The Adaptables: Featuring Nadia Lloyd.
When COVID-19 hit earlier this year, Nadia made a pandemic pivot into creating fabric face masks that feature her original art. Before she knew it, the mayor of Toronto showed up at her door purchasing a few masks and the entire Toronto Raptors team started wearing them out in public.
If you don’t have time to tune into the full podcast, get Nadia’s tips below on how learning to go with the flow can inspire unexpected, but very successful, business pivots.
Put your other skills to use. Nadia quickly realized in the first few weeks of lockdown that people wouldn’t be looking to buy things like beanies, cushion covers, or shower curtains featuring her artwork of the Toronto skyline. So instead of sitting around worrying about what the future held, she decided to focus on making face masks for her herself and her son. “I don't have a sewing machine, but I had hand needles, so I said, ‘Let's take one of my cushion covers featuring the Toronto skyline, let's cut it up, and let's just produce two face masks for ourselves so that we can go out and about and feel like we're doing our job to protect ourselves, and protect others.’
And so we did that, took some photos at the tower that I posted on social media, and people just went bananas right away. They were messaging me on all social media, ‘Where can I get this? Where can I buy this? I want one. I want one.’"
Source supplies from social media communities. Nadia seized on the demand for her skyline facemasks and decided to make more masks to donate to frontline workers. But there was an obstacle: She still didn’t have a sewing machine. “I put the word out on Facebook in my community, I said, ‘I need a sewing machine,’ and one of my neighbors who happens to live in my building put up her hand and said, ‘I have a sewing machine my mom gave me 20 years ago I haven't used. It's yours if you want it.’ So within days she lent me the machine, and I went online and I started looking at patterns on the different face masks that are available and how to make them.”
Actively share your work on social media – especially products that tie back to key cultural moments.
If it wasn't for Nadia’s social media posts, neither the mayor nor the Raptors would've ever heard about her face masks. “I posted a photo on Instagram wearing the mask. It was actually a video where I kind of pan back and forth to show not only the pride flag but also the skyline, and the caption said something like, "Oh yeah, I went there. We can't celebrate pride this month because of COVID, but here's one way that we can make a stand to what we believe in, and we can celebrate and build our community." It's actually through that video that the mayor's office ended up messaging me just days later saying, ‘You know what? We've been looking for a pride mask. Then we came across your mask, not only pride mask, but pride mask with the Toronto skyline, can we come and pick up a few for the mayor?’, and I was like, ‘Yeah.’”
Barter with other businesses to create win-win situations. “I realized that the initial website I was using to sell my art was limiting me in what I could do and how I could sell. Luckily at the time I just made friends with a woman who came along and said, ‘You know what? You need a Shopify website. Listen, you paint me a six foot by four foot skyline of Toronto, because I know how much you charge for those, I will build the website for you, I will take all of the photos, I will write every description, I will set it up for you so that you've got a website ready to go, and you can just grow it from there."
“So, that's exactly what we did. She came to my house with her camera, we shot photos of every single product, and basically that is how my Shopify gallery came to life. That's another great lesson for entrepreneurs is that you don't always have to pay people in cash, you can also barter, which is amazing, because there are people out there who want what you have, and in my case it's products and art.”
Do good. Nadia began selling the face masks and using the money coming in from the sales to keep buying supplies so she could keep donating masks for free. Nadia expanded into dedicated Black Lives Matter designs, and her masks caught the eye of Toronto’s mayor, and soon the entire Toronto Raptors team started wearing them out in public. “I was donating like 60 to 100 a week, and it made me feel great, because it gave me something to do during the day, and it showed my son how you can think outside the box in times of needs.”
Offer free shipping. “Free shipping for me was actually sort of a way to help myself and to help my clients as well. Because we're in a pandemic, and because I have a little one at home, getting to the post office on a regular basis would be difficult to do, and there's no actually physical post office in my neighborhood. But we have the post office boxes. I thought if I offer free shipping, then I can easily grab a couple of hundred stamps at the post office every week, I can label all of my shipments in my art studio, and then at my own leisure I can walk to the post box and drop between 50 and 100 at a time. And then the clients really don't have to worry about paying shipping, which I've learned is really attractive to them.”
If you found Nadia's story as inspiring as we did, tune in for more episodes of The Adaptables, featuring small business owners who have not only adapted to survive, but to thrive.
More recommended resources:13 creative ways to keep selling in a pandemic.
Step-by-step guide: How to create a QR code to accept touch-free payments.
How to get started selling online quickly.