MANAGEMENT by Angela Fernandez Making Lemonade Out of Lemons 2 020 was a year that started off with a lot of promise for many women- owned small businesses, but quickly turned into a year filled with complete uncertainty by mid-March. Three business owners, each selling unique products, recently shared the ways they have adapted to make “lemonade” out of a year filled with “lemons.” Each entrepreneur found new opportunities to survive and thrive as consumer attitudes and behaviors rapidly changed during the pandemic. Don’t Be Afraid of Unchartered Territory Lori Stewart, owner of DCI Management based in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, had just come back from a tradeshow when news of the severity of COVID-19 was starting to spread. Until the pandemic, their primary business had been creating tradeshow exhibits for about 50 shows a year. “As more and more events were cancelled last spring, we knew we had to act fast,” said Stewart. “We thought we would have to claim bankruptcy and lose the most important, vital part of our business: our employees,” Steward adds. DCIM began to entertain a new idea -- could they use the same plastic they use to make tradeshow exhibits to make sneeze guards? After she decided to move forward with creating the new product line, Stewart had to then educate herself on setting up products to be sold online and deal with some nefarious competitors. “We had to obtain nearly twenty GS1 U.P.C.s (universal product codes) for our new products, which helped us sell the sneeze guards on large online marketplaces,” Stewart said. “But then we experienced fraudulent companies trying to claim our products as their own. Because we had properly constructed our product identification numbers, we were able to prove that our company was connected specifically to our products. The U.P.C.s include an identifier licensed to our company, and because of that, the marketplace recognized that we were the rightful owner of the products.” If it were not for the idea to sell sneeze guards, and now partitions and social distancing signs, Lori’s revenue would be non-existent. “Since March 22, we have sold nearly 2,500 sneeze guards to business all over the United States including the City of Los Angeles, fast food restaurants, hotels, universities and small businesses,” she said. Let Who You Are Shine Through Deborah Tuggle, founder of Bite Me, Inc., a small wholesale cookie manufacturer based in Lakewood, Washington, had a thriving bulk cookie operation dependent on shoppers purchasing cookies by the pound in high-end grocery stores. But, the company’s orders abruptly halted when social distancing took effect. Shoppers opted for more prepackaged treats and essential items. “The slowdown caused us to think of alternative ways to promote our products,” Tuggle said. With customer concerns for safety in mind, the company partnered with a third-party delivery service to provide bake-at-home frozen cookie dough balls, and also revamped its website to focus on mail order cookies for direct delivery. In addition, they added a new line of Bite Me branded products in retail packaging for grocery stores and have shifted business from bulk to prepackaged for this market. “We just decided to do anything we could to get the product in people’s hands. What better way to send love than to send a cookie that somebody could just pop in the oven and eat while it’s still warm,” she adds. Bite Me also saw a huge increase in online orders as shoppers increasingly searched for Black-owned businesses to support. The company participated in a local Solidarity Box program, where several Black-owned businesses were featured. To their delight, all boxes sold out. “We have historically been the ‘wizard behind the curtain,’ producing products JeniFoto / Shutterstock.com 30 enterprising Women