Making lemonade out of lemons: 3 tips for pivoting your business with confidence

Person working on a table with a laptop, note pad and other stationery.
Rachel Kelly, Image Arts ‘12
Rachel Kelly, Image Arts ’12, is the Founder of Make Lemonade, a coworking office and community for female entrepreneurs.

Tears welled up in my eyes as I walked home on March 15, 2020. I had just closed my business doors — a coworking office — for two weeks. One week prior, I was celebrating International Women’s Day in an office full of ambitious entrepreneurs. We had a potluck, there were numerous hugs, and we certainly underestimated how special it was to gather in real life.

March, April, and May of 2020 were some of the most tumultuous days of running my business to date, having survived the stresses of renovations and opening in the summer of 2017. A mixed feeling of uncertainty, hope, desperation, loneliness, and adrenaline-fueled my pivot: transforming an “IRL” coworking space into a “URL” community.

I’ve taken stock of what I’ve learned this year and distilled them into three simple tips:

1. New problem, same customer

Think about what your business was doing before the pandemic. What role did you play in your customers’ lives?

At Make Lemonade, we focused on building a physical community space that inspired and supported our members’ business growth. When the pandemic hit, we began offering Virtual Coworking so our members could establish a work-from-home routine while staying connected to the community and their goals.

How you supported before is how you can now, with a twist.

2. Keep talking

There is no rule book and no ‘right’ way to share your message during hardship because only you know your community best. Have empathy for your ideal customer, speak truthfully about your point of view, and speak from the heart. Even during the most challenging days, I still write our weekly newsletter and commit to showing up for our community daily.

Keep the conversation open, continue the dialogue, and remember, it’s okay to fumble your way through. Pivoting is new!

At Make Lemonade, our message and mission have remained the same no matter all the ups and downs the pandemic brought us. It’s our mission to make everyone feel like a boss, and that’s still what we do, just virtually!

3. Rip the Bandaid off

The day we closed our doors was the first day we offered a free way to connect with the community online. Instead of overthinking and worrying about where the money part would come in, we took inspired action. This offer was a way to connect with our community, show our support, build our email list, and keep ourselves accountable to one thing while our business (and the world) was changing before our eyes. Most importantly, this free offering provided a “sandbox,” allowing us to play and learn what our community needed. When we created a virtual paid offering, the Get Sh*t Done Club, we knew it was what our community needed, and we never broke communication.

Nearly 365 days have passed since the initial pivot, and naturally, hindsight is 20:20. I realize now that being forced to reimagine my business model was what the business needed.

Rachel Kelly, Image Arts ’12, is the Founder of Make Lemonade, a coworking office and community for female entrepreneurs.