Coronavirus: Stories of How Entrepreneurs in Cherokee County, Georgia are Adapting, Part 1
COVID-19, or Coronavirus, is a global pandemic with regional and local impact from schools and hospitals to businesses and neighborhoods. Some talking heads are saying it will have a more negative impact on our economy than our personal health. And, the same is true from smalltown America to urban and suburban areas like Metro Atlanta; specifically, Cherokee County, Georgia (30 miles NW of Atlanta).
We reached out to some of the small businesses in Cherokee, and the entrepreneurs who run them, to find out how COVID-19 is impacting them and their business, how they are adapting, and how they are staying focused and finding hope through the chaos. We will share a story of a different entrepreneur each day so that their unique story will give you practical help and powerful hope to stay positive, be creative, and run and grow your startup business through their shared experiences.
After all, this epidemic is brand new and we are all figuring out as we go. But, we are stronger if we stick together in a community, regardless of the social distance between us. Entrepreneurship is as old as the American spirit of rising above the valleys and climbing toward the summit one step at a time, together.
Entrepreneurship is as old as the American spirit of rising above the valleys and climbing toward the summit one step at a time, together.
This series is powered by Fresh Start Cherokee, the entrepreneurship initiative of the Cherokee Office of Economic Development (COED).
Story 1: Gerald Griffith, VoiceOverCity Media Services (VMS), Woodstock, Georgia.
— VMS provides audio-visual services that include webcasting, A/V equipment rentals, and support for those wanting to get their message to the masses.
1. How has the COVID-19 situation impacted your business recently (positively or negatively)?
In the grand scheme of things, I’m not sure. Short-term, it stings a bit as I’ve had to cancel an event I, and my team, have spent the last 10 months planning. On the other hand, I remind myself that great pivots in business happen when circumstances change and we’re forced to adapt.
Imagine being so proud of the ability to tell people your event had attendees from 20 countries only to have that become your largest liability. Then imagine having not one, but two hotels to work with regarding contracts, cancellation terms, and how to move forward. Now add in more than 800 individual business owners who want to have their individual questions answered.
2. How have you and your business adapted to the situation?
So far the changes have caused me to ask what it is I actually provide to my clients. I don’t provide a product in the sense that I can put something in a box and deliver it to my clients. I’m a service provider and partner to my clients so my ‘product’ is a ‘perceived value’ they receive when I work with them to achieve a stated aim/goal.
3. How have you prepared and led your team/employees?
In this situation, I think my biggest strength has been my tendency to stay calm when everyone else wants to run around with their hair on fire. I guess it helps that I don’t have any hair on my head to burn.
I focus on working with my team to empathize with their position, how things are impacting them, and how they are coping with this situation. They are people and they have their own needs. My role is to try and provide a sense of calm and understanding while also keeping the team focused on the road ahead.
4. What new things/perspectives (or old ones reinforced) have you learned about yourself, your business, and/or your community?
Myself… I’m continuing to learn that there are situations that are well outside my control. When dealing with those situations, it’s important to show both an analytical side AND a human side.
Business… I’ve had to take a step back and realize that when people purchase a ticket or service from me, they aren’t buying a widget. They are buying into the idea that something I have to offer will help them achieve something. Whether they are looking for a new career or trying to share their special event with the world, they are buying into the idea that my services can help them.
Community… This one is a little harder for me since I have two communities. My event community spans 20 countries and 40+ states here in the U.S. My local community is made up of individuals that share regular meetings with me, see me during live streaming at the local high school, or run into me at the local grocery store.
These communities are very different and it’s important for me to adapt my marketing and communications style to reflect the specific needs of the prospective communities.
5. How have you stayed focused and positive?
I’m choosing to see this as an opportunity to pivot and adjust. My personal thought is that time spent panicking and worrying is time lost. It doesn’t mean I don’t have concerns, but it does mean that I realize that worry or fear can’t turn a wrench, build a website, or make a call. If you want something to change, you have to put your energy into action.
6. What are some encouraging thoughts or stories you have heard that have kept you grounded?
“BE ENCOURAGED!!!” You’re a small business owner. You wear many hats and you didn’t get to this point by sitting on your butt talking about success. Get back to the basics, build new partnerships, reconnect with your existing clients, and take advantage of the fact that being small gives you the ability to pivot in ways that larger, more established organizations can.
If there’s ever anything I can do to help, let me know.
You can do this.
To learn more about Gerald Griffith and VoiceOver City Media Services, visit https://voiceovercity.com/.
Stay tuned tomorrow, Wednesday, March 18, 2020, for our second story and entrepreneur. We hope you are inspired by these stories and motivated to stay in the game.
Have ideas, questions or stories? Reach out to us at cherokeega.org or emailing us directly: email@example.com.