Coping with COVID-19: Tips and Advice from a Business Coach

Coping with COVID-19: Tips and Advice from a Business Coach

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This is a time of major uncertainty for business owners. We invited Charmaine Soobramoney, a personal development and business coach, to share her thoughts on some of the issues raised by our community. 

Charmaine has a diverse set of skills and experience. Her focus is on shaping, positioning and supporting individuals and organizations for excellence and growth.

Some of the topics we touched on in this interview are:

  • How to deal with anxiety about your business
  • What are ways to keep your staff motivated
  • How to have hard conversations with your staff
  • Could now be an opportunity for growth in any way?

Watch the full video here, and join our SA Small Businesses Unlocked community where you can engage with Charmaine directly if there’s any other questions you might have:


SA online retailer Granadilla Swim on adapting business during COVID-19

SA online retailer Granadilla Swim on adapting business during COVID-19

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Joshua Meltz and Adam Duxbury have been running Granadilla Swim for the last five years, along with other businesses Rooftop on Bree and Sunn Kombucha. When news stories of the coronavirus and its impact on European countries like Italy and the UK started appearing, they knew they had to quickly find a way to adjust their strategy and keep afloat.

We chatted to the Cape Town based duo on how they adapted and used the power of community to transform their business during this time. Leveraging off their existing infrastructure, they’ve been able to pivot their offering to include delivery of groceries, coffee pods, olive oil and sourdough bread – with more to come. 

Here’s their story, with some pieces of advice for other South African retailers on how to adapt in the time of COVID-19.


Join our community

If you’d like to be a part of our next live chat or receive real time COVID-19 updates, join our SA Small Businesses Unlocked Facebook Group here.

Business High Five: Online hangouts for South African business owners

Business High Five: Online hangouts for South African business owners

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The coronavirus lockdown is in full swing in South Africa. Some of us are still working remotely, whilst others are unable to work at all. It’s uncharted territory, and we’re all still working out how we make this time meaningful. 

Maybe you’re trying to set boundaries between your ‘home’ life and your ‘work’ life, which both play out in the same space at the moment. Maybe you’re trying to replace endless scrolling on social media with some meaningful content or channels for self-improvement. 

Here are five online platforms which may give you the value and experience you are looking for, while you’ve got the time.

Connect with community

The guys at Ideas Cartel are an innovative bunch. While COVID-19 might have halted their shared office space and hotel business, it hasn’t stopped them from offering support and resources to entrepreneurs. As a member of their Cartel Connect community you can access workshops, talks and classes which range from fitness to practical business skills. Membership costs R99 per month.

Stay up to date

The National Small Business Chamber (NSBC), a non profit organisation which offers support and networking opportunities to SMEs, has set up a dedicated COVID-19 online centre. Here you’ll be able to find content from the media relating to small businesses at this time as well as a notice board of upcoming webinars and events. 

Learn something new

Whether you are looking to sharpen your skills in a particular area or learn something new, there are loads of courses available online. Udemy has a range of educational courses for you to choose from – whether you want to learn how to play piano or build a website. There are even some discounts on some of their courses to make learning even more accessible over this period. Get Smarter also offers online short courses from credible universities and institutions. This is your chance to up your knowledge in areas like leadership and management or master specific skills ranging from topics like global health delivery to digital marketing analytics.  


Never trust a skinny chef… well there’s never been a better time to take some notes from the pros. Heavy Chef has been hosting workshops geared at entrepreneurial mentorship and knowledge sharing for years. They’ve now taken the magic online – you can live stream talks by industry leaders in South Africa from wherever you are. Innovation is the order of the day on their line up, and business owners get hefty discounts. 

Hang up your work hat

How do you decompress once you’ve sent that last email? Maintaining some kind of home/ life balance is important. If you’re missing the outdoors or even want an activity that you can include the whole family in, check out Wild Earth. This site gives you the opportunity to go on an online safari and interact with an actual game ranger. Who knew you’d be able to experience the African wilderness from behind your laptop?

Join our SA Small Businesses Unlocked community to get the latest COVID-19 updates, insights from other business owners and content to keep you sane over lockdown.

Could COVID-19 present recruitment opportunities for small businesses?

Could COVID-19 present recruitment opportunities for small businesses?

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The last week has been an uncertain time for the thousands of South Africans who run and are employed by small businesses. The narrative we’ve all been seeing play out online and on social media paints a bleak picture of possible retrenchments and job losses, but what if there was another perspective to consider?

Could now be a good opportunity for companies to recruit that perfect team member and for job-seekers to land that dream job? Business consultancy CN&CO together with In Place Recruitment share some thoughts around why now might actually be the best time to build and grow your team.

With the understanding and compassion that this won’t be applicable to all industries and companies and that there are impossible decisions being made in business across the country, here are some key points to consider:

Don’t push pause

Not all companies have stopped recruiting. In our skills-short market, hard-to-fill vacancies will still be there when these crazy times are over. Now is the ideal time to engage with potential candidates. You don’t want to be left behind because you paused your recruitment.

The talent pool is full

There are more candidates in the talent pool currently looking for work or open to conversations than we have seen in a long time. The time is ripe to speak to potential candidates, especially regarding roles you are struggling to fill.

Online is the order of the day

Your entire recruitment process can be digitized, keeping everyone safe while still actively recruiting. All the admin can be done online, and face-to-face interviews are made possible using video conferencing tools such as Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WeChat Work and Slack.

Time is of the essence

Recruitment processes can take up to three months, especially when looking for hard-to-find skills. With potential candidates all locked down at home, this is a great time to jump in and find that perfect new hire quickly and effectively.

There’s nowhere to hide…

Remember all those hard-to-reach candidates you’ve been trying to track down for months? Well, for the next couple of weeks you know exactly where they are. Time to move in and set up an appointment.

Connect and share opportunities with other South African businesses in our SA Small Businesses Unlocked Facebook Group.

Business High Five: How to say hi, without a high five

Business High Five: How to say hi, without a high five

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The high five is on hiatus. But we’d never leave you hanging! We’re your friends in funding, and we’re still here to support you if you need it. 

Even though we can’t give out high five’s right now, we still aim to create those high five moments for our customers. That means checking in, making sure you get friendly, fast service and keeping your funding needs our number one priority. 

This is the part where we’d normally high five… but instead we’ve got some other ideas. 

Here are some ways to stay connected to your community – hands free!

The ‘hip-howzit’ 

When you’re a small business, building relationships with your customers is really important. Our own Lula staffers can sometimes tell who they are talking to on the phone without you even mentioning your name. We’re close – some might say joined at the hip. Use the ‘hip howzit’ to say hi, with no hands. 

The ‘work it wave’

Business is all about riding the downs and celebrating the ups. Before you reach for that high five after signing your next big order, or taking on a new exciting client: Stop, collaborate and… do the ‘work it wave’ to keep up morale and cheer on your team mates. 

The ‘1.5 meter maker’

Being a business owner takes guts, and an appetite for risk. But it’s important to keep that risk as calculated as possible and to be guided by the information and data at hand. Use the ‘1.5 meter maker’ to ensure you don’t encounter unnecessary risk and that you stick to recommended health guidelines. We’re risk conscious too and proud to call ourselves responsible lenders. You can read more about that here

The ‘elbow bump’

We reckon the elbow bump is an anytime, anywhere handy (but not so handy) trick. With the handshake and the high five on hold, this is a good way to greet – even our president thinks so! It’s something you can use anytime, when you need it. Kind of like our credit facility, which gives you access to funds, whenever you need them. Just like that.  

The ‘namastay calm’

Yes, things are a little crazy. Yes, there is probably cause for panic. But we’re hopeless silver lining seekers. This is a time for South Africans to come together and really support our small business community. Give your local coffee shop, butcher, florist or accountant a shout out on social media or a review. Let’s support our community of business owners in any way we can. Let’s stock up on all the essentials we need from the shop on the corner. Keep calm, keep positive and keep supporting SMEs. 

Marketing tips for your business

Marketing tips for your business

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Marketing isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing.  

One strategy or technique may work really well for one business, but not the other. 

As an SME, you might not yet have the capacity to have someone dedicated to this role just yet. You may be managing a lot on your own. 

You might already be running your own advertising campaigns on Facebook or you might not have even given marketing much thought until now. Whether your business finance budget for marketing is zero, or has a few zeros at the end of it, the principles are the same. 

Customer Relationship Marketing specialist Carly Barnes has four basic principles and techniques that anyone can use to market their small business. 


1. It’s not about you

We’re going to start at the center of your universe – your customer. 

Ask yourself:

  • Who are they?
  • Where do they go online?
  • What do they read/ watch?
  • What problem does your business solve for them?

You might know some of these answers from the experience you’ve built up over the time you’ve run your business, but there’s nothing better than to back it up or update it with some facts. Use analytics tools on Google or insights from social media. Go through the data you have on your existing customers to try and identify any trends or challenges you don’t yet know about them. Then, look at filling in the missing gaps with surveys, or one on ones. 

2. Do some soul searching 

You might already have an identity for your brand, or you might still be feeling it out. 

If your cousin Jerry threw your logo together with a bit of clipart and a dodgy version of Photoshop, it might be time to think about a do-over. 

Larger businesses spend millions of Rands defining and creatively executing the look and feel of their brand. As a small to medium business, your budget will be a lot slimmer, so start small and simple. The most important thing to do is to think about your customers. 

Does your imaging, style and colour match your core audience? Does this speak to your potential customers? 

Finding someone to do some initial design work, or reworking, doesn’t have to be an expensive exercise either. There are platforms like Fiverr which give you the opportunity to browse designer portfolios and prices online. Pick one that fits with your style and budget and commission them to do the work you need. 

It’s also worth exploring your networks. Reach out to your own Facebook community or chat to another business owner whose design you found impressive. Maybe there’s a way for you to work out a kind of trade exchange with them to help you save on costs? You’re a business owner, you know how to hustle. 

3. Know thy competitor

Before I get started on this point, let the record show that I don’t think it’s helpful to worry too much about every move your competitors make. That’s a rabbit hole that could take you all the way down into a 3am deep stalk of every blog, customer review, or tweet that your competitors are posting. But it is important to know what else is out there, and how your product or service can offer something unique. 

This gives you the opportunity to further flesh out how you want to position yourself in the market, and might give you ideas on how to tweak your current strategy so that you can capture some of that market in a way that adds real value and doesn’t compete with other players. 

4. Don’t guess, be targetted

Once you have some information about the kind of person who could potentially be your customer, you can be more targetted in how you approach them.

Think about the times that you’ve seen a product or service that makes you think, “Hmmm maybe I do need that”. Effective marketing involves a lot of thought behind how and who your messaging gets served to. 

This also means you keep your spend lean and effective. Plus you have a higher chance of reaching someone who is genuinely interested in what you have to offer them.

Good marketing is about placing your business front and centre for people who have a need for what you have to offer. Consider putting some business finance behind your strategy. 

In the next part of this series, I’m going to dive into the world of social media marketing and give you some easy tools and techniques that even the most novice Tweeter, Insta-ginner or Facbooker can use to start building a community and reaching the right people with your product. 

Sign up to receive part two and three in our Marketing Tips For Your Business series here: