle. 



Share how you are keeping employee and customers safe

 Good eggs a grocery delivery service shared this email detailing the changes they have made to keep everyone safe.

 Communicate how you are able to continue to serve your customers

 One Martial Arts shared how they needed to modify the classes to comply with the CDC when COVID-19 first started in San Francisco. Encouraging customers to continue their memberships. They also communicated flexibility on make up classes.


Add signage on how to order. 

Moonlight cafe added a simple sandwich board with details on how to order and get takeout or delivery. It also let anyone in the neighborhood know they are still open for business.


7.Add flexible payment

Beautylish allows people to shop now and pay later. 

Give a lot of options for payment. Here is just a short list of options:

  • Venmo
  • Paypal
  • Payment over the phone or by text
  • Third party apps like Doordash, UberEats, Postmates, or Caviar
  • Monthly Payment Plan
  • Payment Agreements. 

8.Secure capital well before it’s needed

Start a GoFundMe


Apply for grants, loans and other funds


Pre sell gift cards

Ambiance is pre selling gift cards via email at a discount for when the shelter in place is lifted.


9.Relax your return / cancellation policies

Marriott has temporarily changed their cancellation policy to encourage customers to feel comfortable with booking future travel.


10. Plan new ways to replace lost income

Transform your business into something else.

Just like Mr. Holmes bakery changed to do it at home kits and KES and Legarza added new products. Lazybear, in San Francisco has transformed itself from a restaurant into a commissary. 


Add new virtual courses and classes

From the small business survey results above people are interested in learning a new skill. You can use Google Trends to see if the topic you are considering is being searched for. 

Home gyms and how to work out at home are the rise in Google Trends. Fitness equipment eCommerce searches has grown 170% (Stackline).

So if you could create new courses using specific gym equipment, you may have a winner.


Add additional virtual service

Abiance a clothing store with great customer service has added Ambi-Care Packages. Adding virtual and over the phone personal shopping.

I know changing your business isn’t easy and can be scary. But there are a lot of great resources out there to help you move forward and get you back to or above the revenue you were making prior to COVID-19. 

To recap the 10 Ways Businesses Can Thrive.

  1. Get Creative with Where & How You Operate
  2. Use Community and Collaboration as Currency
  3. Keep Marketing but change the message
  4. Add Value & Goodwill
  5. Add New Products & Services
  6. Communicate
  7. Add Flexible Payment
  8. Secure Capital Well Before it’s Needed
  9. Relax Your Return / Cancellation Policies
  10. Plan New Ways to Replace Lost Income

I’m here to help feel free to leave questions in the comments. 

5 thoughts on “How small businesses are really affected by COVID19 (and what kind of help they’re looking for)”

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  3. I like reading an article that can make people think. Also, many thanks for allowing me to comment! Shirleen Titus Ozzie

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