Local entrepreneurs and business owners are having a unique experience during this unprecedented time of COVID 19. Many of them have responded in fascinating and inspiring ways; applying the grit, creativity and courage inherent in starting your own business. We believe there is great value in seeing this through their lens.

In our Checking In On series, we will share their experiences of running a business under circumstances they likely never imagined, hopefully provide some inspiration, and an opportunity to feel connected to some of the people who make this community special.

Our first entrepreneur is Mike Russo of Firebean Coffee Roasters:

How are you adapting your business to the new way of doing things?

Online, online, online.

We have had to shift how we connect with our customer base.  Although some of our wholesale partners are intact, tourism and gift shop traffic has been significantly impacted. That being said, our local customer and their needs/wants haven’t gone anywhere, so we’ve adjusted how we get our product to them.

We’ve gone online in a bigger way than ever and reduced barriers to safely getting Firebean with discount codes and free contact-less delivery. We’ve been spending a lot of time learning how to deliver a comfortable online purchase experience, the universe of SEO and its impact on website and online behaviour. Facebook ads too!

Conversion rates, web copy, abandoned carts – all of it – is a work in progress. In a funny way, COVID has rattled up our model for the better. . . we have always wanted to up our online game a bit and this has pushed us to do so rapidly.

What, if anything, will you keep from your new approach once the social distancing measures have been lifted?

The e-commerce component of our business is here for good. Whether we like it or not, our customer base is shopping online. We will continue to develop how we connect and serve our customer with an online model, post COVID 19.

The free, contact-less delivery has also been pretty smooth. People peek out from behind doors, pop-up over fences, and show up in windows with a wave. That can be kind of exciting during this “distancing”.

Also, I have 3 kids at home under 7 so a 1 hour solo delivery session is a dream sometimes lol! (editor’s note: that does sound dreamy, let me know if you need an assistant).

I will continue to learn about e-commerce and offering delivery, if the market says they want it, of course.

What new observations have you gleaned about your business, customers, or community as a result of this situation?

One observation is you can see how sensitive our connection to one another is – how much our connections matter! When one takes a hit, it trickles down and hurts everyone, when one succeeds; it helps others.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Whitehorse, and its people, are awesome! Super supportive of local businesses, especially in times like these. There seems to be a stronger sense of community than ever before. People are donating, liking and sharing posts, propping people up, making lists of services being offered, having contests, offering discounts etc…  People popping out of the wood-work to lend a hand and inspiring me to personally do the same! In fact, as a way to give back, we are offering 10% of sales on select sizes to the food bank!

How can Yukoners continue to support you?

Offering feedback on what they want, what they like, what they don’t. Liking posts, sharing posts, purchasing coffee. Buying anything local!

Thanks so much, Mike! We really appreciate how quickly you were able to pivot and problem solve during a stressful time, and not just because we still get to drink your coffee, but because it is really inspiring to see.

If you are a member of NorthLight, checkout our Cospace and Makespace Facebook groups for a little treat :).