Video report by Carole Green
Small businesses in Wales have been under enormous pressure during the coronavirus crisis and many have had to adapt to keep themselves afloat.
From pizza subscription services to providing online cooking lessons – Welsh businesses have innovated in the face of the crisis and, in many ways, have been able to adapt better than larger companies.
Half of small and medium sized businesses in Wales say they grew their customer base during the Covid-19 pandemic thanks to adaptations made to stay open – and many more say they plan to take advantage of a growing trend to ‘shop local’.
One independent pizza restaurant has launched a pizza subscription service after their make-at-home pizza kits proved to be a lockdown success.
Dusty Knuckle started with a homemade oven and travelling to local markets in 2014.
They now have a shipping container restaurant at The Boneyard in Canton, a Cardiff city centre restaurant called DARK and a summer pitch at Ogmore-By-Sea.
Dusty Knuckle co-founder Phill Lewis said “We were blown away by the response to our make-at-home pizza kits during lockdown, and after listening to feedback from our customers, we decided to make them a permanent fixture.
“We’re hoping that a subscription will encourage people to try out some new toppings and recipes, and give us a chance to showcase the incredible producers which we use to create our pizzas.”
Margaret Ogunbanwo runs Maggie’s exotic foods from Penygroes, Gwynedd.
She makes African inspired sauces and before the coronavirus pandemic she relied on food festivals to sell her products.
When Wales went into lockdown her business came to a “standstill” and she started doing takeaways and providing online cooking lessons.
Everything changed for Margaret afterand the business was flooded with orders by people looking to show their support.
The racist graffiti inspired a positive outpouring from people all over the country after it received significant media coverage.
“I was amazed at the reaction. I stopped looking because 67 orders I can handle, I know what to do with it, but 10 ten orders an hour, every hour – even past midnight. I thought ‘I don’t even have the stock for that.’”
Margaret thinks things have shifted and more people will turn to local businesses in the future.
“I think people’s mindsets are changing. If you shop based on quality then you’ll stick with local businesses but if you’re shopping on a budget then you’ll go to the supermarkets.
“More businesses have shifted. Small businesses are better prepared to present really nice looking products.”
I want to help untie women’s hands.
Despite the general uncertainty caused by the virus, Margaret has an eye on the future and wants to use her experiences to help other African businesses, particularly those run by women, to get started.
“When I grew up in Nigeria you would go to the street corner and there would be loads of business women with their few wares. I just thought there were so many small businesses but these people were selling so they could eat the next day.
“What I want to do is untie women’s hands and help them to build up their own businesses – that’s one of the things that drives me.”
Meghan Gane makes plant based cosmetics and is passionate about her products being environmentally friendly and cruelty free.
The business lost “a massive amount” of its income when markets closed and the biggest challenge has been reaching customers.
Sey-Beauté Naturelle is based out of Caerphilly and Cardiff, and while it’s been a challenging time for the business Meghan hopes more people will choose to support local, ethical businesses.
“Small businesses are the backbone of the local economy. So if I make money I am also going to employ someone from south Wales and then the money goes through them.”
“The money goes around within our community so it does help bring jobs, it does help with everything else. I just hope people realise that. It’s better than massive chains.
“If you can find something just as good from a small business, then why not buy from them? Because you’re helping your economy within your area.”
The COVID-19 pandemic sparked a rise in consumer spending with local businesses, which is set to continue after lockdown, according to research from Santander UK.
But despite this, as many as one in ten small businesses in Wales affected by the pandemic expect their operations to return to normal in 2020.
Spiffy in Carmarthen is the UK’s first ‘happiness shop’ and sells things to help people stay happy and encourage mental wellbeing.
The shop is run by Paul Young and Shaun Potter. They were supposed to get married in May but coronavirus put it that on hold.
“We closed when lockdown hit and we furloughed two staff. We directed all our attention to our website and it was a bit of a juggling act because of logistical problems with lockdown.
“My partner and I run the business together and we ended up having to take on all the work. The online demand was so high, it was like Christmas, but with only two of us working. We would have struggled with the four of us.
“We’ve got a very loyal following and people are very supportive of us because of the nature of what we do with happiness and mental health. Everybody was experiencing the same feelings of anxiety and uncertainty so we were well placed to be able to do what we do and support them.”
Spiffy has now reopened but Paul says footfall is a concern as shoppers remain cautious about going back to the high street.
“The online business is doing well, the shop is a bit of a concern because the footfall isn’t there. It’s too early to say, as we’ve just been open a few days but we are hoping it picks up.
“People aren’t returning to normal as quickly as I thought they would. There isn’t a rush to move back to normal, people are still being very tentative.”