At Sugarbird Marketing, we are committed to supporting women-owned businesses. To that end, we are showcasing a number of members of The List, our directory of women-owned businesses in Seattle who are still open for business but have had to pivot in response to the business shutdown.
Supporting women-owned businesses can make more of an impact than you know. Today, women entrepreneurs are transforming economies, but they can only do it with your support.
HOLISTIC SPEECH AND LANGUAGE
When your clients are between 18 months and 18-years old, the decision to close down your office during a pandemic is an automatic one. That was definitely the case for speech-language pathologist, Tiffany Lockhart, M.A., CCC-SLP, who usually operates Holistic Speech and Language out of a spacious office in Madison Park. On any given day, Tiffany and her young clients spend a lot of their time together moving around the space, playing educational games, doing yoga and working on mindfulness exercises. That’s because Tiffany works with clients and their families on all the foundational skills needed for successful communication including attention, self-regulation, problem-solving, how to socialize effectively with others and much more.
Even before the Governor’s Stay-at-Home order went into effect, Tiffany knew she could not proceed with business as usual. “I work with around 30 kids and their families a week and quite a few were coming down with the flu. I realized that all these kids share a physical space and all the games in it and I couldn’t risk potentially exposing people to the virus. Even though my work is very hands-on, I knew I had to temporarily close the office.”
She had to come up with an alternative because parents were anxious not to disrupt the important services their children receive or change their structured schedules. The only option that seemed viable to Tiffany was to switch to a teletherapy model, an approach she had not used before. “I had considered teletherapy as a backup if I ever decided to travel, but because of the hands-on nature of my work, it didn’t seem necessary as a core offering,” she said.
After spending a week researching teletherapy platforms and collaborating with other speech-language pathologists on their experiences with this new approach, Tiffany selected Simple Practice, which she was already using for scheduling, secure communication, and document management. “About 65% of my clients have moved to teletherapy. Others have decided to put their services on hold. I was pleasantly surprised to have been able to onboard one new client during this time as well,” she said.
How is this new approach working? “Virtual therapy is interesting. It requires that I tap into all the creativity and flexibility that is required to be a speech-language therapist. Each child has different targets and a different capacity to attend to me or their parents during sessions. This means I have to try a variety of approaches to find one that works for each child.” Tiffany added that she is also having to work more directly with parents who are now required to be present, hands-on and participate more in virtual sessions.
“There has been a learning curve but I feel like parents and I are getting the hang of this new way of working. I have had to do a lot more preparation and communication with parents before the sessions, which requires parents to prepare for these sessions,” she said.
Will Tiffany continue offering teletherapy once she reopens her office? “It will take some time and preparation to be able to safely reopen, so restart will be a slow process which means I will be offering teletherapy in combination with in-office sessions – starting with a few families. Some children definitely benefit more from in-person work and I will prioritize them for in-office visits. I do think I will keep teletherapy as an option once my office is fully open, as there are children who benefit more from this approach and it would also allow access for children in underserved areas outside of Seattle,” she said.
One thing Phebe Rossi, owner of Seattle gluten-free bakery, Nuflours, has learned over the past month or so is that the only way to stay sane during the coronavirus pandemic is to know what you can control and what you can’t. As a result, Nuflours, deemed a necessary business during the shut-down, has had a much better April than Phebe originally feared.
“The first few weeks were pretty challenging, especially considering that I had to lay off all 7 of my employees,” Phebe said. This was necessary because a large part of Nuflours business is wholesale. “My business partners are small restaurants and coffee shops and when they could no longer operate as food destinations, we took a big hit,” she said.
Phebe quickly realized that she would have to pivot her business model to regain some of this lost revenue. Like many other food businesses, she set up a direct-to-consumer online store. “Customers really love being able to receive our gluten-free cinnamon rolls in the mail and being able to order our bread online.”
That’s not the only way Nuflours has pivoted. Phebe is now offering gluten-free bakery boxes through a partner, NW Bakery Box, direct to consumers. “Customers can order one of our pre-assembled boxes or can create their own box from our menu.“ Phebe says although she is doing less volume than 2 months ago, the new business initiatives have allowed her to hire 3 of her employees back.
“It has been so exciting to see how companies are innovating to create new revenue opportunities in the face the current crisis,” she said. Like many other businesses, Phebe anticipates that the new direction her business has taken will stay in place long after the stay-at-home order has been lifted.
Phebe’s advice to other women business owners: “Apply for every grant and financing opportunity you can and keep your eyes focused on your long-term mission.”
Building a business from scratch is one of the most challenging journeys anyone can go on. Seven years ago, Purva Merchant did just that when she and a partner opened Seattle Kids Dentistry with zero patients on the books on day one. Since then, the practice has grown through word-of-mouth literally one smile at a time. Today, Purva employs a team of 9 women. These are hardworking, skilled, and kind women that know how to take care of children in what can be a scary dental environment.
Each is the primary breadwinner in their respective families and as a business owner, furloughing the team at the start of stay-at-home order has been one of the hardest things Purva has ever had do! “Getting them unemployment benefits was my first priority to ensure they are supported in some way,” she said. Over the past weeks, the Seattle Kids Dentistry team has stayed in touch with each other, checking in on Zoom calls and trying to keep the circle of positivity going as they each navigate their ‘new normal’ and wonder what their workspace is going to feel like once they get back to it in a few weeks.
The uncertainty of it all is what is devastating for most. As a business owner, Purva is finding that she has had to pivot the business and explore new ways of keeping things alive and keeping herself sane. She always knew tele-medicine was “a thing”, but underestimated its value in the past. But that has changed. Over the past month, Purva has successfully seen over 50 patients via virtual consultations from the comfort of their homes.
“They say necessity is the mother of all inventions and that was indeed the case with me,” she said. Purva and her techy husband built an online portal overnight which allows her to start doing virtual consultations. Like many business owners who have had to pivot to stay in business, Purva anticipates that once this is all said and done, this new aspect of her business will be here to stay.
The ability to resolve almost 80% of all dental issues with some good listening, a good history, and visual via technology has been eye-opening. “Without a doubt, there are limitations to what can and can’t be done remotely, but I am constantly surprised with how much CAN be done and the more I do these consultations, the better I am getting at fine-tuning the process to make these visits efficient for both me and the families I serve.”
Purva recognizes that her business has been a product of community support and she believes that THIS is her time to support her community. “We have an open offer on our social media pages to help any family that has dental needs for their child and might be struggling through this closure. We are here to help and we will come out of this stronger and more connected to each other as a business and as humans,” she said.
Like many business owners, Kristine Nguyen, owner of Pretty Books Accounting, is making adjustments in the time of Covid-19. Luckily, Kristine and her team are able to continue to offer their accounting and small business consulting services remotely. To support the business community, Pretty Books has extended their open office hours to anyone that needs help during this extremely challenging time for businesses.
Pretty Books has also created a webinar series – Managing your Cash Flow in the midst of COVID-19. This is a great opportunity to learn best practices that you can use to manage and evaluate the cash flow of your business. The team will share tools, offer guidance, and provide the how to’s of cash flow management.
Supporting woman-owned businesses is more important today than ever. If you are in need of accounting services, please consider working with Pretty Books.
Women are on the front lines fighting the coronavirus and supporting everyone who is staying at home. One such business is On Safari Foods. Owned by Teresa Carew, On Safari Foods is a catering company that has provided Seattle-area clients with full-service custom catering and corporate food service management for 26 years.
As you can imagine, Teresa’s traditional catering business dried up overnight once companies issued their work at home orders. “I got back from a business trip on the Monday after companies started their work from home policies to a phone call from a corporate food service client. He has been our client since 2011 and he called to cancel his foods ervice indefinitely. This really set off alarm bells for us,” she said.
This alarm proved to be warranted because by Wednesday, every employee from every one of On Safari Foods’ corporate foodservice accounts had been sent to work from home and all other catering customers had either canceled their confirmed orders or postponed through May. “We went from catering for up to 3,000 people every day to zero business within a few days,” she said.
Teresa knew she had to act fast to save the jobs of her workforce of 65 full-time employees and almost 70 temporary staff. “We had a brainstorming session and came up with the idea of making a selection of our popular entrees available through online ordering. Today, we are pleased to offer our home-cooked meals using hormone-free, antibiotic-free and humanely raised protein paired with the freshest locally sourced produce.”
As you consider your meal planning needs, please consider supporting this woman-owned business. You will also be able to donate meals to first responders and the West Seatle Food Bank.
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