Our Startup Is on Lockdown
How it’s like to own a small business strapped in a massive pandemic ride
Up until just weeks ago, Dream Wide Awake—our mobile beverage bar company—serves drinks at events around the metro. In a sharp turn of things, we suddenly find ourselves stuck at home with our coffee beans. We may be well caffeinated, but not really fully satiated.
The Rollercoaster Ride
First, there’s denial. It’s February and news of the outbreak from China circulates, but we still feel safe joining pop-up markets. After all, there are no local cases in the Philippines yet. And we’re self-confessed OCs who sanitize everything. Surely, it can’t be that bad.
Then it hits close to home with an infected person in one of our pop-up towns. Soon after, organizers are canceling events, and we’re slowly being pushed against a wall.
One of our learnings in business mentorship programs is this: innovate or die. In true sprightly entrepreneurial fashion, we come up with plans on how to safely deliver our products to consumers. Maybe we can stay open if we just make some minor tweaks. We’re now bargaining.
Remember Joe Goldberg’s glass box on Netflix’s You? This sounds funny, but we’re serious. We figure we can install a miniature version by our car window and zap the virus with UV light before and after rolling down the window. Yet just like Joe’s victims, this plan quickly succumbs to lack of materials and builders. Also, even if we manage to pull this off, we can’t go past checkpoints on the road without talking to security personnel and letting the outside air in.
Freefalling Into Freelancing
We realize our hands are tied when our suppliers temporarily close down, one by one. With a heavy heart, we decide to wait for the dust to settle and augment income with a side hustle.
There are some upsides to being a startup coffee business without an actual cafe. We have low operating expenses, fast turnover in supply inventory and flexibility in staffing. We can pause operations during the quarantine without bleeding out financially.
We used to be content creators before founding the business, so we search for related online jobs.
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Remember that rollercoaster ride? Oh, we’re still on it. We think we’re stable because gigs are coming in, then anxiety blindsides us one sunny afternoon. While browsing online for inspiration, I come across a video of various artists’ rendition of Eraserheads’ With a Smile. It makes me aware of something I’ve been pushing at the back of my mind. Me and my life-slash-business partner try to put on a brave face, but in reality, we’re really “scared . . . of the things that could go wrong along the way.”
Business Not As Usual
Every day is a hustle. And the future, full of uncertainties. One thing we know for sure is that COVID-19 changes the business landscape.
They say that it takes new eyes to see a new world. These days give us an opportunity to shift our focus on other aspects of our business. Enhancing branding and online presence, setting up reliable delivery systems and collaborating with fellow entrepreneurs are a few things that come to mind. We’re still a young and dynamic company; there’s a lot of wiggle room for growth.
At Dream Wide Awake, it’s always been our goal to help build a better world in our own little way. Yes, the pandemic reveals our vulnerabilities, but there’s also a bright side to this story. Now, we have a glimpse of how it feels to be in a community where people practice a more mindful way of living. When this is over, our hope is for all of us—companies and individuals alike—to lock in these positive transformations so we can start rebuilding a better world for everyone.
Words: Ella Regis
Art Alex Lara