LITTLE ROCK, Ark — The coronavirus pandemic has been difficult for many people including small business owners. They have had to get creative and innovate to keep their businesses afloat.
Some haven’t just innovated during this time, they’ve changed major parts of their core business altogether.
Kyle Tabor is the Owner and CEO of Blue Sail Coffee, an Arkansas based coffee company and roastery with cafes in Conway and Little Rock. He said they started preparing their business the minute coronavirus news started becoming more prevalent in other states.
“We saw the storm on the horizon and we acted quickly,” said Tabor. “Part of the Blue Sail story is that we’re used to working under pressure.”
At the end of March, Tabor made the tough decision to temporarily shut the doors at both cafe locations.
“Just a few months ago, the cafes were open and we were focusing on face-to-face experiences for customers and now we’ve transformed and we’ve completely evolved,” he said.
At least for now, their whole business model has changed.
“We went from dabbling in online sales to becoming a bonafide online company within seven to ten days,” he said. “We have hired four new people, all of which have experience in social media or e-commerce.”
He said e-commerce has been a whole new world with so much to learn but they are taking it day by day. Now, they are focusing on growing as an online coffee subscription company.
“Every month, or twice a month, we’ll send you coffee at a reduced price,” he said. “We roast the coffee and bag it and customers are getting that coffee between 48 and 72 hours after being roasted; so, it’s fresher than what they would have got in the stores.”
Tabor said the change of pace is already working.
“We have sold to thousands of customers online in just about 5 weeks,” he said.
Part of the success is attributed to a new web feature on their site that restores elements of personal connection. You can utilize an online bot that can directly connect you with someone to help you pick out coffee.
“We thought about what we could do to continue to be a personal company even on the internet,” he said. “Now people can text in the chat box and myself or Justin can answer the questions you have.”
As Tabor focuses on online growth and awaits the reopening of his two cafes, he has some advice for other hardworking, small business owners trying to make this work.
“Remember to take care of your company’s most important asset which is yourself; which is your body and your mind,” he said. “Relax and take a day off or two.”
Even through all the changes, Blue Sail Coffee has been able to give back to the community. With their online coffee sales, they recently were able to donate 3,000 meals to feed hungry Arkansans through the Arkansas Food Bank.