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  • Writer's pictureSarah Ross


So far in the "All Hands on Deck in Support of Entrepreneurship" series we've heard about businesses shifting their focus to support other businesses, adapting services and products to reach customers under new health and safety regulations, and the overal work that our local small businesses have done to make customers feel safe while continuing to employ our neighbors and contribute to our economy.

Our final set of features today highlights companies that have done all of the above. Our office's entrepreneur support services have been used more now during the pandemic than ever before as our local entrepreneurs are channeling all their grit and resilience to remain strong through the strangest economic period most of us will ever see.

As you may have read in our earlier features, in April we partnered with the Dorn Foundation and Erie County Community Foundation to provide financial support to small businesses that were making strategic pivots to keep their business going strong despite the pandemic by offering the RISE Small Business Innovation Grant. Many of the companies that were awarded had some element of shifting business online as part of their pandemic response. But those you'll read about below really embraced that shift. They understood that moving online means so much more than just having a website. They put the investment and supporting work into their moves online to make them impactful in their business.

1. Bake Erie

2020 has not been an easy year for any sort of retail. This retail bakery in particular does significant wholesale business with other retailers, making the impact of pandemic-related shutdowns that much harder. Bake Erie quickly shifted their model to online orders of delivery boxes with delivery multiple times per week. Though their retail location has opened back up now they continue to supplement sales with the box model.

2. Doughin' Crazy

Similar to Bake Erie, this edible cookie dough parlor had to think fast with all in-shop sales being immediately suspended. Doughin' Crazy was able to create a new landing page and online ordering system for once-a-week cookie dough deliveries. In addition, Doughin' Crazy secured sponsors in order to donate dough to frontline workers at local hospitals, police and fire stations, and nursing homes.

3. FancyMe Boutique

With two storefront locations and a mobile boutique with no one to sell to and nowhere to go, FancyMe Boutique returned to their e-commerce roots. Having started as an online only boutique, FancyMe was able to quickly take the next steps to grow online business by integrating new software such as Sezzle which allows consumers to pay for purchases in installments and CommentSold which allows for live video sales.

4. Kharma Salon & Boutique

Salons are another segment of retail and services that have been hit unexpectedly hard. Kharma Salon was no exception. Thankfully, under new and motivated ownership, Kharma acted quickly to remain in the game, investing in a new website to bring retail and appointment booking online and a new POS system for contactless service.

5. Mabel & Ethel's Quilt Shoppe

This quaint, quilt retail shop was primarily dependent on in-store sales. The proprietors, who go by their "old lady names" - Mabel & Ethel - worked hard to find a way to keep their business on track in its sixth year. First, and importantly, they began educating themselves by taking a "connecting with quilting customers via Facebook Live" class. Now they host "ME Time with Mabel & Ethel" on Thursdays which builds relationships with customers, increases their brand reach, and allows for online sales - a great tool for connecting with this niche market.

While we could have done without the extreme business climate of 2020 and conditions which have lead these businesses to innovate and evolve, we're proud of the work they've put in to make it happen and are looking forward to continuing to follow along with their entrepreneurship journeys!


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