Kristen Buttress started up her ice cream business, Kristen’s Kick Ass Ice Cream, with a mission to be the little community scoop shop where everyone feels welcome. The brand has stores in Noordhoek, Constantia (near Cape Town) and a tropical outpost on the island of Mauritius.
When COVID-19 hit, she had to adapt the business to changing consumer behaviour by building a solid online presence and introducing home delivery services. We spoke to her as part of our annual State of South African small business report – and here’s what Kristen told us…
How are you finding the impact of COVID-19 on your business and the industry as a whole?
I have been lucky in that both of my shop locations are in open air destinations, so thankfully my foot traffic has not changed much with customers wanting to be out but with the safety of space and fresh air.
As an industry, I am finding it hard to find ingredients, and my suppliers are only delivering at limited capacity and prices are changing daily. My kitchen production has had to be flexible to compensate to keep our margins in check.
How have you adapted?
We’ve invested in going digital by upgrading the website to offer online sales with delivery. In May we were only able to offer delivery, and I was personally doing the deliveries while eight months pregnant! But the deliveries were enough to pay our overheads and staff salaries, so I’m glad we had that option.
More recently I have also partnered with third party delivery services to generate sales from those who would rather have home deliveries. The commission the delivery services take is hard to swallow, but it’s great exposure to locals who may convert to direct customers in the future.
How do you manage your cash flow now, compared to when you started out?
Starting out I had to pay cash on delivery for everything! Luckily I have a bit more buying power now to have supplier accounts, which help with projections and compiling data as far as how I spend money.
When I first opened I had about 60 flavours and kept ingredients on hand to make all of them at any given time. But now I have systems in place to rotate flavours in an organised fashion. This allows me to streamline my ordering to make spending less erratic and better track cash flow.
How has technology made it easier for you to operate your business during COVID-19?
One change I made before the pandemic that really helped was converting all of my systems to be cloud based using Xero, Vend, Shopify and Simple Pay. They are seamless and integrate together giving me more time to focus on the future of my business. I’m also able to get an instant update on where I am financially at any given time. Having a clear financial picture allows me to safely spend the money needed to increase my online presence.
Besides COVID-19, what are some of the biggest challenges that your business is facing right now?
Keeping my employees safe. While we have all the PPE in place, we see a high volume of customers and there is always one who refuses to wear a mask or abide by our new regulations. This is hard on my staff and other customers who need a safe experience.
What would be your top piece of advice to other small businesses who might be struggling at the moment?
Get an online presence. Many customers are at home looking at their phones for things to do. Spend your energy expanding your brand awareness via social media and other outlets that can create exposure for your brand.
Now that we are emerging from lockdown, people are wanting to have some semblance of normality, so adapt your offering to draw people to your brand.
Download the full State of South African small business report 2020 here.
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