A Studley coffee house owner, whose business has flourished during the Coronavirus lockdown, despite being closed for ten weeks, has revealed the secret to its success.
Mum-of-two Ella Clarke launched Bumbles Coffee House & Lifestyle on Alcester Road in Studley, which is south of Redditch, in November 2019 after a year of planning her vision for not just an eco-friendly coffee house, but a space where the community could host workshops and events.
However, just four months after opening, she had to close her doors as Coronavirus took hold of the country.
Fortunately, having attended a series of Digital workshops focused on supporting retailers in January 2020 Ella was able to take on board advice, and continue to grow her business, even during lockdown.
The workshops were delivered by Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce and Stories Marketing, on behalf of Warwickshire County Council through the Warwickshire Towns Network Programme. The workshops shared insights into how businesses can use social media and other digital tools to drive traffic to their website.
It was here that the seeds for her business’s success during lockdown were sown, and the techniques she learned here would go on to see Ella accruing more than 1,000 new Instagram followers while her business was closed.
Ella said: “When Coronavirus took hold there was no way I was going to let nearly two years of hard work go to waste, so I turned my attention to improving my online presence.
“Looking back now, I could not have attended the digital workshops at a better time, as I had learned some intelligent approaches to using Instagram and Facebook to reach more of my target audiences, which are mainly those in their mid-20s who like socialising, as well as my working customers who use my venue for wi-fi and meeting clients.
“One of the biggest learning curves for me was using Instagram and Facebook’s analytical tools to help inform my business’s future behavior on the platforms.
“I can now look at what time of day that my posts get the most level of engagement, which helps me to plan when I should be posting; and I can even see how my new followers came across the profile page – was it via a hashtag, or via a friend of theirs? If it was a hashtag then, in future, I know that I should look to include this into my posts where possible alongside other hashtags that are relevant to my audience.
“Another crucial piece of advice that I have put into practice is to keep our online presence busy.
“When we had to close our doors for three months, we did the opposite online and ensured we were talking to our existing customers. Although we couldn’t offer a service, we posted conversational posts about what coffee people were missing for example, as well as competitions – and this proved to be really beneficial because we were doing this at a time when more people were at home and scrolling on their phones.
“Before we knew it, we had built up an extra 1,000 social media followers and had a strong community ready to access our new click and collect service when we eventually reopened. Now we are fully reopened these followers have become loyal customers, both click and collect and ‘eating in’.
“In hindsight, the digital workshops provided a lifeline for my business as it enabled my coffee house to stay relevant at a time when I wasn’t able to trade – I would recommend the workshops to any entrepreneur out there that is looking to grow their business.”
To meet further demand, the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce and Stories Marketing will be delivering similar Digital Retail Skills Training sessions to retailers across the county on behalf of Warwickshire County Council through the Warwickshire Towns Network Programme.
The sessions are being offered as part of a £5million package of support from Warwickshire County Council to boost the immediate economic recovery of the county.
The first of the Digital Retail Skills Training sessions is fully booked, however to cope with demand further sessions have been scheduled, with the first on Thursday, September 24. Throughout October and November there is a host of further online workshops and 1:1 support available to retailers in Warwickshire.
Keely Hancox, from the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, added: “Businesses need to be making the most of online channels now more than ever to make up for the lost physical trade they would have normally received. The workshops are all about growing their business, and supporting them to trade online, whilst also using online methods to drive Socially distanced footfall into their stores.
“The positive impact that our workshops have had on Bumbles Coffee House & Lifestyle is brilliant to see, and we are hoping their story will prompt other businesses to give the workshops a go over the coming weeks.
“Spaces on the workshops are in high demand, so I’d urge any independent retail business that are interested to register themselves a space as soon as possible.”
Leader of the County Council and Portfolio Holder for Economic Growth, Councillor Izzi Seccombe, stressed the importance of continuing to safely support businesses in town and village centres during these unprecedented times.
She said: “We have seen some real success stories since we started the programme in 2016, and also through the pandemic lockdown. In this climate of uncertainty, it’s wonderful to see small retailers and high street businesses embracing social media, changing the way they interact with customers and gaining new customers as they do so.
“I would urge retailers to sign up for the workshops, to help improve their business resilience, as well as their town and trading environment.
“As internet shopping and the convenience of out of town retail play an ever-increasing part in serving the needs of consumers, it’s even more vital our town centres provide safe, interesting, social and unique experiences for locals and visitors. This will in turn provide jobs for local people and support the Warwickshire economy.”