At Sweetwater labs, we produce natural skin-care products. Three years ago, my wife, Nadia, made some for herself. Then we gave them to our friends and they asked for more, so we started selling a little. We developed the first products in our apartment in New York, and then we rented out a space and created a lab—that’s where the name comes from.
Before the crisis, most of our sales had come from our physical locations—one in the World Trade Center (the Oculus) and one in the Columbus Circle Underground Market. We noticed that they started slowing down with all the terrible news coming out about a month ago, and now they’re completely closed. Obviously, the crisis affected restaurants, bars, stores, and so many businesses. Now we don’t have any revenue from those spaces, but, fortunately, we also have a website for online sales.
In the past two weeks, we’ve seen people buying from our website, especially because we started developing new products, such as a natural sanitizer. So it’s not such a big difference for us as it might be for other businesses. As much as we’re going through our own challenges, there are people who have it so much worse than us, like restaurant owners, bartenders, and waiters, so we are really grateful for what we do have. We are always trying to look on the bright side.
Now we are putting more effort into email campaigns and online marketing. We’ve been working on it for a while, but never had time to finish it until now. These days we can email people about our new products. We were sold out a few days after we started promoting our sanitizer, and we have more orders than we normally do. We are trying to use the crisis as an opportunity to develop our business in another, more digital direction.
We will always have our physical locations, because people want to smell and try out our products. It’s not the same when you see a Facebook or Instagram ad and you don’t really know whether you’ll like it or not. But in order to grow business we need to reach out to hundreds or thousands or millions of people instead of meeting fifty or a hundred people a day. If we email ten thousand people in two weeks and there’s only one thousand people who open the email, and a hundred people buy our products, it’s not a lot—but it’s a hundred more new customers. By the end of two months, we will have five hundred new customers.
Sanitizers help us to sustain the revenue for sure, but they’re also a way for new customers to learn about the company. For example, this week we had a lot of orders for sanitizer. One woman said that she was just Googling natural sanitizer, because regular ones damage skin, and our website popped up, so she ordered a few other things, too.
The main challenge for us is definitely to continue to get ourselves out there and connect with people. Normally we would do events and connect with people in-person—that’s how we get their attention and make them read the email and hold onto them as a customer.
In terms of our rents, we are negotiating on credit for the future for the days that we are closed. We’re also continuing to pay the charities we work with a part of our revenue. That’s part of our core mission, to support good causes, so even in these hard times we keep doing it. It’s not thousands of dollars, but it’s something.
As for the team, we have six employees and we treat them like family. Fortunately, we didn’t have to lay off the team—we just found other things they can help us with from home.
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