Do I need to pivot my business right now?

Written by: Kitty Dinshaw, Co-Founder and Co-Curator of Subjectmatterart - an online art platform that showcases the work of some very special artists from all over the world. Together with partner Liezel Strauss, Kitty is committed to creating a more equal and transparent art world. 

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Lockdown has obviously been a challenge for a business like ours, we make our money through art sales and therefore, can’t apply for any grants. Our artists are like family; to enter lockdown knowing that it would be challenging to make an income, and therefore help our artists financially, was tough.

Being online, technically we could have "shuttered" the business, and reduced our running costs to practically zero. But emotionally that was never going to fly with either of us. We have worked too hard for that and our artists deserve more! For ten days after lockdown started, we were a bit lost. Our regular patterns, such as posting on Instagram, or mailing our clients, deserted us. It just felt wrong, when people were falling ill, losing their jobs, or living in a state of constant anxiety. 

But after the initial shock, we needed to come back. We admitted to ourselves that it was OK, we needed the creative distraction, and we needed to at least try to make something positive out of this time. 

We didn't make any dramatic changes to our existing offering, we just built on what our strength as a business was. Amazing artists and good content! It was as simple as that. Since then we have launched our Lockdown Commissions, where you can commission an artist to make work exclusively for you. This small business tweak has brought 500 additional people to our mailing list.

Here are our learnings so far..

1) Don't feel pressured to rewrite your business plan. A time of crisis, with an uncertain future on the horizon, is fundamentally a bad time to completely rewrite your business plan. 

2) Think creatively about where you need to tweak. Your audience, your work and your client-base may have narrowed, but that doesn't make you smaller. We've limited ourselves to three projects right now and they are all doing really well. 

3) Build on what you're good at. So, for us, great artists, good client communication and that dreaded word, authenticity. Such an overused word but it really is just the two of us and some brilliant freelancers, and we never hide that. 

4) Stay open to opportunities. It sounds bad to even think like this but as someone who has their own business, you have to always keep an eye out for opportunity. As long as you act on it with integrity, there is nothing wrong with trying to make some positives out of the dark times we are living through.