Cohort 1 Case Studies





Cohort 1 featured four businesses from the personal services, fashion & apparel, and entertainment industries. Here are their stories:

Esteem Hair

Personal Services

"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

Co-founder

Sheritta

Co-founder

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.

Challenges

  • 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

Solutions/Strategy

  • 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

Program Impact

  • 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

Personal Services

"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)

Co-founder

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

Challenges

  • 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

Solutions/Strategy

  • 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

Program Impact

  • 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

Entertainment

"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."

Genevieve Angelique

Co-founder

Christina Pierre-Rene

Co-founder

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.

Challenges

  • 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

Solutions/Strategy

  • 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

Program Impact

  • 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

Y-Blank

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.

Challenges

  • 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

Solutions/Strategy

  • 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

Program Impact

  • 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

COVID-19 status:

  • Transitioned online to make business safe

  • 70% of pre-COVID revenues came from in-person events and interactions

Program Highlights

  • Committed to creating a digital accelerator to service minority-owned businesses in Boston