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How women in business are innovating during a crisis

How women in business are innovating during a crisis
20 May 2020
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has caused global disruption and has changed the way in which we live and work. 
  • Through the hard times come stories of innovation and determination. Many organisations are rethinking their day to day operations to continue trading during this time. 
  • Businesses that are agile and adaptable will be more successful during times of major disruption. 
  • Many businesses owners are supporting their communities through acts of kindness.

We’ve heard it for a while now - these are unprecedented times

Unless you are over 102 years old, you won’t have witnessed disruption on a global scale as a result of a pandemic as we are now. There is no roadmap to guide us on what to do next or how we should be feeling. Organisations such as Beyond Blue are experiencing increased demand for support as people navigate uncertainty. Businesses are turning to the government for financial support and in private we are struggling with sharing the load at home in this ‘new normal’. 

But with every challenge come stories of inspiration. It is important during this moment in history to reflect on what we are doing well and to see the positive wherever we can. So, here are some stories of Australian business women in the Mums & Co community being agile, inspirational and pivoting with the best of them to keep their business afloat.

Recent challenges

Unexpected change has caught business owners (and the world) by surprise resulting in unforeseen challenges. Donna from SheSaw (a travel company that celebrates women’s roles in society) launched her business a week before the pandemic was declared. The travel industry has been one of the hardest hit and, as a result, ‘it meant cancelling all tours planned for 2020 and rethinking our entire business’. Similarly, Isobel from Isobel Stewart Coaching was ‘in the middle of setting up the sales coaching side to my business, which would have been my main income stream’ just as the world changed and she had to reevaluate her plans.

Retail is another industry that has been profoundly affected. Claire from Jellystone Designs (manufacturers of teethers and toys) has faced challenges with many of her stockists being closed for business as well as the quandary of how to ‘manage the demands of homeschooling and running our business day to day’. 

This challenge of extreme togetherness (working from home with the kids at home too) has been a tricky situation for many business owners to manage. Paige from The Create Change Studio (that offers screen-free alternatives for entertaining your kids at home or on-the-go) says, ‘I've found my business and personal development being relegated to late at night (10pm-4am). Even though I'm quite conditioned to the situation, this has taken a toll on my wellbeing, mentally and physically, as there has been no respite at any stage’. Similarly, Nikki from The Divorce and Separation Hub has found that discovering ‘how to provide and be of service in a crisis without self combusting’ has been challenging.

How businesses are adapting

Flexibility and adapting to changing environments is often key in determining business success. Our community of women in business are rapidly adapting their businesses in response to global changes. Donna pivoted her travel business from in person experiences to an online offering.

‘We did a virtual women’s tour of Sydney via Instagram and got over 2000 likes! We are now planning domestic tours, identifying and partnering with female-led businesses to show our clients Australia “through her eyes”. We set up SheSaw to increase the visibility of women and support their economic empowerment - we aren’t going to let a pandemic get in the way of that!’

Other business owners are also bringing their offerings entirely online. Nikki has found herself ‘doing a lot of pro bono work for which I am grateful to be able to be of service’. Due to recent job losses or reduction in employment hours many clients are no longer able to manage fees. Donna, whose skincare products Dermatonics are normally exclusively available in clinics, has ‘pivoted and created products that our clinics can sell while everyone is in isolation’, including at home facial kits.

Many businesses are adopting flexible working arrangements. Claire’s team ‘connects regularly via apps like Houseparty and often there are little people on the call. Discussing mental health and self care have also been part of our meetings.’  Wellness has been an adaptation for Isobel as well.

‘I have focused the wellness piece as a way of giving back to those who were unsure which way to go. I have pivoted to a new model of being online with daily videos, webinars and classes to keep people feeling positive, inspired, motivated and calm.’

Women leading the way in innovation and kindness

Acts of kindness through innovation is a theme within our community. Alongside her pro bono work, Nikki is ‘writing a new course which will (I hope) guide people in times of high conflict and heightened crisis’.

Given how anxiety-driven these times have been, Jellystone Designs have surprised and delighted their customers by including gifts with purchases and providing products to suppliers for giveaways and prizes. ‘This was a small gesture we could offer as we all face such hardships’, said Claire.

Isobel aimed to create a consistent presence for an inconsistent and uncertain time through her coaching, ‘by delivering free content daily in the form of morning motivation videos (as a way to help motivate and inspire others through such a challenging and changing time), which has been a wonderful way to support people through this time as well as online workshops and classes.’

Forced innovation has resulted in an unexpected pivot in business for Donna. ‘The virtual tour was our biggest innovation...we will be running another on East Coast Tasmania in the coming weeks, and also doing a live broadcast of our first on the ground tour of Sydney as soon as restrictions are lifted.’

Advice for other entrepreneurs

We’re all in need of a little pep talk at the moment. Here is some final words of advice from our community:
‘Make a plan, then don’t be afraid to ignore it. Grow wherever you happen to be planted.’ Donna, SheSaw
‘Wherever possible share some kindness.’ Claire, Jellystone Designs
‘There is one version of you and only one and the world needs that gift that you were given and that you have to offer. There may be other people doing something similar but they don't have your gift and that's what makes you unique. Stay in your own lane - you got this!’ Nikki, The Divorce and Separation Hub
‘People are still searching for your product. In this downtime, people have more time on their hands to do their research. People want to go back to some sort of normal, so they will be searching for the products you are offering. Don't give up, this is all temporary and you would be surprised at how your business may do after we start returning to normal. Get your product out there!’ Donna, Dermatonics
‘It's a marathon, not a sprint. Don't worry about what others are doing, focus on what works for you.’ Paige, The Create Change Studio
‘It’s never going to be perfect and not everyone is going to like it, go for it anyway.’ Alexandra, The French Hack
‘Ask for help when you need it and don't be afraid to put your ideas out there. We choose our path in life so why wouldn't you choose one that makes you happy? I did, and I haven't looked back.’ Catherine, V and Me Custom Design
‘Gratitude always grounds me in times of stress, uncertainty and overwhelm. What’s one small opportunity this time has given you? For me it is my time with my son and partner - it’s been so special for us as a family. Feeling gratitude keeps us in the present moment instead of worrying about the past or the future “what ifs”.’ Isobel, Isobel Stewart Coaching


Recommended Viewing: Webinar: How To Build Your Brand In A Crisis
Recommended Reading: Working From Home With The Kids In Lock Down
Recommended Reading: 10 Mental Health Resources To Get You Through COVID-19
Recommended Reading: How To Find Connection In Times of Social Distancing and Self Isolation

Mums & Co have created a special taskforce to support our 345,000 + members to best manage throughout the coronavirus crisis. The taskforce includes 15 experts, who will be answering your questions via daily webinars and making themselves available for individual consultations, if you need. We’re also developing a chat-bot to support you, 24.7. Access to our taskforce is available via a Mums & Co premium membership, which we are providing for free for the next 3 months.


We’re here to support you and we’re stronger together. Join us here.


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