Headshot of Brenda Nolby, CEO of Jam Hops.
Brenda Nolby, CEO of Jam Hops, successfully pivoted to online classes and at-home services during the pandemic with continuous communication. — Jam Hops

For Brenda Nolby, CEO of children’s enrichment company Jam Hops, communication was crucial to running her business during the pandemic.

“You have to stay in front of your customers so they don’t forget about you, and you have to communicate often with your staff so they don’t feel left in the dark,” Nolby explained.

She also encouraged new and aspiring entrepreneurs to hire employees who are a good culture fit for their company.

[Small business owners can apply for this year's Dream Big Awards, presented by Spectrum Reach, here.]

“As you grow, seek out the best people who have the same values that you do, so you can depend on them,” said Nolby. “Spend time creating, defining and refining your culture. Otherwise, it will be created for you by default.”

Of course, a strong company culture must begin with its leader and be enmeshed in all aspects of the business.

“The attitude and atmosphere of the entire business starts at the top,” Nolby stressed. “As the leader, you have to look at the positive and what can be done, then rally the troops and go after it!”

As the leader, you have to look at the positive and what can be done, then rally the troops and go after it!

Brenda Nolby, CEO, Jam Hops

Providing at-home services required continuous communication amid the pandemic

Jam Hops is a Minnesota-based business that engages and teaches children through varied programs, including gymnastics, dance, cheer, theater, Ninja Zone and academic preschool.

Amid the pandemic, the children’s enrichment company was forced to close twice: once for three months and once for six weeks. For both time periods, Jam Hops offered online classes for children to partake in from home. This quick pivot is part of the reason the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recognized Jam Hops as the Small Business of the Year at the 2020 Dream Big Awards.

[Read: U.S. Chamber of Commerce Big Dream Award Winners]

During the initial three-month closure, the business additionally sent parents a free “Home Survival Kit” each weekday morning. The email included ideas for at-home activities, including crafts, science experiments, cooking classes, family games and children's story time. During the subsequent six-week shutdown, Jam Hops sent this kit weekly.

In addition to providing enrichment activities, Nolby and her team also reached out to families to provide information and maintain a personal connection during the era of social distancing.

“[I sent] emails with a personal video message from me to reassure them and let them know our plans, and to also show them the changes and enhancements we were making throughout our facilities while they were gone,” the CEO explained. “[And] every coach and teacher sent each of their students a postcard letting them know we missed them.”

Jam Hops also focused on keeping employees as up to date as possible. The company took their staff meetings to Zoom and increased their frequency, while also sending frequent emails informing them of new updates and changes that were happening.

“I was reminded of what an amazing and dedicated staff I have, especially my key staff,” Nolby said. “I was able to lean on them for sound advice and help in pivoting and moving forward.”

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