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You can’t go to the hair salon or the bar, the dog trainer or the karate studio.
But you can take home a touch-up kit or a do-it-yourself cocktail, and even get lessons online.
As coronavirus spreads, businesses of all kinds are looking for new ways to serve customers from afar. Among the examples emerging so far are take-home kits and video conferencing.
“So far we have felt a huge impact from the coronavirus,” said Don Hoover, owner of dog training service Sit Happens in St Petersburg. “Our meet and greets have slowed down but we have booked several new clients. We’ve definitely felt it but we’re also optimistic about how people are adapting.”
The coronavirus provided the push the business needed to finish an online dog training program already in the works. Sit Happens Online is a series of videos to train your dog at home, including one video call with a trainer. The company also offers one-on-one training.
As is the case with many, it’s a stopgap measure — not enough to sustain a business but maybe enough to hold it over.
The new root-touchup kits that Cayla Orns sells only replace “a tiny bit” of her lost income, but it’s a way to serve clients from more than six feet away. When Salty Roots Salon and Boutique closed its doors in St. Petersburg last week, the hairstylist heard one question from clients: “What am I supposed to do about my greys?”
So she came up with idea of custom take-home dye kits. Using a photo shot in natural light of the client’s hair, Orns mixes up the right color and supplies dye, peroxide, a brush, gloves — and, of course, instructions.
“It’s super easy,” Orns said. “It’s just two containers and one has color formula.”
She started off selling about 10 kits a day at $45 apiece and has expanded beyond her salon clients. The kits help maintain a routine in lives that have been upended.
Substitutes for in-person experiences are emerging as a theme among inventive businesses.
Bars like Mandarin Heights in Seminole Heights are selling DIY cocktail kits. You get a sealed pouch of everything you need, including the garnish, and a hashtag, too — #MHcurbsidecocktails.
Gourmet Pizza Company in South Tampa offers takeout and delivery, as it always has. But there’s a new item on the menu — pizza kits that come with two dough balls, sauce, mozzarella and pepperoni. There are also adult kits with beer, gluten-free kits and no-frills kits.
Fast-casual, healthy food restaurant SoFresh is now selling groceries. The Tampa-based franchise operation already has a supply chain in place so it’s ordering extra ingredients and selling them as is — proteins like chicken breast and grass-fed steak; produce such as baby kale and sweet potatoes; plus brown rice and quinoa.
Right now, the service is available at the downtown Tampa, University of South Florida and South Howard.
In addition, SoFresh is donating a meal to a local shelter or hospital for every grocery basket sold. From three weeks of sales so far, managing partner Bryan Tissot is divvying up 500 meals among Tampa General Hospital, Johns Hopkins and BayCare.
“Every business operates in fear right now,” Tissot said. “I want to see this as an opportunity for us to show support. Even if we lose money, it’s survival mode.”
If you can’t bring it home, maybe you can see how it’s done through online video platforms such as Zoom. The new model works for dog trainers like Sit Happens as well as martial arts and dance instructors.
World Champion Center in Land O’ Lakes, which does a lot of business through its afterschool program, is conducting video karate classes. Dance studios, like Mary Jo’s Performing Arts in Tampa and Dreamer’s Dance Company in Dunedin, are doing the same.
Instructors aren’t able to walk among students and correct their form, but they can see each student close up.
Natalia Lima, owner of vegan bakery Curious Cat, has shifted from selling her products at open markets to working with other local businesses like Book + Bottle and Blush Tea and Coffee in St. Petersburg.
Lima is also using some newfound time to produce video tutorials, answering questions posed at markets and through Instagram with a new video series on IGTV called, Ask a Vegan baker.
She makes no money on the tutorials but hopes it pays dividends in the long run.
“Right now, I’m just trying to serve my audience,” Lima said. “I feel like I’m building more of a relationship with people and you find they can trust you. I feel like I’m bonding with them more even though we can’t see each other face to face.”
Getting through the pandemic requires generating revenue somehow, but also staying in the minds of customers.
That way, businesses are hoping, people will be quick to return once they get the all-clear signal.
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