This year, World IP Day is paying homage to the small businesses that make up 44% of US economic activity. The theme, Intellectual property and small businesses: Taking big ideas to market, is especially notable given the challenging circumstances these companies have faced over the last year. COVID upended smaller organizations’ traditional business models. Faced with mandated closures and restrictive safety guidelines that continue to impact revenue, small businesses may feel at a disadvantage when it comes to innovation.
Yet, these small businesses are perfectly positioned for the kind of big ideas it takes to not only survive a global pandemic but thrive in our new normal. Smaller companies are more agile than their corporate competitors, which allows them to pivot more quickly. Small businesses used shorter decision-making cycles and fewer stakeholders to their advantage when COVID first impacted daily life in the US.
These four small businesses pivoted quickly, innovating faster than they ever had before to continue serving customers.
St. Augustine Distillery Co.
Early in the pandemic, the large companies we usually get our hand sanitizer from (such as Purell) had a hard time meeting demand. So, like dozens of other distilleries nationwide, St. Augustine Distillery Co. transitioned its facility—usually used to make bourbon, gin, and vodka—to hand sanitizer manufacturing. The distillery’s hand sanitizer was made available for sale to the local community. These sales helped St. Augustine Distillery Co. donate much-needed sanitizer to area first responders and hospitals.
What was, until quite recently, a real estate marketplace became Table22 in 2020 to offer high-end restaurants and bars a membership management platform. The platform offers these restaurants a stable revenue stream in a takeout-only world. Members can subscribe to their favorite local establishments for weekly or monthly offerings available for pickup and/or delivery.
Member Marketplace offers a similar innovative solution for regional economic development organizations. The company builds online hubs where all businesses that belong to a specific chamber of commerce or similar organization can sell their wares. This type of platform has allowed small businesses that traditionally rely on foot traffic to turn a profit to sell online, without investing in a website of their own. It also gives consumers a one-stop-shop for their favorites, a sort of online version of a walk down Main Street.
Even as consumers return to restaurants and shops, they’ve stayed away from gyms. SWERVE, a team-oriented cycling studio, is bringing the gym to its customers instead. The business streams its cycling classes live, as well as recording them for members who can’t make it to live classes. The innovative solution that sets SWERVE apart from other fitness industry businesses offering virtual workouts is the ability to rent a bike. The gym will drop off a (fully sanitized) bike at your home so you can work out with exactly the same equipment you use in its studio.
With COVID still impacting daily life, these small businesses and others like them continue to innovate. We’re excited to see how these big ideas help small businesses thrive beyond the coronavirus pandemic as well!