Cohort 1 Case Studies
Cohort 1 featured four businesses from the personal services, fashion & apparel, and entertainment industries. Here are their stories:
"Being an online business, we didn't think much about COVID-19. With our new product, we have to test it and interact with people. This program challenged us to rethink how to make our business safe for our customers."
Tiffany has alopecia, a condition in which hair is lost from some or all areas of the body. To help others like her, Tiffany and Sheritta created Esteem Hair, an online hair extension business. They are now on a mission to create cranial prostheses to create a bigger impact for people suffering from hair loss. Shifting from an online-only business to one that demands physical interaction with customers is problematic in the new COVID-19 environment. Esteem Hair enrolled in UPBoston to build the foundation for their new product and to discover the best Six-Feet-Apart practices to make their business as safe as possible.
Hair extension market is saturated
Switching from online-only to in-person business
Unclear if new product presents viable business opportunity
Urgent need to implement safe processes in business
A brochure highlighting the cranial prostheses, what differentiates Esteem Hair, and how to access the product
An implementation plan for "experiential" Six-Feet-Apart solutions to make the business safe and exciting
Esteem Hair now have a tangible prototype to show to potential customers and partners
Re-thinking the business model to fit with COVID-19 social distancing practices, to build trust with stakeholders
Euphoria Barber Shop
"The student team helped me identify the safety precautions my customers want me to implement upon re-opening. I can now communicate these changes via social media to show customers safety is the top priority."
Elvis Style (left)
Elvis Style, a latino from Boston with 20 years of experience being a barber, decided to start his barber shop business in 2013 on Cambridge Street, Massachusetts. As an individual he has a very strong established client base. Prior to COVID-19, he struggled to hire talented barbers and create enough foot traffic for them and deploy the work across other barbers.
After COVID-19, with his business being very intimate or close in proximity, he has been faced with the challenge on how to operate his business and generate profit while maintaining the social distancing practices. Elvis joined UPBoston, to learn what could be potential best practices and six-feet apart solutions he could implement to go back to business and remain competitive
Spends too much time cutting hair rather than managing
Struggles to find talented barbers that strive to grow their own clientele
Unable to maintain business without disaster funding
Desperately needs to make processes safe while earning a profit on services provided
Data from customers outlining what needs to change to make them feel safe
Implementation plan containing Six-Feet-Apart solutions, based on customer responses
Social media communication plan to gain customers' trust by showing them that safety is Euphoria's top priority
With guidance, Elvis applied for multiple funding options
Communicating the safety precautions he is taking, Elvis can maintain trust with customers
With the new strategy, Elvis will maintain engagement via social media and limit the damage COVID-19 does to profits
The Brunch Club Boston
"Prior to the program, we hosted brunch events. COVID-19 changed that. Our team devised a plan to host online events related to food and not specifically focused on brunch, which will allow us to continue operating."
Started in late 2019, The Brunch Club Boston exists to curate spaces for Black Boston millennials to meet up, have fun, and enjoy brunch. Genevieve, a social entrepreneur and Black Boston ambassador, and Christina, a restaurant and event manager, aim to drive inclusivity and networking through events open to all who are interested.
The Brunch Club joined UPBoston to understand how to scale their business and engage their target audience more effectively. However, The Brunch Club was forced to cancel all future, in-person events due to COVID-19. Struggling to figure out what was next, Genevieve and Christina looked to UPBoston to help them decide how to get back to business safely.
New business with a lack of a definitive business plan
Lack of relationships with restaurant owners/managers to host in-person events
Unclear how to adapt to COVID-19 social distancing rules
Business not operational without definitive plan to move events online
Clear implementation and execution plan to become competitive and relevant
Six-Feet-Apart online solutions: feature a well-known chef, restaurant-to-home recipe sessions, social activities
Adoption of "Six-Feet-Apart is the new normal" mindset for future business decisions
Co-founders will assess each business decision by asking "is this Six-Feet-Apart safe?"
Business model will change to include both online and offline activities and events
Team has more confidence to communicate with and attract new customers to business
Fashion and Apparel
"My grandmother lives with me so health is a big concern during these times. I have to interact with people to run my business, which worries me. My team provided me with a plan to make my business as safe as possible when I re-open."
Seven years ago, Mina was inspired to create a custom-made apparel business in Cambridge, MA to earn extra income for her family. Y-Blank operates both an online and physical store, and outsources large orders as Mina is the only employee.
Recently, Mina has faced challenges such as being pressed for resources, both in time and capital; and failing to generate the desired level of income. Mina joined UPBoston to identify a growth strategy and to help her identify what is holding her back. With the spread of COVID-19, however, the focus shifted to engaging her clients through the crisis and to identify Six-Feet-Apart solutions and funding options to avoid shutting down.
The health of her family is the largest concern
Mina does not have time to spend on marketing
Limited shop space may cause issues with social distancing
The financial health of Y-Blank is unclear due to the lack of a central management system
Struggling to increase profits, Mina must now combat social distancing rules
Make consultations "by appointment only" to limit number of customers in shop
Physical barriers to be installed at shop to protect Mina as much as possible
Installation of a monitor specifically for customers to prevent close proximity to Mina
Strategy to create a "thank you" t-shirt campaign for essential workers
With guidance, Mina applied for multiple funding options - if granted, she will be able to keep her business operational
Mina has more confidence to re-open shop with Six-Feet-Apart solutions, but is still concerned about safety
Shifting focus to social media engagement, Mina can maintain interest in her products during mandated shutdown
Include Innovation is a digital design and development agency that helps social impact organizations tell their stories digitally
Business & Team Recognition: PIVOTING THE BUSINESS
Include Innovation received an actionable plan to create a digital accelerator to help local businesses transition from offline to online business models
Transitioned online to make business safe
70% of pre-COVID revenues came from in-person events and interactions
Committed to creating a digital accelerator to service minority-owned businesses in Boston