The Best Small Business Advice From the Mastercard Money Moves Digital Summit

June 1, 2020
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COVID-19 has changed all of our lives in the blink of an eye—socially, emotionally, physically, and certainly financially. In times of crisis, businesses are put to the test—supply chains are disrupted and profit margins are compromised. 

But if there’s one industry that has been impacted the most, it’s small business—they are the lifeblood of our economy and need our help now more than ever. 

The Shelter at Home policy has seen all our favorite restaurants, fitness studios, salons, and boutiques close shop across the country. These businesses are the backbone of our country, and we need to support them the best way we can.

In times of great uncertainty, success comes down to how we shift and respond.

So, we partnered with Mastercard for some #Realtalk and real action on how to pivot confidently and securely with tools and resources available to get through this unprecedented time and focus on the future.

Many small businesses are quickly adapting to the “new norm” and this powerful and inspiring group of women—Sonja Rasula, Founder, Unique Markets; Sarah Larson Levey, Founder, and CEO, Y7 Studio; Tonya Rapley, Entrepreneur, Best Selling Author; and Ginger Siegel, North America Small Business Lead, Mastercard—are here to remind you that you don’t have to do it alone. 

Ahead, we share the major moments and saveable quotes from our chat with small business thought leaders to discuss their pivots in strategy and how they’re planning for the future, so you can too!

Sarah Larson Levey, Founder, and CEO, Y7 Studio

On having a transparent approach to leadership during COVID-19…

“We’ve always been transparent internally with our teams about where we’re at and we thought it was important to let our clients know, too.”

“We thought it was important to be transparent with the people who have helped us be so successful and the reason behind the layoffs.”

“Right now we’re looking at our financials to make sure when this is over we have the resources so the second we open our doors we can pay our employees.”

“We could keep everyone on and pay them for two months, but then there is no company and that is it.”

On pivoting to digital overnight…

“Digital is something I have been thinking about for years, but we’ve been so focused on opening and riding out that momentum.”  

“My VP of marketing basically didn’t sleep for two weeks and got a platform up and running in just two weeks.” 

“We’ve taken this opportunity to say ‘hey, we’re not going anywhere and we’re still here for you.’” 

“I’ve had my moments of mental breakdowns and sadness and frustration but I think it’s a really unique opportunity to launch something like this because the client is a little bit more forgiving if things aren’t perfect so we can experiment.”

On “finding the light” and opportunity in this moment…

“It’s lonely up here when you own a business and you don’t have the coworker to bitch to and you don’t get to have a meltdown—you don’t get to do that because it’s not where you sit. Especially, in times like this—we are the ones who have to be level-headed.” 

“What has been keeping me going is seeing the motivation from my team.” 

“What we do now, is going to set us up for success in the future.” 

“It’s making sure that the tasks that people are given are making a difference for the company. It’s making sure that everything is really intentional and that there is a purpose.”

 

Ginger Siegel, North America Small Business Lead, Mastercard

 On building crisis-proof companies… 

“I think you do it by having women like these leading the companies because it takes a crisis and turns it into opportunity.”  

“COVID-19 is visibly impacting small businesses that are really central to our society and our economy. I don’t think people realize that small businesses make up 90% of all businesses and employ 70% of workers globally and deliver more than half of the GDP. Small business is really big business.”

“It’s amazing to see the redefinition of small businesses—it really puts me in awe of what they are able to do.” 

On protecting your business from fraud and cyber hacking…

“A lot of the cyber threats and cyber-attacks are happening to small business and as small businesses transform from the main street to digital main street they really have to keep themselves, their employees, and their businesses protected.” 

“At Mastercard we’re offering free cyber vulnerability assessment and identity theft protection to the nation’s 28 million small businesses as well as their 57 million employees.” 

“Cashflow is one of the biggest issues. The first round of PPP money went very quickly. So anything we can do to help small businesses manage their cash flow, we want to help with.” 

On the tools and resources to help small business owners pivot… 

“One of the things we know that businesses are suffering from is having enough data to understand what is going on around them. We’re providing another free technology called the local market intelligence which is going to provide small businesses with store-level metrics.”

 

Sonja Rasula, Founder, Unique Markets

On seeing her business shut down overnight…

“I specialize in gatherings of thousands of people in spaces. Unlike a lot of other business owners, I knew that my business was dead for 2020, for the rest of the year.”

“My team and I are pretty aware that events and gatherings are not going to happen. I don’t know if we will be able to gather in 2021, to be honest. We’re reacting fast and finding ways to do digital.” 

“No one is working (at Unique Markets) now—everyone is officially furloughed because we have to have money in the bank when this is over. Everyone on my team wanted to stop working because they wanted to know they have jobs in the future.”

“I was very specific when I started the company that I wanted to get people off devices and I wanted them to interact one-on-one so for many years, I didn’t want to go digital. But now, yes, I’m thinking about digital.” 

On the importance of vulnerable leadership and seeking mentorship… 

 “I think that honest leadership is how I want to be seen.”

“I take my role as a leader for the small business community really, really seriously and I wanted to make sure that everyone else out there knows that none of us have our shit together. It’s okay to admit that this is rough, it’s a fucking global pandemic. It’s not that we don’t know how to run businesses or we’re not good at accounting, it’s a global crisis.”

“I’ve never once taken any funding or taken a loan but I realized very early on that Go Fund Me was a good option because the community loves what we do. The response from the community was so amazing.”

On pivoting her business strategy…

“Creating content that serves your community will bring you back 10 fold in the long run. I’m still seeing a lot of brands doing the hard sell and I think right now we need to think about social media from a content perspective not a selling/shopping perspective. So talking about your story, how you make your products, getting over yourself and doing an IG live, or showing the materials. For me content is about having a conversation and letting people into your world.”

“Figure out a strategy that is realistic time-wise.”

“Email to me is the most amazing avenue because people have asked to hear from you and there is no algorithm keeping people from hearing from you.”

 

Tonya Rapley, Entrepreneur, Best Selling Author 

On money tips for small business owners…

“Be kind to yourself, be gentle to yourself, now is not the time to say credit is the enemy. If you need to use credit to float your cash, now is the time.” 

“Be mindful of how you are using it (credit) and have a plan for how you are going to pay it off.”  

“Pay attention to legislation, pay attention to what is going on, and position yourself to get in line if there is going to be funding available. Maybe you don’t receive money that first wave, but you might receive it that second wave—I see this going on a long time.”

“We give so much as business owners that we aren’t usually open to receiving but people want to give back to us too.” 

On getting ahead now so you hit the ground running post-pandemic…

“Diversification in investing can safeguard your portfolio and it can also safeguard your business. By putting all your eggs in one basket and having one buyer, it makes you vulnerable, pandemic, or not.” 

“If you’re having difficulty sourcing some of your products, communicating with your customers and saying ‘this is why this is happening, we won’t be able to stock this for a while, is there something else we can offer you’ is the best approach instead of going radio silent.” 

“This is probably the most understanding time period that we all will experience when it comes to humanity because we are all experiencing this together, and we see the impact. Don’t take advantage of that but understand it and use that as you communicate with your customers.”

“There’s power in transparency and opportunity in that as well.”


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