Michela Ricci owner of Early Bird PHX loads her vehicle every Sunday morning filled with coffee and pastries labeled with addresses for up to 20 home delivery orders. Prior to the pandemic, Ricci’s food truck styled cafe was a destination for customers to line-up for made-to-order beverages at multiple locations across the Valley.
Gov. Doug Ducey extended the stay-at-home order through May 15, which has Phoenix businesses continuing creative ways to continue providing services during the pandemic.
Early Bird PHX customer Katie White talked about what influences her to support small businesses.
“One thing small businesses have to do to stand apart from the crowd is dial in on branding,” White said. “Michela does an amazing job of that.”
Along with Ricci’s efforts to make sure people could still get their favorite coffee delivered, she decided to fundraise for local first responders through sales of her magnets with the slogan “Caffeine ‘til vaccine”.
“It’s a lot of work, but well worth the efforts,” Ricci said. “The response was amazing, people loved having coffee and fresh pastries delivered safely to their doorstep.”
The concept of giving back helped give Ollie Vaughn’s owner Lindsey Magee the idea of starting a grocery basket pick-up service for her customers and in the second week Magee had 100 orders placed.
Magee said the idea came to her after she realized how much extra food that would ultimately be thrown away was in the restaurant, so she made sure her employees knew they could go through it instead of going to the grocery store. This sparked the idea of giving her customers the same option.
“There was just sort of a feeling of panic,” Magee said. “Not really just as a business owner, but just as a human. What am I going to do?”
During a time where every dollar makes a difference, restaurants and farms are finding new ways to collaborate and connect to the community through locally sourced food giving consumers the opportunity to shop for groceries while also supporting small business.
Ollie Vaughn’s partners with Maya’s Farm in Phoenix to distribute CSA, or community supported agriculture, baskets. People can add additional á-la-carte items through Ollie Vaughn’s website. Items have included local vendors such as Noble Bread and Schreiner’s Sausage.
Magee says they will continue the grocery pick-up service as long as there is a demand from customers and when they are able to reopen for dine-in service they will do so with caution.
“I’ve told my customers we’re gonna maybe take an extra week or two while everybody else opens up,” Magee said. “It seems like with the virus, everything happens so fast, once it starts spreading, it’s like, a few days things can change.”
Pick-up and delivery services have been a lifeline for business owners understanding that many are not leaving their homes.
Florist and owner of Botanist and the bees Devon Kellogg has been delivering flowers to the doors of her clients who have ongoing subscriptions.
Kellogg says since she can’t go into the wholesaler to physically shop for flowers, she has to shop for them online and have them shipped to her.
“It’s a completely different beast,” Kellogg said. “I’m having to rely on color tones from what one person is saying versus what they actually are.”
Not only are small businesses trying to get their products to people, they are also focusing on communication with customers.
A continuous flow of communication is what Georganne Bryant owner of Shop Frances Boutique has been making sure to do with her customers. Along with the option to shop directly from the website, Byrant has given the option of virtual shopping with some of her customers.
“FaceTime shopping was really fun and we have done it quite a bit the last few days,” Byrant said. “We are really encouraging people to reach out through whatever means; texting photos, FaceTime, curbside pick-up, delivery, free shipping and Instagram has been huge for us and I am still in the store daily to take phone calls and fill orders.”
The pandemic has sprung an increase in social media giveaways to motivate people to engage virtually. Without face-to-face interactions for many small business owners and their consumers, social media marketing is in an effort to connect with an online audience.
Lauren Schellhase, Realtor at Collective Concepts, recently asked her followers on Instagram to participate in a photo repost asking them to simply reshare her picture of the marquee sign outside of the Rebel Lounge which read “Hang in There, Phoenix!” for an Earth Day giveaway.
In response, she agreed to send reusable canvas bags and silicone straws to those who took part in the photo challenge.
Schellhase organized giveaways prior to the pandemic to engage her clientele over social media, and designed this one so it could still be done while social distancing.
“This year, with social distancing in place, I wouldn’t dare ask people to leave their houses,” Schellhase said. “We truly are in this together and I want people to know they have an ally in me during such a weird time.”
While staying far apart is a must right now, one Phoenix photographer is thinking of a way to use a lens to follow the rules of social distancing.
Nadya Sanchez, a freelance photographer, says if someone wants to do an outdoor shoot complying to social distancing rules, she would be able to accomodate.
“I would use a 70-200 mm lens that allows us to stay distanced from each other, more than 6 feet of course,” Sanchez said. “I love using it even outside of having to social distance.”
With graduation season ahead, a senior portrait in cap and gown is a keepsake that will forever signify the end of a chapter, and some have opted for a social distanced photoshoot.
Alysia Vera, a Criminology & Criminal Justice graduate at Arizona State University, said she felt she was missing out on the excitement to send out graduation announcements and the preparation for the commencement ceremonies.
“I did not want to feel judged for taking these photos when I was supposed to be at home, and only leaving for essential items,” Vera said. “These memories are something that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
Ducey’s most recent executive order reads “Amending the Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected,” with a plan to safely reopen the economy in phases. Starting on May 4 non-essential retail businesses will be able to reopen and have customers shop inside following social distancing guidelines as long as they incorporate social distancing and sanitation.
“The community has come out hard. We feel so loved and supported, we truly can’t thank everyone enough,” Michela Ricci, Early Bird PHX owner said. “Every thoughtful message and purchase means the world to us, always, and especially right now.”
One thing that has come from the modified regulations of how small businesses operate is how crucial it is to establish relationships between the brand and the customers. Although the current situation makes it difficult to predict the future, creative solutions are paving the way into how small businesses market themselves.
“I think businesses have really had to get creative and shift in new ways to be someone’s choice when there are so many businesses that need support,” Katie White, an Early Bird PHX customer said. “Human connection is always a selling point when shopping small but especially during this weird and uncertain time.”