From $4m to near zero―how to survive while pivoting gifting business through Covid-19

The last few months have been tumultuous. Many people felt as if they were taking part in a movie. I don’t watch science fiction movies, but this is what it felt like, a really bad movie. Despite the ‘disaster’, most people experienced few disruptions, life has been fairly comfortable. 

It is interesting discussing this with older people and learning how well many of them are taking it in their stride. It is a reminder of how lucky our generation is―no wars or famine, an overabundance and relative peace. But this also engendered materialism and a lack of appreciation of life or mindfulness.

Giving up to change the mindset

Our problems are, for the most part, ‘first world´ problems. Finding peace was once associated with living a relatively simple life―family, friends, food and hard work. Gen Y’s search for peace could be a shock―life has suddenly become more complicated.

The current events are a reminder to look at our values and judge what is really important in life. Deep introspection can lead to the discovery that one’s values have not changed. Losing the ability to have everything can lead to the realisation that material attachments will have to be ‘sacrificed’. This could be a highly emotional but beneficial process. It is a reminder that no matter how dramatic the loss, people still value what is most important to them―their inner family circle.

Trauma in the business community

A business turnover that plummeted from an average of $350,000 a month to near zero was an opportunity to learn more about resilience. We are not the only ones that have been impacted by the virus―more than 600 of our small Australian retail partners are also being affected.

It is also impacting other groups that we work with, primarily the Aboriginal community and The Smith Family. The income they receive from Koh Living has come to a halt. Realising that our customers and partners were also suffering from loss of income, my shock evaporated. Immediate action was required―what could I do to help them?

Inner peace as a business strategy

With health and income in jeopardy, having somewhere meaningful to turn to for support is important. Getting in touch with my inner self―15 years of personal development, meditation and yoga―has been my saviour. 

When the reality of the coronavirus pandemic struck, I panicked, but not for long. My inner peace allowed me to handle the crisis with calm. It is early days and there is no guarantee that our business will survive. If it doesn’t, I will still have what I value most in my life―my health, my daughter, my extended family and friends.

Learning from successes

Who better can we learn from than Winston Churchill, the great British WWII leader who saw opportunity in hardship. Many successful people have accepted hardship as a chance for self-improvement. Adversity sharpens the thought processes. It has the potential to help us grow and become the best version of ourselves.

Strategies for maintaining balance and finding peace

1 Get excited to calm the fear

Most important factor, but is easier said than done. I attended a public speaking course where I learnt that a great way to combat fear is not to say, ‘keep calm’, but to ‘get excited’. This may sound strange, but I can assure you that if you spend time looking for the benefits rather than focusing on negatives, you will find something to get excited about.

This is the best advice I have ever been given. I am going through a few ups and downs with this strategy. But, as the weeks turn into months, I am feeling more excited. This excitement has been channelled into innovative ideas to transform our own business and to help our Australian retail partners.

2 Meditation

Nonetheless, finding peace or ‘inner peace’ also comes from being still and having regular moments of silence and contemplation. For myself, this means meditation twice a day. I light one of our Minikin lanterns. My current favourite Minikin design is Mindfulness. I am reminded to be mindful of every action I take as every action must be carefully thought through, and even more so as we try to pivot our business. I recently added a Buddha to my meditation space as a reminder of that higher force looking over us.

3 Journaling

This has been a tough one for me because I understand the importance of journaling, yet have struggled to be consistent. However, one of the benefits of recent events is that I have taken up journaling on a regular basis, and this helps finding peace. I love writing in our new Koh Living journals because they are more than just journals.

An inspiring life quote can be found on alternate pages, as well as images from the artists and interesting stories about their artwork. You find yourself writing something a little sad or nostalgic? Don't worry as you may stumble across a page that raises your spirits. I also love the idea that a percentage from every journal sold goes towards helping disadvantaged Australian children gain an education.

4 Empathising with others

When we realised that we were in the middle of a crisis our first instinct was the survival of our business. However, focusing on self-interest opens the risk of becoming isolated and depressed. It is amazing how the mind shifts when you start thinking of others. Think of someone who is really suffering, then do something for them―post them a surprise gift that they will love. This will not only make you feel good (you have contributed to someone´s happiness), you will have at the same time connected with another human being―we all need a feeling of belonging. As a business, we continually ask, ‘how can we be of service to others’? Be absolutely assured, even if you are a product business you can still be of service.

5 Exercise and music

I am not one for running but lately I have needed something to get my blood pumping a little faster. I went back to my techno days, blasting the music on my run for half an hour. Not only has this stopped thoughts of doubt and fear, it gets me excited and ready for the day. As a bonus, I run alongside a river and through lots of greenery―nature is incredibly healing. Spend a few hours among the trees and watch how your creative thoughts flow over the next few days.

6 Visualisations and affirmations

I used these techniques before the pandemic and I still use them (wording slightly changed to suit the current challenges). What you say to yourself really matters right now. My positivity has improved leaps and bounds thanks to my morning ritual. It is why I will make it through this turbulence and a reminder of who I need to be to survive and thrive.

Visualisations and affirmations are techniques to step up and grab the power we didn´t know we had. A wise man knows that the theory of yin and yang applies to everything that exists in the universe. Where there is positive energy there must be the balancing energy of a negative. So, while we talk of positivity, we also realise the need to be realistic and alert about the changes taking place around us and act accordingly.

7 Be active

Imagine sitting still and waiting for things to pass. What are we waiting for and what does ‘pass’ look like? War was declared on the coronavirus. Wars normally last three years or longer. Do I want to sit and wait for three years, thinking about things passing or being different? Or do we accept it for what it is, not knowing the outcome―only that it will end at some stage. If this is the time to shine, then it is the time for action.

8 Sitting around and mulling over issues is self-destructive

I am super excited about pivoting our business, doing all the things I ‘should’ have done over the last few years. Life has taken on a deeper meaning which will benefit us. A key aspect of finding peace is reminding ourselves of and focusing on Koh Living’s purpose―‘connecting people through meaningful gifts, and helping people feel special’.

We want to bring joy to the world. The world needs joy more than ever before. Never has there been a more important time than now to live up to our mission. With a sense of meaning and purpose, I feel inspired to stand up, be strong and help others work towards their own meaning and inspiration.

What will things look like on the other side?

We are all winging it now, pretending we know but having no idea. What will the future look like? The coronavirus is a once in a lifetime happening. It has opened a big can of worms. There is a massive upheaval at the moment, but it is more than just about a virus. 

In my view, it is important to take a wide perspective of the current situation. How will the changes impact the world and how we interact with each other as a global economy?  How does the community feel about the present and the future? How will this change their priorities? How will consumers behave going forward given their new priorities? How can small businesses adapt to service people better given their new priorities?

Personal feelings and perceptions will dictate how each one of us reacts to the changes. It is not only businesses that will pivot. People´s thoughts, feelings and perceptions will also pivot. I believe that businesses will need to pivot in the same direction.

We cannot control the outside world (especially political), but we can dictate what goes on in our inner world. The daily practice of strategies to achieve peace and harmony will help overcome adversities. People who experience turmoil in their businesses or workplaces know what it means to feel helpless, to cope with fear and panic. After the initial shock, Koh Living just got on with it. It´s eight weeks on and I feel very grateful that I have had the space and time to innovate, create and find ways to help others.

There are great lessons to be learnt at the moment; find them and work with them. Remember, you have a choice as to what goes on in your inner world. Take stock of what your values are and know that they will be tested during this period. Once you have certainty, the fear of loss or losing something will diminish and in its place you can focus on finding peace and building.

By Tui Cordemans, Koh Living

click here to view supplier