We have spoken to several Team Entrepreneurship students and recent graduates who own start-up businesses about their experiences during the coronavirus pandemic. This case study is from Luke Gandolfi, Head of Marketing at FLAVR.
FLAVR is a recipe-based, grocery shopping platform, which innovatively combines the benefits of both conventional online supermarket shopping with meal kit companies (for instance, Hello Fresh or Gousto). Thus, providing an efficient, end to end grocery shopping experience where customers benefit from an abundance of choice, flexibility on commitment, the freedom to try new and exciting meals, all while saving you time and money.
The impact COVID-19 has had on how I run my business
Covid-19 has not had a significant impact on the way we run the business. For a tech start-up, remote working is familiar. It does not pose many difficulties, especially when compared to the plethora of other challenges we face from the economy as a whole. In any case, the team were predisposed to work in isolation before the presence of Covid-19 (isolation, of course, being the natural habitat for Tech geeks), which allowed for a swift and smooth transition to wholly remote working.
That said, albeit not strictly regarding the manner in which we run the company, the most drastic companywide challenge for us came down to team focus; and more importantly, where to direct it.
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have assiduously focused our resources on finding and building solutions that alleviate some of the most frequently experienced issues within our domain.
For example, the pandemic has resulted in situations whereby most people want to avoid going to busy supermarkets and waiting in long queues. To address this, we created a concept which we are incredibly proud of – the ‘Slot Spotter’. The slot spotter allows users to track down online delivery slots to place orders online conveniently.
Another problem which is frequently faced by customers is the annoyance when products are out of stock. This is compounded when customers are unaware beforehand meaning people have to re-plan their weekly shop or meal plans.
To address this, we curated product availability-based recipes; recipes that consist only of available products, in real-time, at your chosen store. Due to our ability to collect live data on locally available products, we have the means to provide a shopping experience that significantly reduces the chances of having to put up with out of stock items!
To assist customers further, we decided to make our services free during this time.
What I’ve learnt
The following are a few key learnings that have become apparent to me during this time.
1. Team alignment has become crucial, even more so than before. In a period when the team cannot meet up face to face and absorb one another’s energy and excitement the source of motivation must be derived elsewhere.
2. The benefits of a team routine are not trivial. When the majority of your time spent is in one area, most likely inside, it is inevitable for routine to slip. The transition from mid-week to weekend becomes blurred and therefore having a team routine, keeping accountable to one another is crucial to maintaining healthy headspace and an attempt at normalcy.
3. Another interesting concept I have discovered to appreciate more is the importance of body language when communicating effectively in face to face situations. The lack of ability to read peoples body language due to reliance on video platforms has become noticeable when participating in meetings and giving presentations (task’s which primarily rely on reading the room and adapting to the situation and atmosphere of the people around you). Weight has now shifted onto the interpretation of tonality and intonations in speech.
4. It is also interesting how the use of technology has made way for better team democracy. As a start-up company that spans two cities, it is often the case that the city with more members becomes the centre of our ecosystem or the ‘hub’. With the use of technology; being no longer bound by any geographical limitations, we have seen an equal split between the two cities.
How I’m feeling about the future of our business
Whilst this pandemic has caused extensive hardships to families who have lost loved ones and to the economy, which may well take years to recover. I do believe the situation has proved to be a significant test to people’s mindsets, and there are definitely positive aspects to come from it. Individuals who have and can continue to maintain an optimistic and opportunistic mentality will prosper.
At this moment in time, the government and population are focussed on the considerable changes to the economy, which are unequivocally viewed as disastrous. The detriment to the economy has been noted as much worse than the financial crisis of 2007/2008, a period which most people recall as being full of despair and uncertainty and when nothing positive came about as a result.
However, it is not often considered that there is a contrary perspective. The crash of 2007/2008 proceeded into a time that gave birth to some of the most influential and successful companies of this day and age; to mention but a handful – Airbnb, Uber, WhatsApp, Slack, Square and Groupon.
Opportunities present themselves, especially in time of crisis. Although these opportunities may be riskier and are often more challenging during a period of economic downturn and uncertainty, the upside is tenfold. The reality is, valuable businesses can succeed and prosper through crises.
If we ask ourselves fundamentally, what the purpose of business is, I would insist that it is merely finding solutions to problems (as trite as that may be). Therefore, is there ever a more noble time than a crisis to make this a reality—a time where there are more urgent challenges and demanding problems to address. This sense of finding problems to solve is certainly what gets us out of bed in the morning; the opportunity to have a more significant impact on the world should we succeed.
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