When the lockdown first hit my neighbor and very close friend Carline Sturken was at a loss as to what she would do with her handmade pie business. I really felt for Caroline as she had only got the business off the ground in July of last year, and as anyone in business knows, those first couple of years are mighty tough indeed. Forced to close the business for the short term and unsure what she was going to do, Caroline went back to the drawing board. What I have always loved about Caroline is her tenacity and this came to the fore pretty darn quickly post lockdown.
Caroline sold more than pie at her little deli but those were the main sellers and so she took the decision to continue baking, only doing so at home instead of the kitchen. In our community there are many of us with a WhatsApp group where we will share bits and pieces of information and so Caroline asked the group whether or not they would be interested in buying some of the pies if she made them. Not only were people very keen to make orders, it didn’t take long for their friends and family who lived elsewhere to put in orders too.
Smell What Sells
What Caroline did that I thought was really smart was to focus on her top 3 sellers and see how they got on. Given that she now had a smaller operation there was no way that she could provide the range and volume that she could in the shop. I helped Caroline hand deliver the pies, all done under the new guidelines of mask wearing and social distancing, and those which went further afield were sent in an Uber which the customer would organize.
To show the true entrepreneurial spirit that she has, Caroline recognized that these customers were keeping a roof over her head and so every morning she would write out these lovely little notes of thanks and then send them with the pies when they went. What this did was not only show the gratitude that she had, but it further cemented the relationship between the customers and her business.
Open With a Bang
Once she was able to reopen the business, or at least get into the premises despite nobody being allowed it, Caroline went back to the full range and the baking volumes which she had previously done, and she was selling out by 11 each and every morning. Such had been the success of the lockdown pies, word had spread and everyone wanted a slice.
This experience that Caroline went through shows two key lessons, the first is that you have to switch your focus on making money during times of crisis, no matter what that looks like, secondly you must ensure that you are grateful for those who support you and take the opportunity to say so.