KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Usually around this time of year, thousands of entrepreneurs from across the world would be in Kansas City for the 13th annual Global Entrepreneurship Week Kansas City.
But due to the pandemic, the event is now virtual.
One of those entrepreneurs who will be attending virtually is chef Esra England, owner of KC Cajun.
"It's one of the featured food trucks here in the city, and it's basically our kitchen on wheels," England said. "We offer authentic Louisiana food."
Though he begins each day with prep work, he said there was no way to prepare for 2020.
"This year has just been a lot of ups and downs for us. It's been kind of hard to project the year as you do in food sales," England said. "You got to be able to project your sales and your goals and your labor costs and this year, it's been all over the place."
England said business can vary on a daily basis.
"Some days we're doing okay, some days we're doing good and some days we're doing horrible," England said. "So that is what I would say would be one of the biggest challenges this year."
It's one of the reasons he's attending Global Entrepreneurship Week, an event to connect and network with business owners across the region, country and world.
"It's a great opportunity and really it's an advantage because you can go in and take those awesome classes right in the comfort of your home," he said.
Last year, England was a speaker for the event. It's an event that he says helped make his food truck idea a reality.
"That's basically how I got started into the food truck realm, just started taking classes at the public library," England said. "Then I heard about that, and I went there and did a bunch of networking,"
England said through a connection there, he was able to find a mentor to help coach him through the process and get started.
While the year put the brakes on some parts of the business, his food truck will keep rolling.
His message to aspiring entrepreneurs: keep going.
"If you got an idea, you're kind of timid about starting a business, go take some of those classes," England said. "Come to entrepreneurship week virtually, learn some things, network with some people, contacts. Reach out to them and basically just go for it. You really won't know until you actually try."
GEWKC shared these tips and advice for aspiring entrepreneurs during a pandemic from business owners:
Find partners to address changing needs.
"Green Resources Consulting (GRC) focused for years on utilizing bamboo. Owner Iveth Jalinsky and her team discovered the renewable resource could be used in protective masks—and then COVID-19 hit. GRC quickly partnered with groups like the Missouri Department of Economic Development and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to revamp its factory to meet the demand for masks. It wasn’t how Iveth had planned, but the need and the opportunity made the pivot necessary."
Be the entrepreneur you wish to find.
"Niki Wiltshire hired a virtual assistant and wasn’t impressed. But with more parents juggling kids, home and work, she knew she wasn’t the only one who needed help. So Niki started Wiltshire Virtual Assistant Group to provide internet-savvy services to moms who work from home. Offerings range from online course creation to video editing to Google Drive management."
Work in your business, not on it.
"Ruby Jean’s Juicery had to close during the pandemic. Then, only one of its locations was able to reopen with limited hours. Owner Chris Goode ended up working the front counter himself for two and a half months. The experience helped him understand some things firsthand – and know how he needed to pivot."
Redefine your offerings and your value.
"Interior designer Will Brown worked with a coach to fine tune how he could offer services online. But he also reconsidered how his services fit into the world. By putting himself in the shoes of the client, he realized that interior design had the power to make people feel safe during a time of upheaval. This reframing changed how he presented his services and how he saw them himself. It also differentiated his offerings from the rest of the market."
"Celeste Aguirre of Relief Muscle Manipulation freaked out when the pandemic closed the doors of her massage business just days after it opened. But she had faith that her loan would cover her bills. And she reminded herself that everyone was in the same boat. When in doubt, she turned to her support system to remind her that she was financially savvy and her business would thrive."
Take the time to streamline your vision.
"Chris Meier and Sam Yates of Yup Yup Design didn’t feel pressure to put work out during the early days of the pandemic. So, they used the time to develop their business plan – and take advantage of the FastTrac New Venture class. The class empowered the duo to map out diverse revenue streams and plot the goals that will drive their business."
Build your audience.
"UnLESHed+ plus-size resale wasn’t able to open its new shop due to the pandemic. But owner Alesha Bowman engaged with her audience in authentic ways. In addition to virtual dance classes and sales on social media, she also collected donations to support protesters and local causes. When her store could finally open, it was packed with customers and supporters stopping by to say thank you. "
Although GEWKC is wrapping up, there are a few more events happening Thursday and Friday. You can check them out here.