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Selling chocolate during the pandemic: 3 tips to help boost your small business

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If you had asked me six months ago where I’d be today, I would have told you I’d be getting ready to set up my regular pop-up stores at Marion, Adelaide, after the traditional Easter chocolate rush. However, never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the reality; a global pandemic that has closed thousands of businesses and left millions isolated at home.

For my business, I’ve had to pivot, adapt and evolve over the last two months, just to survive. While restrictions are beginning to ease in my state, South Australia, it’s still necessary for me to think about how I can remain flexible and keep orders rolling in, even as things change around us.

Unable to get the usual pop-up store up and running, I have been forced into operating my business out of a small shop front at home. Despite a number of changes over the past couple of months, one of the key things that has kept me going is the influx of messages of support from my customers.

At a time when it’s very easy to feel overwhelmed and troubled by the immediate future – particularly as a small business owner – it’s important to stay resilient and lean on your local community for support. So, to help out other small business owners who find themselves in a similar situation, here are a couple of strategies I have implemented to weather the past couple of months.

Love local

Pre-coronavirus, some of my biggest stockists included cafes, airports and hotels. However, social distancing and government restrictions on travel and all non-essential businesses have temporarily ended those arrangements.

On the plus side – and it’s important to find the positives at the moment – when the pandemic hit, I found a lot of customers were looking for ways they could help support small businesses, and I found myself gaining lots of new customers as a result. Because we’re all in this together, I wanted to do the same to help other businesses.

Partnering with other local businesses, such as vegan dog treat company, Veggie Paws, not only helps me reach a new customer base, but it enables me to fulfil my commitment of supporting fellow small businesses. We combined our love of pets and chocolate and joined forces to create a series of pet-friendly treats to capitalise on the Easter rush.

It’s amazing to see small businesses and the community helping each other during this time, and it’s certainly made me realise the long-term importance of coming together as a community of small businesses working together.

Request a deposit before pickup

Maintaining a healthy and reliable cash flow is always important for small businesses, but particularly so during times like these. I have found that requesting prepayment or a deposit before pickup has been a great way to boost cash flow when sales might be slower. A deposit has also provided great peace of mind, which is especially important for small businesses during a period where every dollar is important.

Get online to reach customers in lockdown

An online presence has played a huge role in keeping the virtual doors of my business open, while the physical ones are closed. Facebook and Instagram, in particular, have been very useful platforms to not only engage my current customers, but reach new ones who might be searching for handmade chocolates online.

Posting engaging content such as videos of my new creations and flavour combinations, and running competitions for my followers has helped encourage likes, comments and, most importantly, shares. Engagement like this has not only helped keep my business top-of-mind for my customers, but has helped to generate positive word of mouth so I can reach new ones too.

The Cheeky Chocolate Queen website is currently the only place you can buy my chocolate, so it has played a pivotal role in helping me keep the money flowing into my business. I’ve discovered how important it is to be visible online – not just during this pandemic, but always.

Getting my website online with GoDaddy in 2019 has helped me expand my reach beyond locals to chocolate-lovers all around the country. This pandemic and shift to an online focus has made me realise it will be a key focus as I look to continue to grow my business and its reach over the coming years.

So far, 2020 has been very different to what I expected, and it’s certainly taught me a lot about resilience and what I can overcome if I set my mind to it. There’s no doubt I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of other local small businesses and the tech tools that have helped me create an engaging, effective online presence for my business.

Despite the challenges businesses around the world have faced over the past few months, with restrictions easing locally, and an online presence to supplement my traditional brick-and-mortar operations, I feel I have all the tools at my disposal when things return to ‘normal’.

Rebecca Day is the Founder of The Cheeky Chocolate Queen, creating unique, handcrafted chocolates and frogs in 65 flavours.

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