May 26: COVID-19 drops a balm on my small business

Sophomore+Divya+Bharadwaj+shows+the+various+flavors+of+her+lip+balm+products.+Her+Didi+Balms+has+come+to+a+halt+like+several+non-essential+ones+statewide+because+of+the+novel+coronavirus+crisis%2C+but+Bharadwaj+is+hoping+to+keep+her+business+afloat+through+online+sales.+Image+posted+with+permission+from+Kiran+Bharadwaj.

Sophomore Divya Bharadwaj shows the various flavors of her lip balm products. Her Didi Balms has come to a halt like several non-essential ones statewide because of the novel coronavirus crisis, but Bharadwaj is hoping to keep her business afloat through online sales. Image posted with permission from Kiran Bharadwaj.

Divya Bharadwaj

LIVING UNDER THE CORONAVIRUS CRISIS

This is part of a series of columns about students’ various experiences during the school closure because of the coronavirus pandemic. If you would like to submit some of your experiences, please email us at [email protected].

I have been running my all natural lip balm business Didi Balms for about two years now. 

I started this business — which is named after the Hindi word for big sister, an endearment that my younger brother uses — because I found that the lip balm products I was using felt waxy and uncomfortable. When I realized that I could make my own product, it shocked me how many people were willing to purchase it. 

My goal for this business is to provide people with a natural product that feels smooth and hydrating — as a good lip balm should. 

Didi Balms is all natural lip balm with only three ingredients: shea butter, beeswax and coconut oil. Based on research I have done, the high concentration of vitamins and fatty acids in shea butter are soothing for the skin, while beeswax and coconut oil protect the skin from harmful bacteria and are moisturizing. 

By providing people with a quality product, I started to learn how to run a business. 

Earning money was secondary, but through the process, I learned how to make my product more marketable and profitable. For $3 per lip balm, I have sold roughly 300 and am approaching a four-digit profit. 

My main clients have been students at school since I spend most of my time there, and it was a convenient way to advertise and promote my product.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic and statewide social distancing guidelines have made it difficult for me to sell my products as Sunny Hills closed down classrooms and transitioned into a distance learning model in mid-March.

Being on a school campus makes marketing easy. If students near me say their lips are chapped, I inform them that they can buy a lip balm from me since I always have my product on hand.

It works out great because I am able to manage my schoolwork and other activities, while also keeping my small business running. 

I have created an Instagram and Facebook page, and I also run a website for my business. My social media platforms allow me to make my product — now with three flavors, rose, vanilla and peppermint — known to the student body at school while marketing to others not on campus.  

Nevertheless, most of my business comes from face-to-face sales. My online store usually comes secondary, but during quarantine, it has become the best alternative for sales orders. However, my online store has not been receiving as much traffic as I had hoped.  

With that being said, my store’s views have remained static, at around five per week. Didi Balms’ overall sales have dropped by 25 percent because I have lost my face-to-face sales. 

The stay-at-home order is important during the COVID-19 outbreak, but small businesses such as Didi Balms are impacted as we rely on customers going to a local brick and mortar store. We do not have the capabilities to sell as many products as these larger corporations (aka Target and Amazon) do. 

Not only is my main source of marketing and income limited, the business fairs that I attend quarterly have also been canceled amid the quarantine situation.

The most recent one was scheduled for March 28 at the Vista Heritage Global Academy in Santa Ana, where I anticipated a better location and favorable weather would have enhanced the potential for more customers. I had high hopes that this one would have brought more earnings than the $50 I made at the Dec. 14 fair held at The Children’s Museum in La Habra, where rainy weather conditions outside most likely contributed to the reduced foot traffic.

So just like with other entrepreneurs out there, I decided to find new ways to keep sales going during the coronavirus crisis. I conducted a short survey through my Instagram stories on April 9, asking my followers:

“Would you be willing to receive packages from Didi Balms while in quarantine?”

The result was that 22 of my followers responded yes, and not a single person responded no, which completely surprised me. 

Among the drastic precautions that people were taking to prevent getting in contact with the virus, I assumed they’d be more leary about receiving packages. 

I also decided that marketing would be the most strategic method for my business since spreading the word online may boost my sales now and for when we return to school. 

I then posted the following again to my Instagram story poll on April 9: 

“Do you think that marketing during this time will increase your likelihood of buying from Didi Balms once quarantine ends?” 

Twenty of my followers voted yes, and only one voted no.

As the school year ends this week, I plan on keeping my business open in hopes that my online sales will increase. 

The unique situation that we are dealing with currently affects everyone — small and large businesses alike. Despite the current circumstances, I am grateful that customers continue to support Didi Balms if not at school, then at least online.

Even though we’re not going out as much in the sun, I’m sure glad at least our lips still get chapped. 

Would you like a lip balm?