Covid-19 has deeply and profoundly disrupted the lives of most people all around the world. It has affected the way that we do most things including the way we spend money, engage in our communities, and participate in our economy. 

As a result, many businesses have unfortunately shut down, suspended operations temporarily, or have been forced to pivot their entire model of doing business to stay alive and relevant amidst current circumstances.  

No matter if you’re a large international corporation or a small business, staying nimble could mean the difference between packing it up or thriving in difficult circumstances. 

Sseko is no exception.

When layoffs began sweeping the country, major retailers took an enormous hit. We even had several well-meaning and intelligent business advisors tell us we should brace ourselves for the likely outcome that Sseko wouldn’t make it. We politely said… “kiss my kaftan” because there was no way we were done. There was no way we were going to look our team in Uganda in the eyes to tell them we had a good run. There was no way we were going to tell our female scholars that their dreams of university were just a dream once more. Nope. 

So we thought we’d share 3 things we did to innovate our business amidst a global crisis to help our us not only survive but to crush goal after goal over these last few months. 

Do Not Accept Defeat 

It’s important to have wise counsel in your business, to employ the opinions of others, and to surround yourself with people who can mentor you. But at the end of the day, you have to remember that this is your business. You’re the one who felt passionate enough to start it and every risk or reward belongs to you. We could have cut our fall line out of production, let go of all of our staff, and took shelter in the basement until all of this passed, but we didn’t. We fondly remembered the early days of our business when we were in startup mode. There were all-nighters, blindly entering new territory, and doing things scared. We embraced those skills once more and forged ahead. 

Consider What Your Audience Needs/Wants

Several large companies have shifted how they do business and what products they offer in order to meet demands from their customers. Here are some examples: 

  • The manufacturing company 3M has said it is sharply increasing its production of N-95 masks and Honeywell said it had more than doubled its production of N-95 masks in recent months. Source
  • One of the largest beauty companies L’Oréal, shifts manufacturing to include hand sanitizer. Source
  • American designer Christian Siriano and European labels Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, and Gucci, among others, have announced they will start making face masks. Source

When it came time, we rallied. We called on our community to stay with us. We launched coffee. 

You read that right, us a fashion brand expanded into a whole other segment of business within a month. 

We’ve been dreaming up a coffee brand for a while now and had plans to see it come to fruition in fall of this year, but once Covid-19 hit and businesses around the world started shutting down, it became clear that we needed to take action on this idea as soon as possible in order to ensure we could take care of team both globally and here in the U.S. Our headquarters team made magic and our Fellows met us with their abundance of enthusiasm.  

We gave our customers a product that they’d be buying even in a time of stretched budgets and lots of time at home. 

Lean into Your Community 

We’re really proud of our Fellows community. They are an incredible group of smart, talented, and tenacious people who are passionate about building their businesses and making an impact on the world. 

When we launched Together Coffee, we had our Fellows in mind. The threat to our business was also a threat to their business. Hundreds of entrepreneurs were counting on us to innovate, work through this, and give them more leverage to succeed. Together Coffee gave our Fellows a new consumable product that they could be confident in sharing with their friends and family. 

Through the launch of Together Coffee, we’ve been able or bring more people into this beloved community with a coffee focused starter kit. It has given people an opportunity to earn an income at home when they might have lost their full-time job or need to supplement their income quickly. 

Knowing that we had our team of Fellows behind us with unwavering support made all the difference. When you make decisions based on the impact of your community, you’ll come out of this with more trust, deeper relationships, and more passionate advocates than you could have ever thought possible.