Like any region these days, Cookeville and Putnam County are reeling economically from the impact of COVID-19, but the area is also dealing with a second challenge – recovering from the devastating impact of an EF-4 tornado that hit in early March.
With that extra backdrop, it was inspiring when nearly 30 people participated in a virtual brainstorming session yesterday on one topic: “Zoom Up Your Revenue.” The 75-minute event was arranged by the Cookeville Center of the Tennessee Small Business Development Center (TSBDC) and The Biz Foundry.
Moderated by Tyler Asher of the TSBDC along with Jeff Brown of The Biz Foundry, the freewheeling discussion included participants describing initiatives they had launched to respond to the crisis while some asked for advice on a specific problem and still others offered assistance.
Kellie Fitzpatrick, Owner of Lenny & Eva, a retail, wholesale and online store in Baxter, described several different revenue-generating ideas she has pursued. She said that 80 percent of her revenues are derived from wholesaling products to other retailers. When so many retailers closed, her revenues took a big hit.
Then, creativity took over, Fitzpatrick realized that she had sufficient inventory to launch “DYI Bracelet Kits.” She also described a virtual trunk show offered on Facebook Live. Later in the session, Fitzpatrick described an upcoming initiative with nine other businesses with different products that have come together to jointly market their goods leveraging each other’s mailing lists in a virtual market.
On the help side, Sandy MacDonald, the new owner of Ralph’s Donut Shop, a legendary Cookeville business, described a challenge she is facing in trying to recover the popular shop’s Facebook page that the former owner created but abandoned when the business was sold. A number of people on the Zoom-enabled event offered her advice that ranged from just starting another page and find an incentive to attract people to Brown saying, “I think we might know someone who can help you” recover the page.
Ironically, this Saturday was the date for The Biz Foundry’s second annual “Made Here Market” that drew more than 50 artists and makers and 4,000 attendees in 2019. With the current restrictions on gatherings of any size, the event is postponed, so several of the participants talked about ways that a virtual version of the market might be offered at a later date.
Social media questions and suggestions were another popular topic, again covering everything from making sure a company’s website is up-to-date with opening and closing times to using Instagram as a connection tool, not necessarily as a sales tool right now, and the integration of Facebook and YouTube.
As the session concluded, Asher and Brown said they would schedule another brainstorming discussion soon.