Running a small business can be stressful and demanding at the best of times.
As we began entering our first lockdown in Melbourne at the end of March 2020, we quickly realised the need for a radical pivot as things were about to change dramatically.
Our business, Manuko, specialises in creating premium organic products and raw chocolate treats, primarily serving cafes and restaurants across Melbourne and Australia more broadly, with 90% of our business consisting of wholesale.
As industries began to close down around us, we bunkered down and redirected all our energy into how we would get through this — to not just survive, but thrive through these uncertain times.
Many amazing things can come out of a crisis. When faced with an existential threat, you can learn some extraordinary things.
The first thing we learnt is what really matters.
All non-essential things got stripped away, and what we were left with is what is real.
What’s the core purpose that inspires you through not just the good times, but the difficult ones? Why do people really buy your products? Is your business truly sustainable?
We realised our core purpose is to create moments of pure joy for people, and peripherally to this is to help foster a healthy life and a more sustainable world.
We discovered that in hard times, people don’t just want toilet paper, rice and pasta, they also want an element of joy in their lives. Our mission was to bring this joy into as many people’s lives as possible.
This meant doubling down on what we do best as a business, and not deviating away from our core values and purpose.
Most business owners and entrepreneurs know the power of grit intimately.
Which is why entrepreneurs can be so effective when a crisis hits, because hopefully, they’ve honed the ability to have determination and grit no matter how uncertain things may seem.
Grit means for us showing up fully, no matter what is happening around us. Reminding ourselves that we are made for this journey of being creators, and that during these times we will discover how strong we really are and what we’re truly capable of.
As the adage goes: “Never let a crisis go to waste.”
What we learn during this crisis could guide us for many years to come.
We were working harder than ever, being more creative than ever, waking up earlier, meditating more, having icy cold showers in the middle of winter. Saying to ourselves: ‘We will do whatever it takes to make this happen!’
Of course, it was stressful, it was tiring, it was uncertain.
The grit was about showing up each day no matter what, while at the same time having compassion for ourselves and what we’re going through.
A winning mindset for us meant having a vision for where we wanted to go (a SWOT analysis was really helpful in developing a plan and strategy) and choosing to have faith in the unfolding of life.
There are things we can control, such as our vision and what we will focus on and create, and so much we can’t control.
No matter how much we do, we are all interconnected, and our personal success is very much a function of our collective success.
The journey continues.
We just entered lockdown 2.0 in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago, and now moving into the strictest lockdown to date. We’ve done our SWOT analysis 2.0. We’re learning a hell of a lot, we’re experiencing a greater connection with our core purpose, we’re investing and putting a lot of energy into new products and creations, and up-levelling various aspects of our business.
We’re also experiencing greater appreciation and connection with the incredible community of customers and supporters around us.
We’re acutely aware that we are in the middle of winter, both literally and metaphorically. At the same time, we are keeping in mind that spring is coming, and what we invest in now may not bear fruit until down the track.
Business is a glorious adventure, and tough times can make us stronger, more resilient, and more aligned with our core purpose and what we’re here to create for others.
Before the lockdown, we were on track to grow 25% for the year. We took a hit as cafes and businesses around us began to close, some permanently. We just missed out on JobKeeper, and so we had to rely primarily on ourselves. We put everything into it, and by the end of June, we had grown by 30% for the whole year.
Our growth and success is something to celebrate and enables us to continue to do what we do. But it’s secondary to our primary drive of fulfilling on our core purpose, creating something extraordinary and wonderful for our customers and for the world, and becoming more creative and resilient in the process.
There are gifts that can be discovered in even the darkest and hardest of times. Our hope is that each of us can discover gifts in this time that help us to evolve our businesses and our lives so we move forward to something much greater for all.