Have you ever thought about starting your own business? This idea can be nerve-wracking to say the least. But despite the anxieties people might face, millions strive every day to overcome the constant hurdles so that they can make their impact within society and provide their own unique gift to others.
Unfortunately, the amount of obstacles increased for many small business owners beginning in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as people were ultimately forced to rely on marketing via the platform of social media, relocate, or even close their businesses altogether. As both a consumer and someone that helps promote companies on social media, I saw just a fraction of small businesses trying to stay afloat through this difficult period and my heart ached for them. It felt like no matter how many things I bought and/or promoted from small businesses it wasn't enough, and I wished I could do more. While COVID-19 cases drop and we inch our way back into some sense of normality, we look at the world of business that has completely transformed before our eyes, as well as the new opportunities that lie ahead for both small business owners and consumers everywhere.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Beantween Coffee’s owner and Co-Founder, Lilian Alves, and ask her to shed light on how the pandemic affected her small business, as well as the ways that her company has grown in the face of the unique challenges of 2020. Below are some of her best tips as a small business owner that survived the pandemic—be sure to read until the end to find out some of Beantween’s exciting plans!
Q: How has Beantween been affected by COVID? Is it still affected?
A: The first three months of the pandemic were difficult for us, but overall, I would say that the pandemic ended up affecting our business positively. In the beginning, we had to adjust very quickly to a surge of consumers purchasing our coffee in large amounts to stock up, plus the addition of new customers. This somewhat unexpected growth caused for packaging supply shortages, so we decided to “step up our game” by purchasing semi-automatic machines to ensure that we could fulfill all of our new demands. I also made it a priority to delegate responsibilities more efficiently because there was so much to get done! I am so thankful that we are a family business and that we make such a great team. Although it was definitely an unpredictable time as a small business owner, this experience led to a lot of growth within our company, and the discovery of new and better ways to operate/adhere to our customers’ needs.
Q: What were some of the initial obstacles that you encountered during this time, and how did you conquer them?
A: Considering that our brand is only around 4-years-old, I can say that everything we have encountered up until now, especially during the pandemic, has helped me to truly understand the importance of being flexible and creative with the new reality businesses are facing. We were not able to promote our brand in-person at the local markets throughout much of the pandemic, so the platform of social media really came in handy as an essential tool to reach our customers in a safe way. Our customers, friends, and family remained loyal to our business—many of them made it a priority to write reviews for our coffee, repost our Instagram posts for their followers to see, and share how wonderful our coffee makes them feel. For them it might have been a small gesture, but for us it meant the world! Our customers were the light at the end of the tunnel during this time of uncertainty, and we hope that Beantween provided them with a similar comfort.
Q: What do you feel are some of the most important things you learned as an entrepreneur during the pandemic?
1. Rethink how you offer.
2. Be innovative with your brand and be willing to adjust it accordingly.
3. Lean into simplicity.
4. Take advantage of your social reach/capabilities.
5. Embrace your dreams.
Q: How do you best continue your individual relationships with customers?
A: A big advantage of working out of Manhattan Beach, California, is that it is home to so many athletes (surfers, volleyball players, soccer players, etc.). One of our customers referred Beantween to USA 3x Olympic Gold Medalist, Kerri Walsh, and she loved our coffee so much that she gave our name to another local business and posted us on her Instagram story (2019)! Well-known celebrity, Mark Harmon (Gibs from the show, "NCIS") also came across our business when passing by our coffee display at a local market. We discussed his coffee-loving character that he played on NCIS versus his real-life relationship with coffee, and when he learned that Beantween Coffee was my business, he wanted to make sure that we got a picture with him in front of our Coffee Tasting setup and gave us his permission to post it. This picture brought over 28,000 new views to our Facebook page (Jan,2020)! There has truly been SO much local support from the community and we are always very appreciative of this.
Q: Has social media made an impact on your business as a whole? If so, how?
A: Yes, big time! It’s such a large platform for marketing. Not only did social media play a key role in maintaining the relationships with our customers throughout the pandemic, but if we weren’t active on social media, we wouldn’t be able to consistently show the faces of our business, such as our family, reviews from customers, and behind-the-scenes coffee roasting processes. It’s an incredible way to relate to and connect with our customers because they can see exactly what’s happening and feel like they are part of our extended family. We are always posting on our Instagram page and engaging with our customers so that they can feel informed. Follow us on Instagram at @beantweencoffee to stay up-to-date with everything we’re doing!
Q: What are your goals for the business in the next couple of years? Has it changed since the pandemic?
A: To open a retail store in the South Bay Area! It’s a work-in-progress, but it’s a huge goal we’ve had for a long time, and the excitement we have for the future of Beantween only strengthened during the pandemic.
Q: What do you most want people to take away from the work that you do?
A: I want the customers to feel both satisfied and healthy when they drink our coffee—that their stomach doesn’t hurt after they’ve finished their cup or two, and that they can actually enjoy the pure product of coffee as it’s meant to be enjoyed! I long for people to drink coffee without pesticides, GMO’s, or high-acidity. It’s a true reward for me when people write reviews about our coffee and share their excitement about being able to drink as much as they want without feeling bloated or sick, because that is exactly why I am in this business and selling this specific product. I want to give people the gift of coffee in its purest form, along with all of its benefits.
Q: What do you feel is most important to your clients?
A: People do not only purchase our coffee because it’s tasty, but because of what we stand for. One of the first elements is if the product is what they are looking for. Because we sell organic coffee, it’s important that we always stick to that and deliver that. They also care that they are supporting a small farm in Brazil and want to know if it’s really fair-trade farming. They’re very interested in quality, sustainability, and that there is fair working climate/compensation—all that we promise. And, of course, people love to support local businesses, small businesses, and woman-owned businesses. We check all of those boxes! When they learn about the program we offer, in which we donate a portion of our profits to a non-profit organization of their choice upon purchase, they are extra happy! Beantween and our customers pride ourselves on making a difference, one cup of coffee at a time.
Q: With so many responsibilities as a small business owner, I’m sure it was difficult to balance your work and your personal life during the pandemic. What are the steps you take to prioritize self-care?
A: Well, to be honest, sometimes it’s a very blurred line and I should definitely be better about it. I am still learning how to separate the two and adjust to what is best for myself, especially post-pandemic. On the weekends, I refuse to do any work and make time to play beach volleyball with my friends, as well as spend quality time with my family “off the clock.” That really helps me relax and re-center for the week to come.
It's clear that despite the challenges Beantween faced during the pandemic, Lilian's passion for both coffee and community-building remain at the company’s heart. We hope that everyone has remained healthy during these uncertain times, and that you continue to stay connected and focused on the things in life that bring you joy—like Beantween coffee ;)
Written By: BeanBlogger, Lindsay Frazin ❤️☕️