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Resilient Business Leaders Share The Essentials To Having A Booming Business In The Midst Of A Pandemic

By News Creatives Authors , in Leadership , at November 17, 2021

There’s no easy way to start a business, and there’s no easy way to manage one, particularly among a global pandemic. But from losses come lessons that have groomed these entrepreneurs into the business owners of tomorrow, or as Forbes has named them: the Next 1000. 

Last Friday, Forbes held seven panel discussions featuring industry leaders, business owners and entrepreneurs of different arenas who all found innovative ways to launch their businesses or keep them afloat during the pandemic. 

The 2021 Forbes Next 1000 Summit opened with remarks from Maneet Ahuja, Forbes’ senior editor, who introduced the first conversation between Grammy award-winning singer and entrepreneur Ciara and Meta CEO Sheryl Sandberg.

“In celebration of the most intrepid founders and business owners from across the country, you both have been big supporters of our Next 1000 franchise since day one. And, it’s in part because of your steadfast commitment to supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs through countless efforts and initiatives,” Ahuja began. Ahuja went on to ask Sandberg about the responsibility companies like Meta have to support small businesses and the findings from Meta’s small business report. 

“We’ve done eight of them, eight reports. The first was done in May 2020. So this is a COVID era thing we’ve been doing. Because COVID is a health crisis. It’s a gender crisis. It’s an equality crisis. And it is a crisis for small business,” says Sandberg.” 

“Overall, fewer small businesses are closed 18% down from 24% in February, and that’s good. Right? Twenty-four percent is a positive direction, but 18% is still 18%. That’s a huge number, and women and people of color-owned SMBs (small and mid-size businesses) are the hardest hit,” Sandberg continued. “Twenty percent of those led by women compared to 16% of men. SMBs led by people of color are fifth in the U.S., or 50% more likely than white-owned SMBs to either be closed, forced to lay off workers or have lower sales. Forty percent of people of color-led SMBs are anticipating cashflow problems versus 29% of white-led SMBs. And 50% of people, people of color-led SMBs, are confident they can stay open versus 70% of white SMBs. And for SMBs led in the black community, only 43% feel they can stay open. So, we are still in a crisis is a crisis that hits women and businesses owned by people of color the most, which, unfortunately, is not surprising.”

Ciara, who launched a line of water-resistant antimicrobial backpacks through her new company Dare To Roam, says this is the moment to be purposeful with what we contribute to the world. 

“The thread throughout everything I’ve been able to do is impact … This is the time now to be conscious of what we’re contributing to the world. It also gives us a creative outlet … If you’re fortunate enough to do what you love doing, and it gives you a creative release, you’ve got to do it,” says Ciara. 

The next panel discussion, “The Next Frontier: Scaling your Startup in the New Economy,” featured Deepica Mutayla, founder and CEO of Live Tinted; Maria Palacio, co-founder and CEO of Progeny Coffee; Nicole Gibbons, founder and CEO of Clare and the conversation was moderated by Alexandra Sternlicht, Forbes’ Under 30 Editorial Community Lead and Reporter. 

Palacio says having the right talent on your team is the catalyst for a business’s success. “Sometimes we forget how to build a brand that also appeals to hiring. You need to bring in the right talent [who represent your company’s values] … If the whole company internally is mission-driven, it’s going to trickle out,” says Palacio. 

“The Next CEO: Leadership Lessons From The Top” featured Maëlle Gavet, CEO of Techstars; Meena Harris, founder and CEO of Phenomenal; Asahi Pompey, Global Head of Corporate Engagement and President of Goldman Sachs Foundation, Goldman Sachs and the conversation was moderated by Ali Jackson Jolley, Assistant Managing Editor of Diversity and Inclusion at Forbes.

Pompey says CEOs need to question their leadership qualities in times of struggle. 

“The real test of leadership comes ultimately in this season of pivot, in times of crisis … All eyes are on you. That may sound scary, but it’s absolutely true … Would you want to be led by you during that season of pivot, during that moment of crisis?” says Pompey.

Diane Brady, Assistant Managing Editor at Forbes, led a conversation with Saumil Mehta, the Global Head of Customers for Square. During the panel “Building a Relationship With the Post-Pandemic Customer,” Mehta shared that the customer’s “lifecycle” remains the same even with the pandemic shifting society. 

“Even as the world around us has changed, through the pandemic, the fundamental customer lifecycle has stayed the same … Mirror your customer lifecycle and invest in omnichannel … [Ask yourself]: How do they proceed through the buying journey, online and offline?” Mehta says. 

Ahuja returned as interviewer for the panel “The Next 1000 Interview: Building A Billion Dollar Business From The Ground Up” with Spanx founder and executive chairwoman Sara Blakely. She says entrepreneurs should be intentional about being an innovator. 

“Because I set the intention [to become an entrepreneur] … I was constantly searching for what my idea was going to be … I was a frustrated consumer, and a lot of inventions just come from frustrated consumers,” said Blakely 

In the conversation “The Next Stage: Channeling The Consumer In A New Era,” which was moderated by For(bes) the Culture’s Raquel “Rocky” Harris, Allison DeVane, founder and owner of Teaspressa detailed how she bounced back from closing down all her stores and moving her business online. 

“I made the impossible decision [to close down the stores]. I felt like I was letting down a lot of people … [When I later pivoted to bring the customer experience home], we ended up doubling sales,” says DeVane. Tim Angelillo, founder of Sourced Craft Cocktails; Jackie Nguyen, owner of Cafe Cà Phê and Shahira Marei, founder of The Dirty Cookie, also joined DeVane as panelists in the chat. 

The last panel, “Business Lessons From The Ultimate Master of Scale,” featured Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and Partner of Greylock. Hoffman spoke on selling contrarian ideas during his exchange with Ahuja. 

“The average general partner will look at 800 deals a year and say yes to two of them … [I ask] why is the thing you’re thinking about a contrarian but potentially right? … What’s your unique thing that’s really interesting at scale [that could become] an amazing idea?” says Hoffman.


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