When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Scotia Kauppi, owner of Thunder Bay’s Sweet Cherry Spa, knew that she could either spend time stressing about whether she was going to lose her business or she could spend time working on her business. She opted for the latter and it paid off. Her resourcefulness, ability to embrace change, and effective use of technology kept her customers engaged and Sweet Cherry Spa afloat during a time when many other beauty businesses were forced to close their doors.
Kauppi has always been keen to leverage technology in her business operations and marketing strategies. “You have to embrace it because your clients will love it,” she says. When the pandemic forced her business to change and adapt, she knew technology would play a key role in helping the spa survive the downturn, but Kauppi needed funds to effectively implement her plan. So, when she discovered the Digital Transformation Grant (DTG) program offered by Digital Main Street (DMS), she was excited by the opportunity. The program provides small businesses with a digital assessment, online training, and a $2,500 grant to implement their Digital Transformation Plan.
Kauppi applied for the program, worked through online educational modules, and submitted a successful grant application. Equipped with new knowledge from DMS and the DTG funds, Kauppi got to work on strategies that would not only help her beauty business ride out the pandemic, but also set her spa up for success post-pandemic. “The grant gives you a chance to do the things that you’ve been kind of putting off […] so that when I come back, I can come back at full force,” says Kauppi.
Kauppi knew she had to work to maintain a relationship with her current customer base during the lockdown. One of the first things she did was purchase a new laptop with an updated operating system that was compatible with the apps necessary to put her DTP into action. With her new laptop’s improved capabilities, Kauppi signed up for Twitch, an interactive live-streaming service for content spanning gaming, entertainment, sports, music, and more. There are a growing number of make-up and beauty creators on the app live-streaming tutorials to a captive global audience. Kauppi is a talented nail artist who creates intricate designs and her customers tuned in to watch as she live-streamed her nail art creation process. She said it was a great way to keep her business top of mind with her existing client base and even draw some new eyes. It also generated a revenue stream for Kauppi through the Twitch Affiliate Program, which allows qualified streamers to monetize their channel as they build their audience. In Kauppi’s words, the revenue stream was “teeny tiny” but for a beauty business in the midst of a pandemic, every little bit helps.
Kauppi also invested in software to help her keep up with the ever-changing regulations she faced as a result of the pandemic’s ongoing ebbs and flows. She upgraded her salon booking software, Fresha, to a paid account which allowed her to better communicate with clients about appointment changes. It also enabled her to start selling gift certificates, a new feature that helped keep her business alive as the pandemic raged on.
Once Kauppi had a revised strategy to manage customer relationships during the pandemic, she focused her efforts on the future of her business. Her plan to come back bigger and better than ever post-pandemic included a move to a new and much larger space. She allocated a portion of her DTG funds to an advertising campaign that included a photo shoot of the space. In order to abide by provincial regulations, Kauppi had to limit the number of people attending the shoot which meant no models. She came up with a very creative solution and cast a skeleton as her stand-in client. “I thought it was hilarious and it was very on brand,” she laughs, referencing the business’s goth and punk-rock-inspired decor. She used the new photos to update her social media accounts, her Google Business Profile account, and her company’s website.
Today, Sweet Cherry Spa is up and running again. Kauppi and her team are servicing clients at their new location and the spa is reaping the benefits of the work put in to set the business up for success post-pandemic. Kauppi says she is grateful that the DTG program was available to help transform so many businesses like hers struggling to stay afloat during an especially difficult time.