Never has the anticipated end of one year and the promise of another been so profound a feeling as many of us are currently experiencing. A mix of optimism and uncertainty will usher in 2021, and the impact of 2020 will be felt for years to come — redirecting the structure, strategy and operating plans and procedures for nearly all businesses in some fashion. Yet plan they must, and these five businesses share how their goals for the year ahead have been shaped by the unexpected experiences and unforeseen challenges, as well as the great takeaways, that have been the theme of the pandemic.

 interior of Woof Gang Bakery
Woof Gang Bakery caters to the discerning tastes of Savannah’s puppies and their loyal owners. — Woof Gang Bakery

Greg Lard, master franchise owner & area developer, Woof Gang Bakery

Who we are: A specialty retailer of pet food, pet supplies, and professional pet grooming serving the Savannah, Georgia area.

Woof Gang Bakery began as a traditional pet store in Orlando, Florida. We expanded into services after a few years and we’ve seen an explosion in service-related revenues. This year alone, our locations will groom over 1 million dogs in the stores. As our CEO, Paul Allen, has always said, “Services are the future of Woof Gang Bakery.”

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that pet owners love their pets just as much as, and in some cases more than, traditional family members. For a vast majority of people, their pets were their only companions during the early days of the pandemic, and in some cases this continues to be true. Pet owners have grown even more attached to their animals just as the pets are even more attached than ever to their pet parents.

For us, 2021 will bring a focus on expanding services in all our existing locations, increased square footage dedicated to services, larger grooming salons, more grooming employees and a refocus on the growth of our spa services for dogs.

Many pet parents are feeling anxiety and guilt for leaving their pets at home as they return to work and we plan to offer services and features that help the pets and the pet parents make that transition smoother and less painful. Follow Woof Gang Bakery on Instagram and Facebook.

 co-founder nelson floyd in speakeasy coffee company
Speakeasy Coffee Roaster’s Nelson Floyd IV is dedicated to providing customers with responsibly sourced, high-quality specialty coffee made from hand-roasted coffee beans. — Speakeasy Coffee Company

Nelson Floyd IV, roaster & co-founder, Speakeasy Coffee Company

Who we are: A small-batch specialty coffee roaster and coffee bar located in Pennsburg, Pennsylvania.

I suppose, in a lot of ways, 2020 will be monumentalized as the “year of the unknown.” For small business owners, this year has allowed for much examination, questioning, re-examination and hard decision-making.

Despite the confusion and angst, I was able to launch a long-time dream and project of mine: The Coffee Bar at Speakeasy Coffee Company.

I am hopeful that the stress of this year has been a tempering of sorts.

In 2021, we will focus on our continued effort to adapt to the needs of our customers with a more efficient online presence and more streamlined order fulfillment, and to never compromise our values and service to our community. Follow Speakeasy Coffee Company on Facebook & Instagram.

 Adria Moynihan Rusk, owner of Still Life Studio, painting.
Still Life Studio offers private and small group painting lessons and workshops both virtually and from its Portland, Maine studio. — Still Life Studio, LLC

Adria Moynihan Rusk, artist & owner, Still Life Studio, LLC

Who we are: Private painting instruction for budding and experienced artists based in Portland, Maine.

In this pandemic year, it has become more important than ever to nurture ourselves in all possible ways — and painting is an incredible way to relax and stay nimble.

For many years, my business relied on local clients only; but when everything shut down in March of 2020, I moved most of my business online. I've since been able to carefully reopen, but I'm grateful to have found ways to translate the studio experience into virtual lessons as well, because now I can see students all over the world.

In 2021, I'll be growing my online presence as a real-time private painting instructor, as well as offering small group classes both in person and online. I will also be reaching out to corporate event planners to explore how painting workshops might fit into company retreats as a way to highlight resilience and creative expression. Follow Still Life Studio on Instagram & Facebook.

 American-made slate cheese boards by Brooklyn Slate
A selection of slate cheese boards from New York-based Brooklyn Slate, sourced from quarries and split by hand with a chisel and hammer. — Brooklyn Slate

Renee Dessommes, director of operations, Brooklyn Slate

Who we are: Brooklyn, New York-based purveyors of American-made slate cheese boards, coasters and other fine tabletop goods.

We are truly excited for the new year and expect to continue to grow in both the wholesale and retail markets of 2021, even with the slow-downs in the supply chain due to COVID-19. Though our quarry and slate processors are still working with crews a fraction of their normal size, they are shipping to us regularly and we have been able to keep up with the increase in online demand.

We currently provide slate cheese boards and accessories to small retailers at quantities and prices that are manageable for them to make a profit. And while there have been some shipping slow-downs, we plan to pre-pack and overstock going into the new year so that our many small retailers never have empty displays.

In 2021, we plan to create even more options with the various sizes of the boards and the case pack configuration, giving small retailers more control over their offered products with more varieties. And we are expanding our engraving wing of the business by offering our current partners and retailers custom orders outside of our standard engraving options.

At the start of the new year, we will be working with US Marketplace, Inc., a new e-commerce site that focuses on U.S. brands who produce goods in the States. We also hope to offer glassware and small personal items for monogramming or custom engraving as gift sets from our site's retail store. Follow Brooklyn Slate on Instagram.

 painting activities on a blanket by My Third Hand
Packaged Pandemonium delivers creative and educational activities, and all the supplies needed, for caregivers to engage preschoolers during the pandemic. — My Third Hand, Inc.

JoAnna Datz, founder & CEO, My Third Hand, Inc. and creator of Packaged Pandemonium

Who we are: A New York, New York-based company dedicated to supporting parents and caregivers of preschool-aged children with resources for at-home productive structured play and learning activities.

With childcare centers, schools and extracurricular facilities forced to close their doors, the many hats previously worn by a community—to care for, educate and entertain children—all became the sole responsibility of each child’s primary caregivers. All without notice or time to prepare.

Packaged Pandemonium is a caregivers’ enrichment program designed to help grown-ups of preschool-aged kiddos consistently connect with children on their level, all by embracing the effortlessly authentic nature of play. Our focus for 2021 is growing the roster, making this unique service available to more families.

Participating families are assigned a “JoJo,” who is their personal program consultant. JoJo prepares the content of your customized deliveries and provides one-on-one support to families in the form of Virtual Huddles (for caregivers) and/or Playdates with JoJo (for little ones).

Inclusive of all necessary supplies and materials for 25+ activities per delivery, Packaged Pandemonium guides caregivers of all abilities to confidently quarterback developmentally appropriate structured play and productive learning at home.

Whether you are a parent, grandparent or nanny, thanks to the inventiveness of My Third Hand, Inc., the program conveniently delivers the tools, resources and personalized support to caregivers to supplement what children are missing out on due to social-distancing restrictions. Follow Packaged Pandemonium on Instagram & Facebook.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Follow us on Instagram for more expert tips & business owners stories.

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.