7th July 2021
We speak to Holly and Charlotte at The Zero Waste Company on The Pantiles about how the pandemic has afffected them as small (and new) business and how we can support our independents in this unprecedented time.
"As small business owners who opened just before the Covid pandemic hit, to say the last 18 months have been hard would be a huge understatement! We opened The Zero Waste Company, a plastic-free shop and cafe, in November 2019 to a community of customers who wanted to change their shopping habits for the better. We had a great 3 months of trading and getting to know our customers and local neighbours before deepest winter hit and footfall took a big downturn.
As anyone who has run their own business knows, the first 6 months are crucial in working through teething problems and finessing your offering. Learning from mistakes (like hiring permanent staff instead of temporary over the busy Christmas period!) is pretty much guaranteed, however for many of us, the opportunity to reflect on our wins and losses in those crucial months was removed when Covid reared its ugly head in March 2020.
So what did we learn?
The key to our survival then (and now) was in servicing our community. During the initial lockdown we stepped up and responded to the needs of those isolating, and eventually to anyone struggling to shop and provide for their households. Where the supermarkets failed, we delivered. Quite literally! Within days we created a delivery service and essential plastic free food box scheme, and over that initial period we hand delivered over 500 boxes of fruit and veg, milk, bread, and household goods. Of course, our business model had to change dramatically to cater to this new way of working, and along with the additional pressures of having 60% of our workforce isolating, we managed to adapt and grow.
Sadly for us, once the supermarkets got back on track, we noticed our customer base depleting as old habits kicked back in. We recently stopped our delivery business as demand has dropped to such low amounts it is not sustainable for us to continue with, and we aren’t the only ones who have seen this change.
Adaptability has been our biggest strength during this last year, however the challenges we overcame then have since been replaced with new, harder pressures as we battle into 2021. Our go-to attitude has always been to keep riding the wave (or treading water) with a smile on our faces, but there comes a point when you have to admit to needing help.
Throughout this whole time our overheads have remained largely the same as we have not received a single rent break or payment holiday for any of our premises outgoings. The government furlough scheme was helpful during the worst of the pandemic, but as we have fully reopened we need all of our staff so are not entitled to it anymore. This is not to say we have not been grateful for every single penny we have received from the government, and we are so very aware that other businesses received very little in comparison.
Our plea is not just about us. It’s about all of the small businesses feeling the pressure and very real threat of closing, and losing our livelihoods. This goes far deeper than just bricks and mortar. For so many of us, our whole lives work, love, passion and savings are tied up into our businesses and the crushing feeling that no matter what you do you can’t control a pandemic infection rate, reduced footfall, mounting debt, school closures, job redundancies...is enough to push anyone to the brink.
So what can you do?
Shop local. Spread your wealth around the town so businesses know you still want them. A coffee here, lunch there, loaf of bread, pint of milk. The supermarkets are thriving and will unlikely be long term affected by this. Choose the little guy.
Say hello. If you don’t have money to spend, spend your time instead. Check in with local businesses and give them some love or even a hug if you feel comfortable! Knowing someone cares provides such a boost and increases morale.
Share. If you follow social media accounts, like and share their posts. Comment if you feel like it! Engaging with businesses on social media helps them reach potential new customers!
Tell your friends. If a place sells incredible bread, awesome coffee or delectable cake (hello!) Spread the love and tell everyone you know so they can enjoy it too!
And for anyone finding it tough, hold on. We will come out the other side eventually. We are all in this together remember..."
We are proud to have The Zero Waste Company as TN card partners. Members enjoy: 15% off coffee, sandwiches and pastries to eat in or take away, Tuesday - Thursday (excludes cake), 10% off in-store purchases (excludes fresh produce - bread, fruit & veg), 10% off Vegan Queen Afternoon Teas and free delivery on orders over £15. Find more details here.