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My name is Connie Hering. I am the Managing Partner for Pet Wants Fort Wayne. We have been in business for a little over a year as an online and event-based business, selling Pet Wants brand dog and cat food formulations and other natural products for dogs and cats. Hering
Before events started being canceled due to concerns about COVID-19, about two-thirds of our business was event-driven, and one-third was from online orders via our website for delivery to homes and businesses.
Since launching, our goal has been to swap those numbers, moving the majority of our business to online ordering for delivery.
Well, due to events being canceled or postponed, now about 95 percent of our business is online and delivery and the other 5 percent is event-driven, as we are still welcome as vendors at the Fort Wayne Farmers Market, which is still operating.
This unlikely turn of events has me thinking about the possible side effects of COVID-19 on our small business community in Fort Wayne, and there are two encouraging effects I’m noticing that I would like to see continue after this pandemic is over.
First, I would like to see more online and event-driven models like ours be taken seriously as businesses.
Since we do not have a brick-and-mortar location for Pet Wants, I think it is easy for people to not take us as seriously as businesses who do have storefronts. Too many times we've been at events or markets, and the first thing that someone asks is: "Where is your business located?"
When we explain our model, we are either embraced as being innovative or taken as a less than legitimate business since we don’t have a storefront. But now, under the restrictions of COVID-19, the tables are turning, and many brick-and-mortar stores are rethinking their models.
Stores that may not have had an online presence in the past have had to change their business model and quickly. Some are launching websites, some are taking phone orders (most restaurants) for either delivery or pick-up, and I've seen at least one store with someone standing outside the door taking orders for one or two items, finding the items in the store, and then taking payment from the customer right at the door.
In other words, I’m seeing people do anything they can to keep their businesses running and provide for the needs of their customers.
Pet Wants Fort Wayne's booth at the Home & Garden Show.
This leads me to my second point: Another encouraging thing I’m seeing right now in Fort Wayne’s business community is small businesses supporting each other.
Some are putting together “like and share” events on their social media pages for a chance to win prizes from several different businesses at once. There is also at least one Facebook page dedicated to supporting local restaurants in Fort Wayne and one for supporting local small businesses, too.
Some businesses are even stepping up to the plate to serve our city in unconventional ways. For example, Three Rivers Distilling Company’s staff is repurposing their equipment to make as much hand sanitizer as they possibly can for those who are truly in need during COVID-19, Cinda B and Vera Bradley are converting their operations to make protective face masks for healthcare workers, and I'm sure there are many other businesses doing their part to help the community during this vulnerable time, too.
When the threat of COVID-19 has passed, and we are able to go back to our new version of normalcy, I would like to see these local business partnerships continue.
After all, partnerships between online and brick-and-mortar businesses can provide a "value-added" benefit to both.
Share your COVID-19 experience
Do you have an experience or words of advice you’d like to share with Fort Wayne related to COVID-19? Email your submission to [email protected] for consideration.