Humaning – Being a good human. Trying to act in ways that can only be described as being human.

    We’re experiencing an unprecedented period of history. Covid-19 has shaken up the world in many ways, and changed our day-to-day lives as we know it. Eventually, it will all blow over and things will slowly start returning to normal once again, or at least a new normal. 

    The scale of global human action around this crisis is phenomenal. Communities are coming together in beautiful ways, and our perspectives will most certainly be shifted by this collective experience to something less individualistic. Businesses have had to adapt in a big way, and are still adapting. 

    To learn more about what this looks like, we recently hosted a Facebook Live panel called ‘Business in a Changing World’ (read about How to host a Facebook Live if you want to host your own!). We spoke to some of our favourite business leaders including Brianne West of Ethique, Stu McKinlay of Yeastie Boys, Camia Young of Collett’s Corner, and Sam Jones of Little Yellow Bird. All 4 speakers are PledgeMe alumni as they’ve run equity campaigns on our platform in the last five years. The host of the panel was PledgeMe’s founder, Anna Guenther, a business leader who has guided countless small to medium sized businesses and social enterprises in their growth journey through crowdfunding. She’s an equity crowdfunding alumnus too (PledgeMe has raised through its own platform three times). The goal of the Facebook panel was to see how their businesses were adapting to the situation, to ask for support, and to offer support. However, a whole lot more came out of it. 

    PledgeMe founder, Anna Guenther, hosted 4 NZ business leaders for the ‘Business in a Changing World’ Facebook panel.

    The most striking common denominator of the 5 panelists in dealing with the current situation is that they’re all taking a people-first approach. Although all their businesses are feeling the heat, the primary goal of all 5 is to keep their staff on board and ensure the safety of them and their family. An example of this was Sam’s decision to stop Little Yellow Bird’s operations before Jacinda Ardern’s lockdown announcement on Monday the 23rd of March. 

    “People didn’t feel comfortable in their workplaces anymore…We’re just dispatching t-Shirts, and it’s not worth it (people can wait for their t-shirts). My team made the collective decision that we would continue for that day, but we wouldn’t come back the next day.”

    Sam Jones, Founder of Little Yellow Bird.

    The previous week, Little Yellow Bird had made the decision to liquidate a large portion of their stock at a 50% discount to bring in some much-needed cash, something they had never done before. They’d written a letter to their crowd asking for help, and the response was overwhelming. Much of their stock was liquidated that week, and their financial position became a lot more secure in a short space of time. 

    “Largely through having a network of investors through having crowdfunded, we have been getting a lot of offers for support.”

    Sam Jones, Founder of Little Yellow Bird
    In March, the Little Yellow Bird team reached out to their crowd to ask for help, and were overwhelmed by the response (Source: Little Yellow Bird)

    Camia of Collet’s Corner also strongly felt the support of her crowd when they lay out openly and honestly to their residents (which includes artists, fashion designers, and other creatives) that paying rent that month was going to be difficult. Despite having lost all their income, the residents responded with open hearts and assured her they’d all do their part and continue to pay their rents. “That’s the power of community”, said Camia.

    For Stu, his ‘realest’ moment came when he too was cutting costs. As Yeastie Boys’ priority was securing their team, it was an easy decision to cut costs on advertising, sponsorships, travel, etc. However, there was one particular publication called Pellicle which they decided to continue to support, but lower the amount they usually sponsored. They sent an email to inform them about this and got a heartening email in return which brought a tear to Stu’s eye.

    “That was the moment I first started thinking about the people outside of our family, friends and people who work in the business. There’s a lot of people going through this. It’s the people who take the risk of flying me back to my friends and family, the people working in the supermarkets, people like my sister who are still working in the schools looking after the kids whose parents can’t stay home. Nothing in our lifetime has affected, or will potentially affect, everyone like this has.”

    Stu McKinlay, Founder of Yeastie Boys

    All 5 panelists expressed their willingness to share their knowledge and experiences with other founders or businesses. From brainstorming ideas to chatting through strategies, offering their support as experts is something they all feel is a good way to ‘pay it forward’ in return for the support they’ve received.

    “Everyone in business is going through a bit of a time, and we all need to be sharing, learning and working together right now, because I think that’s the only way we’re going to figure out how to get through this”

    Anna Guenther, Founder of PledgeMe
    Although the theme of the Facebook Live was very serious, there were several lighthearted moments in the Live.

    We learned a lot from this Facebook panel. To fully grasp all the ideas, ‘realest moments’, pieces of advice and shifts in how these businesses are operating, we suggest you watch the Live. It’s an hour long, so set some time aside, get comfortable, and settle in for it. In the meantime, here’s a summary of the actions you can take as an individual, and in your place of work, to support your community and yourself:

    What can you do as an individual?

    Take the situation seriously

    All 5 panelists noted that not enough people were taking the situation seriously enough. Sam noted that, even after the lockdown announcement, people were not observing the distancing measures. Brianne also noted that she had to have a few ‘stern words’ with people who still seemed to be going about their regular business as though nothing had changed. Stu, who used to work in data analysis in the health industry, says he’s looked closely at the numbers, and they’re ‘scary’. “Be kind and stay home. We’re living in very scary times”.

    Don’t spread misinformation

    Brianne, an expert in cosmetics, is alarmed by the amount of misinformation being spread about homemade skin products such as creams and sanitisers. While she noted that many people are ‘well-meaning’ and that access to products like this could be limited due to low stocks, it is still a dangerous phenomenon. Using these homemade products give people a false sense of security, opening them up to infection.

    “Don’t share anything unless it’s coming from a legitimate source”. 

    Brianne West, Founder of Ethique

    Trust the messages from governments and health officials

    Sam noted that part of the reason why so many people were panic buying was because they believed the supermarkets would be locked down too. This was despite the Australian and New Zealand governments indicating this is not the case and repeatedly asking shoppers to ‘just stop it’. After a month of it, panic buying is only now starting to ease. Meanwhile, the phenomenon affected society’s most vulnerable significantly, even prompting Australian supermarket Woolworths to initiate an ‘elderly hour’, an exclusive time for elderly shoppers to buy what they needed. The supermarkets will still be open and, as Sam noted, “we don’t need them to be having a higher trading day than Christmas”.

    An image resource from WHO, one of the organisations considered to be a trustworthy source of information concerning the Covid-19 virus.

    Practice self care in self isolation

    This whole situation can be very scary and overwhelming for people. However, as Brianne says, “Don’t be defeated”. Be sure to keep up your exercise, healthy eating and other self care habits. Take the time to work on projects you were meaning to get round to, read that book you’ve been saving for a rainy day, work on a puzzle and just do things you enjoy. Anna noted that self isolation provides a great opportunity to spend some quality time with the people you’re self isolating with: roommates, family, and friends. If you live alone, call up and check in on the people you care about. All 5 panelists also endorsed 4PM Zoom drinks…who ever said self isolation meant drinking alone?

    Reach out for help when you need it

    As Little Yellow Bird’s case in particular shows, reaching out for help is worth it, even while it may make you feel vulnerable. The thing is we are all vulnerable at the moment, and it’s important to support each other and ask for help. Whether it’s picking up some groceries or medicine, job seeking, or simply getting something off your chest, reaching out is important. For mental health, there are online support groups, and both the New Zealand and Australian governments have stepped up to support.

    What can you do as a company?

    Live the ‘We’re a team’ mantra

    This is the time as a founder and coworker to really show that you meant it when you said ‘We’re a team’ at any point in the past. You need to treat your coworkers as much more than that now – view them first as people each facing their own challenges that this situation brings. Be understanding of their needs in this time; many will have children at home, have loved ones on the frontline of the virus, or possibly be infected themselves. Support them in any way you can. One measure Stu has taken with his team at Yeastie Boys  is a much longer team meeting (virtually, of course), to allow some time for the team to chat and socialise with each other. Little Yellow Bird are still paying many of their contractors where possible, despite them not being able to physically come in (such as the woman who cleans the office), and has offered staff the option of voluntarily cutting their hours if they want to spend more time with their children. Take a people-first approach. 

    Ensure you have the systems and tools in place for people to work from home

    If your business operations are such that your team can work from home, make it as easy and accessible as possible for them. Have regular virtual check-ins, choose the tools you use wisely and advocate for self care of employees and coworkers while working from home. The PledgeMe team (which has always had a remote-friendly approach) has shared all our working from home tips, tools and all, to help remote work teams.

    The PledgeMe team shares a lighthearted moment during a Zoom call while working from home (Team member Kelsey shows us her view).

    Support the wider community where you can

    Where possible, offer your support to people outside of your immediate circle of coworkers, team members, and their friends and family. Every little bit counts, and at the end of the day we’re all experiencing hardship together. Yeastie Boys donate £2 ($4) per beer case sold to Hospitality Action, an organisation which supports people in the hospitality industry in need (one of the hardest hit industries). Support small local businesses more than you normally would too if possible.

    Offer your experience and support

    Sharing your knowledge and experience in business doesn’t cost you anything apart from time and effort. It doesn’t need to be a lot, but a little goes a long way. PledgeMe, for example, have gone out to our alumni to offer free 2 hour consultations (support doing information memorandums and communications), and virtual coffee chats for businesses considering crowdfunding as a way to tide this difficult period over (such as Willi’s Kitchen, who successfully crowdfunded to keep their doors open). 

    Willi’s Kitchen successfully crowdfunded in March to keep their doors open. Pictured is their crowdfunding page on PledgeMe.

    What can we do as a crowd?

    One thing which is very apparent from this pandemic is that humanity is capable of banding together globally for a common cause (in this case, defeating the virus). Although it’s clear that (unfortunately) not everyone is on board with this, the panelists did have a strong unifying feeling within their own communities and beyond.

    “We’re seeing a global, collective human action, and my sense is that it will open the gates for more large scale events..I’m a change maker, so I look for where those opportunities are.”

    Camia Young, Founder of Collett’s Corner

    Many people have already been thinking about these opportunities too, such as solving climate change. Poverty, inequality, food security…if any of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (which consist of all the major challenges humanity faces) were addressed in such a decisive, globalised manner, we could achieve them sooner than anticipated. What else is possible? Anything, really, when you think about it. This pandemic has already shown that communities can come together beautifully during times of immediate crisis. If anything good comes out of it once it’s all blown over, it will hopefully be a total shift in perspective and a realisation of the power we have as one big, global crowd to achieve a common goal.

    “Things are hard, but we can get through this together and build that better world at the end of it”

    Anna Guenther, Founder of PledgeMe

    Watch the full Facebook Live Panel ‘Business in a Changing World’ here:

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