From Our Sponsors:

Meet the Midlands businesses tackling coronavirus head on

Businesses across Birmingham and the West Midlands are facing an unprecedented challenge, the likes of which have not been seen in peacetime.

The spread of coronavirus has closed shops, factories, bars and restaurants and forced workers to set up offices in their living rooms and on their kitchen tables as they bid to keep companies afloat.

But where there is adversity comes invention, with many utilising 21st century technology to stay connected with clients while others have reinvented their offer in a bid to reach new customers.

The head of the Jewellery Quarter Business Improvement District summed up the situation well when he told the BusinessLive that companies in the district were showing “a real stubbornness” as they battled the economic effects of the escalating coronavirus pandemic.

Luke Crane said the area was rallying against the stringent new measures designed to stop mass gatherings and encourage social distancing.

“There’s no denying these are really testing times for our Jewellery Quarter businesses, low footfall is particularly damaging for our fantastic retailers who mostly specialise in the jewellery trade,” he told BusinessLive.

“But with bars and restaurants adapting to offering delivery services and museums and retailers developing online voucher schemes, there is a real stubbornness in the community that is testament to the strength of the Jewellery Quarter.

“It would be wrong of me to say that coronavirus isn’t having an effect on business but the incredible spirit and tenacity that especially our SMEs and microbusinesses have shown during this time, fills me with so much confidence that the Jewellery Quarter will continue fighting.”

Lightbox

One such business in the quarter is tech agency Lightbox which offers digital marketing and product development services.

Director PJ Ellis said the past week had been as stressful as it had been optimistic as the company adapted to a new way of working.

“We have seen the obvious response from some clients having to stall, stop or ask for payment holidays while a large percentage of our pipeline has also disappeared,” he said.

“The directors and I have been responding like most other business owners we have spoken to recently by quickly quantifying the impact and preparing the financial plan around this crisis.

“We have been lucky so far as the majority of our clients have been very supportive and able to stick with us and, when needed, we have stuck with many of them, offering as much support as we possibly can, where we can.

“Staff have adapted to a new way of working and have been proactive, supportive and encouraging.

“Our line of work allows us to work remotely pretty efficiently and we haven’t seen any obvious tail-off of productivity or communication.

“We are missing the face-to-face interaction but are quickly adapting to making sure virtual meetings are held as effectively as possible.

“In short, the vibe currently is good.”

Emotive Health

A start-up company which was planning to launch its first product this month has had to go back to the drawing board to get its name out there.

Bromsgrove-based Emotive Health was founded 18 months ago by three parents with the aim of encouraging children to take hydration more seriously after seeing their own kids come home from school with full water bottles.

Its new product ‘Super8’ is a wearable piece of technology fitted into a wristband which vibrates to remind children to drink water.

After being forced to cancel all of their planned launch events, the company’s directors are now maintaining their online presence and looking for support from the business community.

Chief executive Rasseeda Virgo founded the company with fellow designers Chris Emmett and James Martin after they met at Birmingham City University two years ago.

Ms Virgo said: “We’ve taken an idea and self-funded the development into a product we hope will help kids stay hydrated.

“We don’t want to just sit back and wait.

“We recognise we aren’t the only people affected as a result of the coronavirus crisis and are keen to work with others to get our product out there.

“Research suggests 94 per cent of children turn up to school dehydrated.

“With schools closing and children potentially being isolated, we believe it is imperative that children stay hydrated to help with maintaining good physical and mental health.”

Story Comms

Staff at city centre PR agency Story Comms have all decamped to work from home but it has not stopped the firm from gunning for new business.

Founder and managing director Amanda Lowe said the team had carried out a full online pitch to a potential new client.

“It has been business as usual and then some so far,” she told the BusinessLive.

“We have had our first ever remote pitch which ran just as it would in person.

“We shared and presented slides on a Zoom call and took ‘face to face’ questions – thankfully, the tech all went to plan.

“While meeting in person is always preferential, pitching online was great and a pretty seamless alternative.

“We found out the very next day that we had won the work.”

Amanda Lowe of Story Comms

The agency has been working with its clients to digest the daily announcements coming from the Government and issuing statements to the media.

It has also launched a support service for local SMEs.

Ms Lowe added: “I know everyone feels the same need to want to help wherever they can.

“We felt using our daily work skills was one, very small way to do so therefore we launched a free comms advice service for SMEs across the Midlands.

“We wanted to help those business owners who were worried about how they were going to talk to their staff, customers or suppliers about their situation.

“We will be running the service for as long as we need to.”

NEC Group

The NEC Group has been hit particularly hard as its business model relies almost entirely on the very thing the Government has banned – mass gatherings.

Scores of conferences, award ceremonies and concerts have been cancelled at its four venues in Birmingham and Solihull as promoters and organisers search for new slots later in the year.

Chief executive Paul Thandi said the travel, hospitality, leisure and live events sectors had been hit hard.

He said: “As we face these unprecedented times, we have established three clear priorities – protect the health and well-being of our employees and workplaces, support the needs of customers, visitors and commercial partners and ensure the live events sector can weather the storm.

“Those able to work from home are now operating remotely and their resilience, motivation and commitment is humbling.

“We have stopped all non-essential travel and are holding employee meetings virtually.

“For staff unable to work remotely, we have reduced the density of the employee population at our sites and are taking preventive measures that allow these facilities to continue to operate safely.

“We are working around the clock with exhibition and conference organisers and event promoters to reschedule events to later in the year.

“The economics of live events are far reaching and alongside our staff and customers there is a huge business community which depends on them for survival.

“We are working with our industry organisations to lobby the Government.

“With exhibitions alone contributing £11 billion to the UK economy and supporting 114,000 jobs, it’s imperative that we safeguard this sector and ensure we come out of this period of uncertainty in as strong a position possible.”

The Butchers Social

West Midlands restaurant The Butchers Social has taken to the streets to keep the business alive and help maintain links with its local community.

The restaurant, which began life in an old butchers’ shop in Harborne, has gone back to basics in order to preserve its restaurant which is now in Henley-in-Arden.

Mike Bullard of The Butcher Social

It has begun retailing produce from local suppliers such as bread, milk, eggs and even toilet roll as well as adapting a new takeaway menu as restaurants have been told to close seating areas if they wish to remain open.

The move has enabled chef and owner Mike Bullard to continue paying staff wages.

He said: “It is such a scary time for hospitality at the moment but we are making the most out of a bad situation by retailing our products and serving up ready-made meals.

“We’ve had such a great response from our guests and they’ve all been very supportive during these difficult times.”

The post Meet the Midlands businesses tackling coronavirus head on appeared first on USNewsRank.

  • Leave a Reply