Pandemic resilience

Small businesses offer lessons in resilience during pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably brought about some of the toughest times in modern history, but it also shined a spotlight on the resiliency of the human spirit. From viral videos of cities joining in song from apartment windows to businesses finding unique ways to connect with customers when we literally had to stay apart, resiliency has continually defined humanity during these trying times.

And while almost every business stumbled out of the gate, the trailblazing initiative that beats in the hearts of entrepreneurs everywhere helped companies find their way, overcome, and thrive—often leaning on their unique backgrounds to find individual solutions.

Overcoming an online shopping jam

When chef-, woman-, and minority-owned Trade Street Jam Co. started in a tiny apartment on Trade Street in North Carolina, founder Ashley Rouse set out to build her company on the foundation of culinary innovation. True to those roots, among the company’s small-batch jars of jam are flavors like Blueberry Lemon Basil and Sour Cherry Ginger. Fast forward to today and the now Brooklyn, NY-based company has found another outlet for its innovative spirit—namely finding a way to thrive during the pandemic.


trade street jam products



“With COVID-19 and the BLM push, more people moved to online shopping and supporting BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and People of Color] businesses,” says Ashley. “While that was a good thing, it was also a significant challenge for us as we struggled to meet demand, faced shipping delays, and had to press pause on wholesale ordering for over three months during the holiday season—our busiest buying time.”

Their solution? “Just keep up with all the orders and stay cool,” says Ashley, who also had a baby around this time. “I never took a break. I was literally being induced at the hospital, and I have a picture of me with a laptop on my belly, because all these orders were flowing in.” Ashley also credits hiring more staff, like an assistant and someone to help with customer service, and being properly prepared for big growth in advance. “We already had a system that worked really well,” she says. “The movement of the supply chain was fine, we just had to make more jam, quicker.”

Overall, Ashley maintains that the mindset that helped her adapt as a small business in the pandemic was simple: “Being comfortable with being uncomfortable,” she says. “Because I’m growing.”

Seeking partnerships that flower

Meanwhile, down in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, flower suppliers Harmony Harvest Farm faced a similar set of problems but took a different approach to solving them. Owned and operated by sisters Jessica Hall and Stephanie Auville and mom Chris Auville, the family-centric cut flower farm had already switched from selling bulk flowers to local shops and designing gorgeous wedding arrangements to a business model more in line with shifting demands.

“We were forced to find new ways to keep our dream alive, and through an adverse year, we ended up discovering much more.”

“When COVID-19 hit,” says Chris, “all of our markets were wholesale, we had weddings and we had events, and all of those stopped.” But out of unexpected circumstances, they bloomed. “We were forced to find new ways to keep our dream alive, and through an adverse year, we ended up discovering much more.” And farming their own flowers gave them an advantage. “80% of flowers sold in the U.S. are imported from other countries,” says Stephanie. “With COVID, those imports stopped.” The family realized that their American-grown flowers could provide what many other suppliers couldn’t. They created American-grown flower bouquets and DIY flower boxes sourced from their farm as well as other U.S. farming families, and started shipping them nationwide from their online store.


And their sales skyrocketed. With the support of FedEx, they were able to adjust and take on the gigantic rise in deliveries.“90% of the time, being a small business owner is just whispering ‘What the heck’ to yourself,” Stephanie says. “We were running around like our heads were cut off, and FedEx was just like, ‘I got you.’”

Ultimately, what really helped drive the family was providing connection and comfort during an unpredictable and unprecedented time, when people all across the country were missing loved ones and special events were canceled. “We realized during COVID how important it was to feed our souls, and there is an innate value that flowers bring to us,” says Jessica. “It just really gave us a chance to highlight all of the attributes of what we do.”


Harmony harvest farm owner
Harmony harvest farm owner


And their sales skyrocketed. With the support of FedEx, they were able to adjust and take on the gigantic rise in deliveries.“90% of the time, being a small business owner is just whispering ‘What the heck’ to yourself,” Stephanie says. “We were running around like our heads were cut off, and FedEx was just like, ‘I got you.’”

Ultimately, what really helped drive the family was providing connection and comfort during an unpredictable and unprecedented time, when people all across the country were missing loved ones and special events were canceled. “We realized during COVID how important it was to feed our souls, and there is an innate value that flowers bring to us,” says Jessica. “It just really gave us a chance to highlight all of the attributes of what we do.”

Beefing up operations

Over in Kansas City, the veterans who own and operate K.C. Cattle Company aren’t just veterans of the armed services—they were well-versed in adapting to changing business models before COVID-19 hit. A few years ago, the Wagyu beef specialists made the shift from selling bulk quality beef to restaurants to focusing on direct-to-consumer sales that “bridge the gap between agriculture and the consumer,” as owner Patrick Montgomery puts it.

KC Cattle company products


With 88% of their orders already shipped directly to household doorsteps in all 50 states, K.C. Cattle Company thought they had a solid footing when shipping became almost mandatory overnight during the lockdown. “However, because of delays in shipping and increases in processing costs due to COVID, my company was still not making money,” says Patrick. Leaning on their backgrounds—which, as anyone with military experience can tell you, includes an extensive understanding of how the supply chain works—the team of U.S. veterans executed a tactical regroup and redeploy.

“We are working on building a fulfillment center closer to the city with a retail space as well,” says Patrick. “This would allow us to get a better ground map from FedEx and to have an easier option for consumers in the Kansas City area to pick up.” When complete, Patrick estimates that the new direction will allow him to provide jobs for another 10-15 veterans.

And for Patrick, this is everything. “It’s my absolute favorite part of the business, to be able to help the veterans that work here, and also the community here in Kansas City,” he says. Patrick is also motivated to address misconceptions about the veteran community through his business. “I think we have this idea right now that when veterans exit the military, they’re kind of broken individuals,” he says, “and it’s absurd because they just have so much to offer this country.”

Shopping small, shipping big

2020 wasn’t the year anyone saw coming, but these entrepreneurs utilized their resilience and adaptability to weather the storm. For many small businesses, FedEx was able to help connect these businesses to their customers, near and far. “Kevin, our rep from FedEx, really advocated for us to get the best rates possible for ground shipping,” says Stephanie of Harmony Harvest Farm. “It’s such a connection that our FedEx delivery team has,” adds Jessica. “They know my kids, they bring the dogs treats, they’re out there, spreading smiles.”

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