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Five tips for SMMEs to overcome the pandemic [Opinion]

Local small business owner, Mama Bongi shares her five tips for overcoming the pandemic for South African SMMEs….

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Six months ago Mama Bongi the brand did not exist. Fast-forward to the end of 2020 and the artisanal chocolate biscuit bakery is reportedly supplying hundreds of bags of cookies to deli’s, food stores, and cafes all around the country, while large retailers are banging on their door to stock them. And this all happened while the country went into hard lockdown.

Top five tips for overcoming the pandemic

Millions of small businesses have been at the coal face of this pandemic. And many have not only survived but thrived. So says Karl Westvig, CEO of Retail Capital, whose company has published the book, Unlocked, a journey of struggle and survival to overcome lockdown as a business owner in South Africa.

The book features Mama Bongi’s story, which began in Julia Finnis-Bedford’s kitchen where Mama would make lunches for people on set with Amazing Spaces – Julia’s film location agency.

Mama would also make batches of cookies that proved very popular not only on film sets but also as client gifting. It was a small business in the making and then lockdown happened. There were no more film shoots and no more client gifting. Fortunately, a local deli agreed to stock the cookies, which paid off in a big way.

Here are Julia and Mama Bongi’s top five tips for overcoming the pandemic:

Stick to the recipe

When everything is going right, and something like a pandemic comes along that is out of your control, the best thing to do is focus on what you can still control. Many entrepreneurs who were on the brink of closure, had to dig deep to remember just what it was that made them successful in the first place.

For us, it was not deviating from a classic recipe that we knew people loved. We didn’t try to reinvent the wheel. Instead, we focused on making what we do, that much better, and then looked at ways to increase our popularity using our newly built website and Instagram.

Tap into your connections

Crises are interpreted differently for all of us and while some thrived in the online environment, others suffered in isolation. It’s about looking around at who you know, firstly in your inner circle, then in your working environment, to make recommendations or come to your aid when the chips are down.

We all know someone who has a car, or a computer, or even an essential driving permit during level 5. If there is a will there is a way, just don’t be shy to ask for help.

We needed to get a website set up, but didn’t have the spare money to pay for it. So we asked a designer friend to assist. Kate created the Mama Bongi website for free, just in time for Mother’s Day in May. Product literally flew off the virtual shelves.

The deli we approached also continued to place larger and larger orders as consumers turned to comfort foods during lockdown. Then within weeks, we ran out of the packaging, and thanks to the national shut down was unable to order more. Another friend came to our aid, gifting us with 200 bags, and without any access to stickers, labels were written by hand, adding to the product’s authenticity.

Mama’s cookies quickly caught on, and more cafes approached us to stock them, increasing production from 45 bags to up to 400 bags a week within just 3 months.

Embrace social media

Not being able to connect in person with people, we realised just how powerful social media could be for us. Using Instagram really paid off and catapulted Mama into the foodie sphere and soon we had big foodie bloggers following us saying they had tasted our cookies and loved them. They shared our photos and rave reviews about our product, thus exposing us to a much wider audience. Having a good product is what will distinguish you from the next guy, so stick to your winning recipe and it can’t hurt to take good photos too. Our own @mama.bongi page now has over 4000 followers.

To prove just how powerful social media can be, Mama Bongi got the attention of uCook’s Catherine Cartwright. She initially asked for two samples, which – after the cookie recipe was tweaked following Catherine’s advice, ended up being stocked by them. They also shared photos of the cookies with their 72 000 followers Instagram page. Stories by FoodSA and Woolworth’s Taste Magazine followed which lead to national inquiries, one being from a family-run Pick n Pay store in Pietermaritzburg, which is now a regular stockist.

Local is lekker

With borders being shut and imports and exports either forbidden or delayed, many industries found they couldn’t trade because of a part of the product they needed from overseas. The lockdown has taught us all to consider trading locally. We after all have so much talent and quality products right here to maintain our livelihoods.

While Mama is now stocked in stores countrywide, and online sales continue to boom, we’ve decided to keep our production line small, so we can focus on quality and maintain the brand’s artisanal feel. Investing in Mama’s entrepreneurial journey has caught the attention of many influencers and retailers because it’s a good local story, and we owe much of her early success to their support.

Planning Ahead

No matter how bleak the future may look, especially with there is a very real threat of a second wave, one needs to continue forging ahead. Planning is as essential as maintaining a positive outlook.

Our plan with Mama Bongi is to increase the size of the team so she gets help in the kitchen, thereby creating employment opportunities. I am also teaching Mama how to run a business, manage the costs, and overheads while producing a profitable product. With major retailers now knocking on the door, the challenge now is how to maintain our local bakery feel, while meeting demand from national stockists who all want a taste of Mama’s magic.

This article was written by Karl Westvig, CEO of Retail Capital.

Featured image: Mama Bongi (Supplied)

Source: https://ventureburn.com/2020/12/five-tips-for-smmes-to-overcome-the-pandemic-opinion/

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Reuters

Eco-friendly sneaker maker Allbirds aims for $2 bln valuation in U.S. IPO

Eco-friendly sneaker maker Allbirds Inc said on Monday it aims to be valued at over $2 billion in its New York IPO, joining a growing number of firms tapping into surging consumer demand and investor interest for such products.

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A sign on the entrance to the Allbirds flagship store is seen in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., September 7, 2021. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Oct 25 (Reuters) – Eco-friendly sneaker maker Allbirds Inc said on Monday it aims to be valued at over $2 billion in its New York IPO, joining a growing number of firms tapping into surging consumer demand and investor interest for such products.

The company, backed by asset manager Franklin Templeton, said it is offering 19.2 million shares priced between $12 and $14 each, along with the selling stockholders. At the top end of that range, the IPO would fetch about $269 million.

As global calls grow to limit global warming and switch to more environmentally friendly ways of living, several companies have come under investor and activist pressure to contribute to the change.

Among a handful of startups that recently tapped into investor interest in such sustainable offerings were Oprah Winfrey-backed vegan milk maker Oatly Group AB (OTLY.O) and Jessica Alba’s consumer goods company Honest Co (HNST.O). read more

Founded in 2015, Allbirds is also backed by Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio and uses wool, fiber derived from eucalyptus and other plant-based alternatives in its products. It has partnered with Adidas to create a range of sustainable sneakers, some of which have become immensely popular across Silicon Valley where the company is headquartered.

Numerous celebrities, top business executives and high-profile personalities such as Barack Obama, Ashton Kutcher and Google co-founder Larry Page have been spotted wearing Allbirds sneakers in recent years.

Allbirds, however, toned down some of its environmental references in an amended filing earlier this month. The company, which said in August it would pioneer a framework to conduct the first-ever “sustainable public equity offering”, later removed references to the claim.

In its latest filing, Allbirds said it expects net revenue to grow up to 32% to $62.5 million for the three months ended Sept. 30, due to higher sales at its physical stores.

However, higher expenses are expected to drive up net losses to about $15 million to $18 million in the quarter, from nearly $7 million a year earlier.

Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan and BofA Securities are the lead underwriters for the offering.

Reporting by Niket Nishant in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Founded in 2015, Allbirds is also backed by Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio and uses wool, fiber derived from eucalyptus and other plant-based alternatives in its products. It has partnered with Adidas to create a range of sustainable sneakers, some of which have become immensely popular across Silicon Valley where the company is headquartered.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/business/retail-consumer/footwear-maker-allbirds-targets-over-2-bln-valuation-us-ipo-2021-10-25/

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ZDNET

Comcast gave me good, precise news. The truth was precisely the opposite

Many companies believe that technology is perfect for customer service communication. Often, though, it just isn’t.

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Please be infinitely accurate, Comcast.

These things happen.

Yes, all too often they happen at very awkward times.

But we’ve allowed ourselves to be at the mercy of technology these days, so who are we to complain.

There I was on a recent Friday afternoon, writing several things and watching something on TV. This was my form of dedicated multitasking.

Suddenly, my tasks ground to a halt: All of my Comcast systems went down.

No TV, no internet, no life. (Schopenhauer was the first to say that.)

At least my iPhone was working, so I went to the Xfinity website to see what had happened and when it might unhappen.

The engineers were working on the outage, I was told. Would I like to sign up for texted updates? Of course I would.

Precision Is A Wonderful Thing.

So I sat, waited, and watched.

The first texted offering was that the outage would be fixed by 5:54 p.m. I sat, waited, and remembered I had an Xfinity app on my phone. I tried opening that too, just in case there was more immediate news.

I tried reading a book, but I had those things to do. They were quite urgent, so I became somewhat itchy.

5:53 p.m. came along. It had been more than three hours. But, when you’re told such a precise time, you believe that the texting entity is very sure that the outage is fixable by that time.

At 5:54 p.m. came the bad news. It would be precisely 9:54 p.m. Oh dear. This evening wasn’t going well.

My wife and I cooked. We sat at the dining table, facing each other. We talked. You see, there’s something marvelous about a Comcast outage. It eliminates the temptation of a TV dinner. Instead, you chat about how annoying it is that there’s a Comcast outage.

But I needed to get those things done that night. Because I did. We had plans for the weekend and we wanted to stick to them.

After Midnight. You Can’t Let It All Hang Out.

Next came a new update. The outage wouldn’t be fixed at all that day. Instead, it was now going to be 12:10 a.m. the next day. Precisely.

Please forgive me if, by this stage, I was getting a touch annoyed with this useless precision. Why be so exact when all you’re doing is exacting my nerve ends?

I can appreciate that some things are harder to fix than others. Yet if you’re giving customers such precise information, shouldn’t they expect to trust that information?

And when they discover that the information is precisely useless, won’t you be driving them precisely bonkers?

As the evening began to concede that night was approaching, I kept refreshing my Xfinity app. I feared the next update would say “in three days time, at precisely 3:43 p.m.” I feared I may not even get a text to confirm it, as the texting machines hadn’t been in touch.

Somewhere near 10 p.m., the app refreshed and there was suddenly no mention of an outage.

I tried turning on the TV. It worked. The internet chugged back up. I could do the things I had to do, through yawns of joy.

Curiously, though, I hadn’t received a text to say that everything was working again. Which, lest you forget, was the reason I signed up for the texted updates in the first place.

Of course I could forgive Comcast. It’s compulsory. The company has become somewhat more customer-oriented over the last couple of years. I know it’s been trying.

Oh, but then came Saturday. I could watch Premier League football (saacker) from the very earliest hours. I could watch golf. I could ignore college football.

Good News. Really Good, Imprecise Late News.

Later we went out, sticking to our plans. It was a lovely afternoon. We were in Safeway buying soup and chicken.

Suddenly, a text. Yes, from the Xfinity out there, also known as Comcast.

It began: “Good news.”

I was going to get a rebate for the complete lack of services that lasted seven hours?

Hope is the mansion with non-existent foundations.

Instead, Comcast texted me: “The outage has been resolved at approximately 3:28 p.m. PDT.”

Please imagine the depths of my pained chuckle. Comcast wanted me to know that it had just fixed the outage that it had fixed the previous evening.

So who had I been receiving Comcast services from the previous night and that morning? From the Xfinity Space Station?

And please note the utter deliciousness of the word approximately. Having been so definitive about the time of fixing, now I was only offered an approximation.

The text didn’t stop there, though.

It added: “Thanks for your patience. Your services should be back up and running. Let me know if you’re still experiencing service issues.”

Should be back up and running? But you told me precisely that the outage was resolved.

Naturally, this all caused me to worry.

As with my abject text-based experience with FedEx a couple of weeks before, I fear that companies have no control over the texts they send to customers.

If you’re going to do it, please be accurate. If you’re going to use such technology, make sure it’s not dribbling finger-in-the-air precision that can only frustrate your customers more.

It’s fine to apologize. It’s less fine to offer the wrong information.

If you can’t make the system work, don’t have the system.

Oh, what am I saying? Technology is customer service these days.

Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/comcast-gave-me-good-precise-news-the-truth-was-precisely-the-opposite/

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Bioengineer

Sex differences in COVID-19 outcomes

Credit: Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers In a study of more than 10,600 adult patients hospitalized with COVID-19, women had

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In a study of more than 10,600 adult patients hospitalized with COVID-19, women had significantly lower odds than men of in-hospital mortality. They also had fewer admissions to the intensive care unit and less need for mechanical ventilation. Women also had significantly lower odds of major adverse events, including acute cardiac injury, acute kidney injury, and venous thromboembolism, according to an article in the peer-reviewed Journal of Women’s Health. Click here to read the article now.

“This comprehensive analysis is the largest study to date that directly assesses the impact of sex on COVID-19 outcomes,” stated Rachel-Maria Brown, MD, Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, and coauthors. “Our study strongly demonstrates female sex to be associated with lower odds of in-hospital outcomes, major adverse effects and all-cause mortality as compared to male sex after controlling for confounding variables.” The authors propose some of the protective factors that may contribute to these findings.

In the accompanying editorial entitled “Lessons Learned from COVID-19 Sex Disparities,” Annabelle Santos Volgman, MD, Rush University Medical Center, and coauthors, suggest various mechanisms by which female sex may confer a protective advantage against COVID-19 infection. One advantage may be the extra X chromosome, which carries multiple genes responsible for innate and adaptive immunity.

Volgman and coauthors emphasize that “although women have less mortality risk with COVID-19, we need to exercise caution not to send a message to deliver subpar care to women with COVID-19 or decrease measures to prevent their infection. Our evolving knowledge should not reduce attention paid to women admitted for COVID-19.”

###

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R24AG064191, R01LM012836, R01 NR018443. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

About the Journal

Journal of Women’s Health, published monthly, is a core multidisciplinary journal dedicated to the diseases and conditions that hold greater risk for or are more prevalent among women, as well as diseases that present differently in women. Led by Editor-in-Chief Susan G. Kornstein, MD, Executive Director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Institute for Women’s Health, Richmond, VA, the Journal covers the latest advances and clinical applications of new diagnostic procedures and therapeutic protocols for the prevention and management of women’s healthcare issues. Complete tables of content and a sample issue may be viewed on the Journal of Women’s Health website. Journal of Women’s Health is the official journal of the Society for Women’s Health Research.

About the Publisher

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers is known for establishing authoritative peer-reviewed journals in many promising areas of science and biomedical research. A complete list of the

Source: https://bioengineer.org/sex-differences-in-covid-19-outcomes/

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