Entrepreneurial resilience in a time of crisis
I wouldn’t be telling you anything new by saying 2020 was turned upside down by a global crisis. We keep hearing it on the news, we read about it on social media, but mostly, we live it on a daily basis. Everything we used to know is now changed and we have to find new ways to live through our days in a “new normal.” In a matter of a couple of weeks we got used to home offices, Zoom meetings and working with our kids in our arms. In times of great changes like this, funnily, we also see how fast humans can adapt to new conditions and environments.
We’ve heard a lot about all the negative effects the global COVID-19 pandemic has had on businesses around the world but we haven’t really seen anything about how businesses have adapted to make sure they both survive while also providing a solution to new consumer needs. Entrepreneurs and small business owners have a common quality many don’t know about: resiliency.
Here is the story of how Confetti Mill navigated the troubled waters of a global pandemic and kept on innovating through thick and thin.
Since January 2018, I have been working full time on Confetti Mill, building not only a business but also an ideal work environment brick by brick. While I was working to grow the figurative baby I had been nurturing, I also started a new life as a literal mother. I obviously didn’t know that, just over a year in, an event of global proportions would come and affect my business plans. But as entrepreneurs do, I adapted to make sure the business would survive, so as my dreams for a future that I would like to offer my child. I put the anxiety behind me and I sat down to finally make a new website during the first two weeks of confinement. Staying focused on an objective helped me a lot to keep things in order and digest the new reality.
Milo helping us with the move to the new workshop
Part of the survival has involved making protective masks. I didn’t want to make them in the first days of the pandemic for many reasons. The main one was that I didn’t have the expertise to make them, or so I thought. And, in the first weeks of pandemic hitting North America, the efficiency of homemade masks was still debated. Then on April 3rd, US health officials announced that any mask is better than no mask and everyone was encouraged to wear one. It was my husband, Colin, who first convinced me to develop a mask for him and the rest of the family.
But, like Rome, our mask wasn’t built in a day. We had multiple weeks of trial and error to make sure it would fit the public need for masks while also being comfortable enough for inexperienced wearers. All in all, it took us 3 weeks of research and development to achieve the results we were looking for. After several tests, and waiting for necessary materials, on April 17th, we received our first online order for a mask. Who would imagine a few months back?
Noémie taking over in the weekends to keep the production rolling!
While we were developing the mask, there were many different conversations going on in the news about whether or not masks should be worn to prevent further spread of the disease. This brought a high demand for masks which we also weren’t ready for. Small shops like ours are made to handle a slow and steady production to answer the mostly stable demand for our linen products. Now, all of a sudden, we had to deal with a great increase in demand for masks and accelerate our production output while still keeping in mind that masks weren’t our main product. At this point, we had to figure out how many masks we could produce and be able to ship in a timely manner.
You can see our approach to slow-design reflected in our masks. They are made of high quality fabric as resilient as Confetti Mill is. We use joyful colours that remind us that the sun is still shining no matter what. And we make them so you can add a filter in them to help protect yourself and the ones around you.
We’re but one business impacted by the current crisis and this is just one example of resilience and adaptation. For me, building a business is like building a world in which I would like to live and offer to the ones around me, from my family to my colleagues and providers. It’s also about seeing a situation and reacting to it, making sure we grow in the process. At times, it will mean ensuring my company’s survival and at other moments it will mean taking a leap in a direction I wouldn’t have imagined just a short week before. The world is constantly changing and, unlike big companies, entrepreneurs such as myself have the ability to be nimble and adapt to the changes. It is a certainty that we will always continue to adapt and innovate to overcome obstacles.