We all know Bill Withers famous lyrics
‘lean on me, when you’re not strong, and I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on’🎶. .
However, those words have never resonated stronger than with these small businesses during lock-down.
Thankfully, a group of local Limerick volunteers have been just that. A helping hand, a shoulder to lean on. An inspiring initiative, the Lean on Me project exists to aid local businesses ( If you’re Irish you’re local, we’re all friends here) get back on their feet once lock-down retires. Through the help of you, I and your neighbour… businesses registered to the initiative are supported by online vouchers. A single voucher means that business gets immediate cash flow to keep doors open and voucher purchasers secure their favourite businesses service once reopened.
A win win right?🥳
We wanted to chat to a few business owners registered to the project and ask how lock-down has affected them.
Owner Cathal Keogh of the Irish owned coffee roaster based in Co. Galway has been operating since 1997. He explained the struggle of keeping a business open during the lockdown. However, his resilience was obvious as he explained his shop doors have remained open for takeaway coffee and the business has invested in their online presence to keep the cash flow coming.
The Galway man did admit that the coffee industry was extremely competitive and saturated, which he believed meant selling online was made that bit harder when customers can by off the shelf coffee in local convenience stores. While you won’t get the same quality as you would expect from in-house coffee roasters like Mocha Bean, competing against large chain stores was something the Cathal had to consider.
He expressed his gratitude for the Lean on Me project, saying the business received an amazing three vouchers in the first hour of registering to the page. As Cathal explained, “every little helps”, purchasing a voucher from his shop means Mocha Beans stores across the country will be able to continue serving its customers.
Raven hair salon located in the Radisson Blue on Ennis Road Co.Limerick has also reaped the benefits of the Lean on Me initiative. Sarah Clancy, a hairdresser in her family-owned business Raven Hair Salon said Lean on Me was a “win, win” for both business and customer.
“It’s a great way for our customers to be able to support us. To know when we open back up that we have their support there. To know that we will be busy when we open our doors. It just made sense. It was a brilliant way that we could actually facilitate people being able to buy vouchers without having to actually see people. They can just do it online in the comfort of their own homes and keeping in mind the social distancing rules”, said the Limerick hairdresser.
With over 80 hairdressers operating in Co. Limerick according to the Golden Pages, finding your niche in an already competitive industry is crucial. For Raven hair salon their unique location in an established hotel facility along with their long list of reliable customers allows them to stand out.
However, Laura admitted the current climate the salon industry has been forced to work under has taken its toll. While some industries have been able to remain open under certain restrictions, for the hairdressing world, their work has been left at a standstill. Learning to utilise digital media will be the key to their success Laura explained.
“We’ve had to close our doors, you know. So we’ve had to figure out different ways that we can keep in touch with our clients and thankfully social media is there to help us to do that. It definitely has made us look at the business from another perspective that we have to be able to be more engaging online and that we need to possibly have an online shop. At the moment we’re trying to get a grant so we can get our website up and running and make it possible for people to buy online. I suppose having a way to make sure that we can let people know that we’re still there. Lean on me is a great way that we can do that” she said.
Another salon affected by the circumstances created by Covid-19 is the bespoke Cyril Morgan Hair. Situated on Limerick City’s Riverside, Cyril Morgan Hair had only opened its doors 10 months when lock-down began. With tough cards dealt by the virus, Cyril was forced to close up shop not long after opening. Feeling ‘frustrated’ with government announcements, Cyril said his salon would be one of the ‘safest places’ people could be and addressed the underground activity taking place with home hairdressers.
Unlike Raven hair salon, Cyril felt E-Commerce would be difficult and has relied on his already clients to keep the business afloat. He thanked Lean on Me, saying he was’pleasantly surprised’ by the platform and that it had allowed his business to continue receiving income during the pandemic.
Cyril was confident his store was adequately prepared for doors to open and to keep his ‘guests’ safe. He described the new regulations workers in salons will have to follow as being similar to ‘going for a procedure’. With requirements of staff to wear masks, PPE and gloves, Cyril believed it was going to be a whole new experience. Other changes will include longer allocated time slots for customers, one way systems, partitions in between work stations, disposable towels and regular sanitisation of stations and equipment. However, Cyril admitted his salon has always taken sanitisation seriously and believed this should be the standard for all salons regardless.
“Hairdressing salons if their worth their calibre is a good place to come in for sanitisation”.
Cyril said he is ready to open shop the minute he ‘gets the green light’🚦
An industry that has received little mention throughout government announcements, Soulful Beauty is a holistic service that offers hypnotherapy, angel/crystal therapy, hot stone, holistic or lymphatic massage, integrated energy therapy and other beauty treatments.
Located in Johnstreet Limerick, owner Brenda Chung has been five steps ahead of E-Commerce trends.
Having already been operating on a digitalised and in-person basis, Brenda offers over the phone and online readings to customers. With current lockdown restrictions, Brenda has been able to continue her holistic work helping people from the safety and comforts of their own homes.
Brenda has even been using this time to offer free online group hypnotherapy sessions to help anxiety suffers deal with these unprecedented times.
Having only recently joined the Lean on Me initiative, Brenda felt it was a positive way to encourage ‘community’ in a currently isolated environment. She felt that this time may have a silver lining by allowing people to ‘reflect’.
However, amongst all of Brenda’s positivity was the realisation that things would be different for her business going forward. She explained the steps her business will have to take in terms of protective wear and hygiene to keep her customers safe.
So there you have it… there is a light at the end of this tunnel and Lean on Me may just be it.
If you are a business owner you don’t have to go through any of this alone. Lean on Me is a free registration, quick and easy. A helping hand.
If your a customer, try and support your local stores by purchasing vouchers. Keep your favourites stores afloat and treat yourself while doing so!
To register your business click HERE