Rebound

5 Things To Get Your Professional Goals on Track Amid Coronavirus Pandemic Woes

Three small businesses have set an example of what resiliency looks like amid COVID-19 and they’re showing us that rebounding from tough times is possible

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Need help getting your professional goals on track during the coronavirus pandemic? Five lessons from three innovative small businesses working to expand their footprints may help you reach your goals in 2021 and beyond.

COVID-19 magnified life's challenges, such as unemployment and health disparities, and it has also surfaced opportunities to help reboot career plans and professional opportunities. If you're seeking tactics to improve your resiliency, take a look at the strategies used by three small businesses over the past year.

They've been through a lot.

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Based in Philadelphia, Mented Cosmetics is a vegan cosmetics company "designed with melanin in mind" and boasting color palettes that represent all skin hues. Gourmonade is a premium lemonade company based in San Francisco boasting dozens of signature flavors. Ava Party Designs is a balloon and party company in Bethel, Connecticut. State and local mandates, lockdowns, health restrictions and the overall toll of the coronavirus pandemic on the U.S. economy have deeply impacted each business. But, all are still standing.

These determined small businesses have shown us five things you may do to rebound from the pandemic's woes and get your professional goals on track.

1) Pivot from Disappointments and Look for New Opportunities

Vicktor Stevenson spent a year scouting for a store location in Oakland, California, for his beloved premium lemonade business. But, it did not pan out. He was disappointed and defeated, but only temporarily. Stevenson had what he called a “Shazaam!” moment and realized that a cost-effective opportunity was the best to pursue. He sought new placements of Gourmonade, a signature lemonade that sells for $8 per bottle. Grocery stores became a great fit and add-on option to the company's personal delivery service.

Creating 42 eccentric drink recipes, such as taco lemonade and a version named after Beyonce, was not difficult for Stevenson as he held taste-testing parties in his home to perfect the product. He says that once Gourmonade customers try it, they get hooked. "We're not trying to bamboozle you. We're putting respect on lemonade," Stevenson said.

Gourmonade's growing cult following on social media and loyal followers have been supportive through the pandemic with direct sales and e-commerce. He recently added two small grocers to his sales portfolio. In tandem, he wrote a business plan for a storefront the next time a brick-and-mortar location presents itself.

Takeaway: Maintain a positive outlook. When one door closes another may open. Empower yourself to open doors that you haven’t before. 

As the raging pandemic continued to devastate Black-owned businesses, Vicktor Stevenson fought to protect his burgeoning lemonade empire by doubling down with a new brick and mortar location in Oakland, Calif. - but after losing the commercial space, Stevenson realized that in order to keep his business going, he’d need to pivot by expanding his company in unexpected ways.

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2) Dream Big and Be Creative

Podcaster Austin Bollinger believes that in order to dream, one has to say "no" more to some things. Saying no is one of his life hack goals. "If you’re fortunate enough to know your dream or your purpose, the worst thing you could do is fail to live it because you’re busy doing everything else," he suggests.

Ava Sealey, founder of Ava Party Designs, left her banking job to start a balloon sculpture business and hasn't looked back. COVID-19 has served up numerous challenges but Ava Party Designs is increasing its bookings as more state regulations loosen up to enable business operations.

She has this advice to share with those struggling through the coronavirus pandemic: “Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t… where there’s a will, there’s always a way.”

Sealey channeled her creativity and the joy balloons give her, and then built her business around them. Balloons evoke youthful, positive feelings, she says, and she is looking forward to celebrating with champagne post-pandemic.

Takeaway: Remember the inspirational quote: "If your dreams don't scare you, they aren't big enough." Don't deny your dreams.

Business at Ava Party Designs has picked up considerably since the devastating pandemic shutdowns in the spring and winter. Owner Ava Sealey says while parties are booked and things are look up, she’s not popping any champagne just yet – there’s still plenty of work to do, and to keep everyone safe, we need to do things the right way.

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3) Define Your Superpower

Authenticity has propelled Mented Cosmetics throughout the pandemic. “We aren’t just selling lipstick. We have a mission and a purpose and we stand behind it,” said co-founder KJ Miller. 

Following the murder of George Floyd last year, Miller penned a letter and posted it to her company’s website. It read in part: “I don’t feel like selling lipstick today. I just don’t. Today, I just feel defeated and today I feel sad and I feel broken because I’m watching these horrific things play out.” 

Miller says consumers feel really good when purchasing from their #vegan #crueltyfree #cosmetics company because the company serves a greater purpose. She shares how the company is navigating social justice issues and working to grow the business. Being authentic has served Miller well.

Takeaway: Write down your strengths and weaknesses. Reflect on your talents. When you think about defining who you are and finding your voice, focus on one quality that makes you unique and amplify that strength.

After plenty of success selling makeup specifically made for people of color, Mented Cosmetics hits a roadblock of uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic. Co-founder KJ Miller explains the worry over possibly having to let go of employees, the shift in marketing her company had to make and the logistics challenges of constant factory and warehouse closures.

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4) Don't Be Hard on Yourself

Have you ever had the experience when you look at your bank account and all you see are zeroes?

“There is literally no money in the bank,” said Sealey. “I’m not used to not seeing savings for my business.”

The dilemma is one shared by individuals and small businesses nationwide heading into year two of the coronavirus pandemic. Sealey is a hugger and is working hard for the best interest of all people, even if that means giving no hugs for now. No hugs and a tight bank account are both tough challenges. But patience and a willingness to help others have paid off for Sealey. At one point during the pandemic, she turned her balloon sculpture shop into a workspace to help frontline workers and created personal protective equipment (PPE).

Taking a loan may be an option to generate revenue for some. The CARES Act of 2020 has backed small businesses and spawned the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which is a Small Business Association loan that helps maintain the small business workforce. When a loan is not an option, creating a side hustle or taking on a second job or temporary employment may help.

Takeaway: Look for the silver lining. It's difficult, but do not focus on what you don't have. Focus on what you do have and build on that. Retool the resume and consider a side hustle.

While some businesses quickly found ways to meet coronavirus reopening requirements, Ava Party Designs had to rework their entire strategy. Owner Ava Sealey shared the difficult decisions she had to make about whether to even keep her business open and how to manage continued restrictions on event venues and gathering sizes.

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5) Claim Your Mantra

Stevenson's mantra is "Shazaam!" He finds moments to celebrate every day and regularly speaks the word out loud. His effort to remain positive and focus on aspirational goals are good ways to keep life's woes in perspective.

Takeaway: Create a life or professional slogan. Say it out loud and repeat it. Empower your new mantra in your everyday life and let it help you chart your goals.

Lemonade is no longer just for sidewalk stands. For Vicktor Stevenson, owner of San Francisco’s Gourmonade LLC, gourmet lemonade is a passion project that has cultivated a loyal local following. But when the pandemic hit, statewide shutdowns gave his juice company the squeeze and Stevenson had to decide whether to focus on serving his “Gourmonade fam” or protecting his real-life family.

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NBC Owned Television Stations gave the three small businesses a camera and asked them to document their challenges and experiences during the coronavirus pandemic. What emerged was a unified mantra to rebound and bounce back from variables that may be blocking your goals. 

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