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Omaha Magazine

A Viral Opening: 3 Business that Successfully Launched During A Pandemic

Mar 26, 2021 04:46PM ● By Sara Locke

This month, B2B reached out to three local businesses that opened during arguably the hardest time in recent history to do so. Jenifer Holmquist opened Coco and Charlie’s, Joshua Vollertsen opened Coolgreens, and Sarah Peter and Angela Moran-Manzitto opened Clean Juice. 

B2B: What was your original timeline for opening? 

JH: I wasn’t planning on opening at all. COVID changed my employment and childcare options, so I decided to go for my lifelong dream of owning a children’s store. Late August I traveled to the KidsWorld market [in Dallas] to buy fall/winter clothing for 2020. I came back and found a perfect space! After a few renovations and setbacks, I was able to open on Dec. 2. 

JV: Our original timeline for opening our first location in Loveland Centre was March 1. We ended up having our “Grand Opening” on June 1, right in time for the unrest and demonstrations downtown and having to close early that day.

SP & AM-M: We were hoping to open in April 2020 but got pushed back to August.

B2B: How did you pivot once the virus hit?

JH: I didn’t plan to open at all until after COVID.

JV: Once the virus hit, we experienced delays, primarily in equipment delivery and sourcing, as well as difficulty setting up supply chains with respect to our vendors such as chemicals, dry goods, and produce. 

SP & AM-M: We had to continue with construction, but had a lot of holdups due to people not working during COVID. We learned to be patient, kind, and understanding of everyone who walked through our doors, and to be grateful for their business, adapting quickly to safety guidelines.

B2B: What physical issues did you encounter when you pivoted? 

JH: We had some small renovations, and had to delay our opening when I tested positive
for COVID.

JV: Just the logistics of getting equipment and goods, as well as preparing for an unknown environment with respect to deep cleaning, masks, and other guidelines.

SP & AM-M: Construction delayed, which resulted in us having to pay rent for  extra months prior to opening, and a salary for our manager during the delay.

B2B: What business issues did you encounter?

JH: Suppliers still aren’t producing much outside what is ordered prior to production. When I placed our fall/winter order in August, there were gaps in styles and sizes, and a lot of depleted stock. It was challenging filling an 1,100 square foot space with so much backordered. 

JV: We, as many others, have experienced slow sales, marginal foot traffic, and increases of cost of goods sold.

SP & AM-M: Sales were very low due to decreased foot traffic; we were unable to have our normal grand opening celebration. Our business relies heavily on educating customers. Catering came to a halt. We were unable to host samplings at stores, gyms, offices, and wellness retreats. 

B2B: What would you suggest to other retail owners
for opening during a difficult time?

JH: Do it. Absolutely go for your dream—pandemic or not. I held myself back for too long. Even in the midst of a pandemic, people (especially in Omaha) are so supportive.

JV: Given this new paradigm of operating a retail or restaurant [business], forecasting and knowing all of the guidelines that you will need to comply with will be paramount. This, in addition to working with vendors to forecast time delays, as well as severe fluctuations in pricing, will be more important than in the past.

SP & AM-M: Have faith and stick with it. Get creative with connecting with your guest
and advertising.

Do what you can to adapt, reach out to neighboring businesses, apartments, and press to work together. Collaborate with influencers, and remind customers how they can help by posting photos and leaving good reviews.

We’ve been fortunate to keep our doors open, fulfilling Omaha’s need for healthy food. Positive feedback from our customers makes it that much more rewarding.

This article was printed in the April/May 2021 issue of B2B Magazine.