I’ve always loved the phrase, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Other than fresh squeezed lemonade being a very tasty beverage, (just ask Chick-fil-A fans), the simple words have a very clear meaning. Even in the sourest of circumstances, you can make something sweet! And in 2020, no matter who you are, life has given you a whole bunch of something you never expected you’d have to deal with. As we all look forward to 2021, there is one word that keeps coming up in every business planning discussion, brainstorming session, industry article and friendly chat I’ve been a part of – Creativity.

To survive and thrive, small businesses in the food and beverage industry have learned how to get creative especially well. One example we’ve had the great pleasure of working with is a local startup business, Buttzville Brewing Co., that was planning to launch just before the pandemic hit. After months and months of wondering if they would even be able to get it off the ground, the entrepreneurs took another look at their five-year business plan. They realized if they upended it by starting with the canning of their product (originally planned for year 2 or 3), they had a really good chance for success and got back to planning their grand opening.

A recent article in Retail Dive nailed the root cause of the business problems COVID-19 has created for all of us in one sentence – “The pandemic mostly sped up complex issues that were already in motion for big and small businesses alike.” If you take a look at the story above, the founders knew they would eventually need to expand into retail and online sales but wanted to get their instore taproom experience nailed down first. Yet with the pandemic raging, large and small businesses have had to shift their focus to digital. Although it wasn’t what they originally planned, this creative move actually opens up their business to a larger audience of consumers who may not have wanted, or had the time, to come into the shop. Those customers can now pick up an order, or schedule a delivery, and enjoy fresh brews in the comfort of their own homes. Without realizing it, they have expanded their pool of customers before they’ve even opened their doors.

This shift to digital is most likely permanent. Although people will once again want to go out and shop, the convenience of curbside pickup and direct shipment have become a way of life. Just look at the numbers for Black Friday this year. According to another Dive Brief, although sales were up against their October averages and online sales hit a new record with $9 billion, there were no long lines and no fist fights this year. Many retailers even opted to stay closed on Thanksgiving – thank goodness!

For 2021, small business is going to have to get creative and leverage both digital technologies and community outreach. Consumers want to know where their products are coming from, how they are made, and what they are made of. Companies like Buttzville Brewing Co. can leverage that desire and create a “brand with love” that consumers will gravitate to for years to come.

What I take from the Buttzville Brewing Co. story, and many other similar stories I’ve heard in the last few months, is that as 2020 winds down and we look ahead to 2021, we need to focus on creative solutions and our local communities for support. Don’t be afraid to throw your old playbook out the window. Be creative. And as you raise your glass this holiday season, thankful (like me!) to see the end of 2020, instead of your usual choice of beverage, consider a cup of fresh-squeezed, Chick-fil-A style, fa-la-la-la-la lemonade. (Made at home, of course. And served socially distanced.)

Love lemonade? Hate it? Want to talk about it? Or would you like to discuss some of the recent challenges you’ve been experiencing and get help coming up with creative solutions? Drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you!