Creativity: Every small business owner determined to successfully get to the other side of a struggling, pandemic-tested business has had to tap into it. Fears and restrictions have burdened the small business community with finding innovative and unorthodox ways to stay connected and reach consumers with their goods and services. We’re especially inspired by the five businesses below who are finding interesting stop-gap methods of selling, communicating and remaining relevant in these challenging times.

 Taking wine-tasting to the great outdoors at Bookcliff Vineyards.
BookCliff Vineyards, a Boulder, Colorado-based winery and tasting room, owned by John Garlich and Ulla Metz. — Bookcliff Vineyards

John Garlich and Ulla Metz, Owners, BookCliff Vineyards

In response to COVID-19 requirements, BookCliff Vineyards purchased a 20-by-20-foot tent equipped with misters where guests can enjoy their wine tasting outdoors protected from wind and sun.

Prior to the pandemic, customers were served one taste at a time at the bar indoors. Now, customers are served one taste in a glass and the remaining tastes are all served at the same time in 1-oz. plastic tasting cups, brought to them in the outside seating area to reduce the number of touch points. Our guests appreciate the views and being surrounded by the beauty of our vineyards and the scenery of Western Colorado. Follow BookCliff Vineyards on Facebook: @BookCliffVineyards.

 Susan Snyder of Pottery House holding bowl
Susan Snyder, ceramic artist and sole proprietor of Bloomington, Indiana-based Pottery House Studio. — Pottery House

Susan Snyder, owner, Pottery House Studio

Before COVID-19, I was so busy teaching classes, hosting parties, running children’s camps and offering drop-ins that I no longer had time for my own work. Because ceramics is such a hands-on activity, and the community that had been created here is like an extended family, I didn’t want to put anyone at risk through in-person classes. As a result, in order to let people continue their ceramics projects, I have created pottery painting-to-go and clay kits, hosted outdoor classes and presented online workshops. Taking my workshops online has opened up a wider audience than I had ever imagined. I have also found time to create my own work again, as well as customized orders. Although my business has suffered financially, I feel that I have found a way to “reinvent the wheel.” Follow Pottery House Studio on Facebook: @PotteryHouseStudio.

 Ashley and Dan Rice of New England Vascular Access
Dan and Ashley Rice, CEO and chief administrative officer of Plymouth, New Hampshire-based New England Vascular Access. — New England Vascular Access

Ashley E. Rice, chief administrative officer, New England Vascular Access

New England Vascular Access has tried several approaches to sales since we opened our doors in 2017. We have utilized emails, postcards, cold calls, networking events, online advertisements, in-person meetings, social media; you name it, we've probably tried it. Some of it was effective, but the best return was almost always from meeting people in person, either one-on-one or at a local event. Unfortunately, during the COVID-19 shutdown, neither of those avenues have been an option in months due to our healthcare facility customer base. Our focus has shifted dramatically from building rapport as a local business to astronomically increasing cold calls, a technique previously unfruitful for gaining contracts. We are always open to new campaigns and have recently started requesting referrals from our current contracts for warm leads on new facilities. Follow New England Vascular Access on Facebook: @NEVascularAccess.

 true treats candy display
Candy display by Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia-based True Treats Candy. — True Treats Candy

Susan Benjamin, owner, True Treats Candy

Before COVID-19, most of our sales came through our brick-and-mortar store at the site of a National Park, followed by wholesale, then our web sales. We needed to switch to 60% online when COVID-19 hit, as the park and most of our wholesale customers had to close – and remain so today. To do this we had to bring our experience-based shop model, which included telling stories, to our website and social media platforms. This meant learning to create videos, navigate social media marketing, and create a positive interactive venue from afar. To get products to fulfill orders required that we stay in touch with vendors, as delays were constant, then notify customers if they would need to wait. All in all, though, the process got us to slow down, look at new and exciting ways of reaching people and confirm the value of what we do. Follow True Treats Candy on Facebook: @TrueTreatsHistoricCandy.

 Custom designed shirts from Stacey Solow Custom Clothing.
Stacy Solow, owner and designer of Melville, New York-based Stacy Solow Custom Clothing. — Stacy Solow Custom Clothing

Stacy Solow, owner, Stacy Solow Custom Clothing

Custom clothing is all about creating a style and fit that is perfectly suited for your clients. It’s a hands-on business that requires in-person measurements and fabric selection. Due to COVID-19, demand has changed significantly since working from home means more casual clothing (Zoom meetings hardly require pants!). For new orders however, my protocols include measuring my clients outside (always with masks on) and using sanitizer before touching any fabrics. I have built a trust with my clients and many allow me to pick out fabrics for them. Still, with production facilities temporarily closed, I needed another way to stay relevant and started making masks for my clients. This allowed the sewers from the factories to work as well. It felt really good to provide something that people needed. Clients started asking me to make masks with their company logos so they could stay relevant and at the same time protect their staff and clients. Whether clothing or masks, it’s all about making something that is needed to stay safe and feel good. Follow Stacy Solow Custom Clothing on Facebook: @StacySolowCustomClothing.

Applications are open for the CO—100! Now is your chance to join an exclusive group of outstanding small businesses. Share your story with us — apply today.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

Apply for the CO—100!

The CO—100 is an exclusive list of the 100 best and brightest small and mid-sized businesses in America. Enter today to share your story and get recognized.

Get recognized. Get rewarded. Get $25K.

Is your small business one of the best in America? Apply for our premier awards program for small businesses, the CO—100, today to get recognized and rewarded. One hundred businesses will be honored and one business will be awarded $25,000.