We all know that COVID-19 has completely disrupted and changed the way we’re used to doing business. Here at GBL, we’ve been beyond impressed with and inspired by some of our members who have pivoted their businesses during these crazy times. They have had to refocus their efforts, redefine what their business means in today’s environment and rethink how to connect with their customers and clients. We really admire their creativity, adaptability and determination. So we asked them to share their experiences and insights with us and with our GBL community.
When it became apparent that most businesses would be shutting down back in March/April, where did you focus your time and energies on your business?
"I shifted focus from my spring weddings that had to be postponed, to finally updating my website. I had been working on my overall brand since the GBL Retreat in January, and hadn't had the time to devote to implementing the changes to my website. I also developed a new wedding package geared toward small intimate weddings and elopements to accommodate couples who still want to get married under the current and ever changing restrictions but don't want to have a full 10-hour wedding day.
I also reopened my Etsy shop to sell my landscape and floral photography. It was something I could do to try and find some passive income to supplement the sessions and events I could not book."
As restrictions eased and businesses began reopening, how did your business respond? How did you adapt your operations or offerings to fit a “new normal”? Was this a new and different direction for your business?
"The whole wedding industry has had to pivot. We have had to factor in new cleaning/social distancing practices into our floorplans, timelines, and overall plans for a wedding day. More and more clients were becoming open to the idea of an elopement, which many of my packages for Blue Dahlia didn’t fit. Be Married was a great fit for this type of client. It’s an elevated elopement from a courthouse wedding, but it won’t break the bank. This was also a good option for couples who wanted to get married, but may be throwing a bigger wedding or reception in the future."
"I honestly didn't change too many things. For the weddings that kept their original dates or moved from the spring to the end of summer, my assistant and I followed protocols for wearing facemasks and social distancing at events. But the overall client experience didn't change at all. They were some of the best weddings we have attended! There were so many obstacles in the couple's way, and you could feel the joy of the day finally happening, even if their guests were masked! The biggest change is how booking future events has changed. I had to rethink my client contracts to account for COVID. And change to phone calls and virtual consultations which really changed how my first impression with my clients happened. Meeting in person is far easier and I prefer it, but with the limitations it wasn't possible. I had to get out of my comfort zone to find new ways of connecting with my clients."
"Our new normal still includes a closed dining area with our only seating being outdoors. Customers must wear masks and most of our transactions are in our drive-thru rather than in house."
How have your clients/customers responded? Did your audience have a new set of needs than what you were previously offering? How were you able to meet the needs of your audience in a new way?
"More clients have opted for my smaller package for weddings, and adding on hours as needed as their plans evolve and change. Booking family sessions and senior portraits has definitely been slower this fall than ever before, but I am able to build better connections with the people who are booking, because I have more time to devote to just them. It has made my client experience better- from faster turnaround time with editing images, to more personalized sessions. Even more detailed and personalized emails when they first contact me. It has given me time to slow down and connect with each person."
"The Midwest sometimes has a slower time adapting to new ideas (especially when it comes to weddings), however, COVID has caused people to really reimagine what weddings look like. Clients that once had large plans for big and expensive weddings, are choosing to pare down. I’ve seen that clients have really taken time to re-evaluate what is important and pertinent to their weddings. Elopements are becoming a more intimate and financially viable way to get married for many people and social distancing guidelines have largely opened the door for that. With Blue Dahlia Events, I didn’t really have an elopement package, but with Be Married, I’ve opened a more affordable all inclusive option for clients. A straightforward and all-inclusive type approach is appealing to clients--especially those that may be trying to plan their weddings for the second time due to COVID."
"We are truly grateful for the love and support our community and customers continue to show us! I knew some customers would not be able to come into CAVU on a regular basis like they were, especially during the quarantine time period. I had some extra 40oz bottles leftover from the previous summer that we would use to sell our lemonade at events. We started bottling and offering our iced beverage options for our customers to enjoy at home in a larger quantity."
Are you focusing on something or working in a way that would’ve been completely unexpected a year ago?
"The biggest change by far is having a much better work life balance with my family. With less sessions, less events, I have more time to give to my family. Which has been really needed during the last few months. I usually overbook myself, say yes to everyone and have little time left for me. I think it has been a big blessing to focus on creating new boundaries that I will continue in the years to come with balancing my business and home life."
"Elopements were definitely on my radar a year ago. More and more clients were asking for an elopement style wedding. However, the speed in which the need for elopements accelerated was pretty substantial once COVID hit. This idea has been in the works for a while, but it’s taken on a new importance due to the pandemic. We’ve gone back to the roots of why people have weddings--to get married. We don’t want to see our clients go into debt over a celebration and we’d love to make it as easy as possible for them."
Looking ahead: how are you approaching 2021 and planning for a new year? What will you be leaning into in the coming year?
"For 2021, I will continue to plan on ways to adapt to the changing market! Our trends are really hard to predict right now. Being flexible, following guidelines from the CDC and continuing to keep my team and customers safe will be my top priorities!"
"Next year for me is almost fully booked for weddings. I have no idea what to expect. Will events resume? Will people feel safe? I hope so. I am very hopeful, especially after how well the weddings that did go forward as planned with precautions in place went this summer. It can be done. I am planning the year like any other, open to book!"
"Planning for 2021 seems unthinkable at the moment. Definitely more online presence, though. We think people will shop different for the 2020 holiday season and we are planning for those changes."
Any words of advice or motivation for other small business owners struggling to pivot or refocus?
"First, remind yourself that this time is unlike anything we have seen in our lifetime! Use this time to really focus on your priorities, find ways to work smarter in your business and come up with small, attainable goals for you to reach to keep you motivated!"
"Stay positive! Do it afraid! Collaborate with other businesses that complement and support each other."
"Don’t be afraid to tap into your community. Lean into other similar type entrepreneurs in your industry. We are all trying our best to make it work and it being a (virtual) village has really taken on a new meaning. I’ve found great comfort in venting, vetting out ideas, and offering advice within the community of other wedding professionals. We’re in this crazy world together—let’s leverage our knowledge to help each other out!"