If the pandemic has taught me anything...
By Ishaq Jumbe | February 24th 2021
..There can be an opportunity in a dark cloud
Martin Kariuki, Owner of Real Health Juice Parlor, Mombasa
I have grown the business from a fruit and vegetable kibanda to a fully-fledged health parlour along Moi Avenue which is the main thoroughfare in Mombasa. I have adapted to the new way of marketing which is social media and through my online pages, I advertise my products and share some recipes. My core product is healthy cocktails for immunity boost and wellness.
The pandemic has been a blessing in disguise for my business. Many of our customers have been proactive especially at this time when the pandemic has been wreaking havoc in the society with many people coming in for their healthy dosage of vegetable and fruit juices to boost their immunity. That means I have gotten more business in this period and invested more in the catering department to keep up. Even as many businesses were closing down, my business has been booming mainly because I established a delivery service that delivers juice to clients across town. People are smart, and they figured they have to increase their intake of vitamins which boosted sales. I never had to downsize or layoff staff.
The biggest lesson I have learnt from the pandemic has been that every dark cloud has a silver lining. Covid-19 has devastated the economy but has also raised awareness to healthy living and boosting immunity. And that is my silver lining. It is a lesson that I will carry through in other aspects of my life. I have also learnt that being keen on marketing has a great impact on business. How far would I be if I had marketed as much pre-pandemic as I do now?
...Always have a plan B
Dr Benedict Mutuku, owner of Goldwyne Consult
Besides my business, I am also a lecturer of marketing at Technical University of Mombasa. Goldwyn Consult is a real estate outfit marketing some of the biggest housing projects in Mombasa.
The pandemic nearly scuttled my business model which loans landlords up to three months of expected rent and depend on the due rent to repay the debt. Thus when the pandemic struck, people couldn’t pay rent and as a business person, we had to understand the situation and come up with a proactive approach to the situation. In the end, the firm did lose money but later recouped after a protracted waiting period which involved tailor-made payment plans to allow tenants ample time to sort out their financial situations.
Surviving the pandemic was a test that required lots of sacrifices as the firm did not go the usual cost-cutting way of firing staff and offloading business that wasn’t performing spectacularly. We are getting by fine after that stressful period but I wish we had put contingency measures in place to cushion us against such a big challenge.
My biggest lesson would be that a business requires a contingency plan to survive. Without a plan B, it’s difficult to operate when disaster strikes. If were to go through all that again, I would ensure the landlords also agree to support efforts to outlive the pandemic during difficult financial situations.
Get insurance; an emergency kit
Rajab Hatib, owner of Hatibu Cleaning Service in Mombasa
Within the period we have been in operation, we have won several high profile tenders and we are the cleaning service for some of the biggest office blocks in the city.
The way my business is set up, I have to train my workers intensely because we use special caustic chemicals and they have to be proficient in dealing with them. Thus I hate to lose my staff for whatever reason. When the pandemic struck, I lost business as some clients outrightly cancelled their contract and there I was, with the equipment I couldn’t use and staff who required payment at the end of the month. Circumstances forced me to downsize and I had to ask staff to get pay cuts as we figured out a strategy to stay afloat and ride out the crisis. I remember it was during this time that I also lost my most prized contract which involved many of my staff and I suddenly had a workforce that had nothing to do. Additionally, we had to buy more equipment because pandemic regulations outlawed the sharing of equipment at a time when we were hardly making any money.
We survived after crafting new deals with clients that would see them review their fees downwards just to get past the pandemic period. We are slowly recovering from our losses and are signing new contracts. We are getting back on our feet.
My biggest lesson would be ensuring that my business has an emergency kit that should be activated when misfortune strikes. Otherwise, we are all teetering on the brink of utter ruin without realising we are at risk. I believe insurance and other guarantees to safeguard businesses should be effected.
Don’t let a crisis go to waste without seeing your weakness
Abdulswamad Ali, CEO of Virgin Clean Limited
We mainly offer pest control, cleaning services, sanitary bins, landscaping and hygiene services. The pandemic affected our operations especially since many of our clients closed down. Institutions we were servicing shut down and many of our services had to grind to a halt over that period and we had to focus all our energies on surviving.
Fortunately, the company’s two services; pest control and hygiene, attracted business and this helped matters until the situation assumed a semblance of normalcy. We however still had to lay off staff and we are yet to collect from clients yet to pay on jobs we had earlier done. Like many others, we never expected something like this and it was so abrupt and we were caught flat-footed. We didn’t have any contingency plan to deal with such challenges. But now we plan to put some in place as we hope for a great future.
The ability to bounce back is evidence of resilience and courage. Companies have been tested and in spite of the adversity that was Covid-19, they kept the shop open. Sometimes running scared is the only way to stay ahead while at other times adapting to change is all that is required. However, we have seen firsthand how harmony and selflessness endure much.
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