Strategic planning has never been an easy task, but the challenges of COVID-19 have made it increasingly difficult for Killeen-area business owners.
What started with online orders, curbside pick-up and cashless transactions developed in creative approaches to keep the business running and customers safe.
“Flexibility and adaptability have always been key factors to effectively running a business,” said Jennifer Hetzel, director of research at the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce. “Being open to change is essential, especially in times like this when businesses are facing unprecedented challenges.”
Business owners know they need to be creative to be successful — now and post-pandemic.
“Many businesses have credited their successes in navigating these trying times to their willingness to try new things,” Hetzel said. “The pandemic may have forced them to innovate, but they have embraced this change and continued to build on it, rather than resisting it and trying to go back to the way things were.”
Beth Funk, owner of the yoga studio Life Moves Yoga in Killeen, found creative ways to continue her classes during the pandemic and was able to expand her business in times of quarantine procedures.
“Like many other businesses, we were required to close our doors for safety,” she said. “Not being able to have students come into our space was very difficult, but we realized very quickly … that we would have to adapt our plan in a big way.”
Although Funk missed the close contact with her clients, she started offering virtual classes through Zoom and used the opportunity to invest in a project she had been thinking of in the past.
“We reconfigured our schedule and started offering not only real-time classes through the platform, but we also started to create a virtual library,” she said.
This way, people could get their practice in any time.
While the studio is now open with limited capacity to follow social distancing guidelines, Funk continues her virtual operations.
“Not everyone feels comfortable coming to the studio yet,” she said.
Funk also realized that virtual classes bring other benefits than social distancing.
“We’ve actually had students participating in our classes that live in many different places across the country and that’s been really exciting,” she said.
On top of a new business approach, Funk also continued her plan of opening a new studio in Harker Heights later this summer.
“Nobody would plan to open up or expand their business during a situation like this, but we had already made the commitment prior to COVID,” she said. “There really was no turning back and so we just had to take a leap of faith.”
Amy Summerill, owner of the gourmet popcorn store POP! CornUtopia and the ice cream shop Sprinkles on Top in Harker Heights, was also open to new business ideas.
After she had to close both locations for several weeks at the beginning of the pandemic, she and her husband moved their focus on their online business as contractors for fruitbouquets.com.
“During quarantine, no one could go anywhere but birthday and anniversaries ... still happened,” she said. “Since nobody was gathering, they were showing their love by sending sherries berries and fruit bouquets.”
Even after Summerill reopened her shops, she continued to react to the changing needs and demands of the community.
“It’s not only to keep us and our staff safe but the general public, and then making them feel good about coming in,” she said.
While many customers feel comfortable to come to the store, others still opt for new ways of purchasing their treats.
“Curbside delivery and online ordering — we don’t see that ever going away,” Summerill said. “That’s probably a big part of the new normal, … that is something that’s here to stay.”
Summerhill recommended other business owners not to get overwhelmed by unexpected challenges but to answer them creatively, even if it wasn’t part of their original business plan.
“If you’re not evolving with the current time, you’re not going to survive,” she said.