The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many businesses and while some have not been able to survive the storm, others have chosen to pivot themselves and transform.

Yvonne runs Long Time Ago (LTA), a local dart pub along Boat Quay, where the streets are normally bustling and vibrant. When COVID-19 turned into a pandemic and Circuit Breaker was enforced, several industries were badly hit, especially the entertainment and pub scene.

“Sometime in March, it was announced that all entertainment venues would be closed for more than a month to help curb the spread of COVID-19. This affected me quite badly, as apart from LTA, I run 4 other pubs across Singapore, so I didn’t know how to move forward,” shared Yvonne.

Cry for help

The gravity of the situation triggered Yvonne to write to her Member of Parliament representative, Dr Teo Chee Hean, for assistance. It was through her appeal that she was referred to our Senior Business Advisor, Mike, in early April.  

One of the immediate steps taken by Mike was to update Yvonne on the Job Support Scheme (JSS), which would allow Yvonne to receive wage support and retain her employees. In addition, Mike indicated to Yvonne that she qualified for the rental relief programme and provided relevant information on the process to her.

“I wasn’t aware that there were a number of assistance schemes I could benefit from during the COVID-19 period and am thankful to Mike for shedding light on these available grants,” emphasized Yvonne.

However, Yvonne was still in a limbo and worried about the fate of her businesses. Through further discussions, Mike advised Yvonne to seek new opportunities that could either diversify her business offerings or pivot her business model to one that would be relevant. Inspired by the surge of online retail, Yvonne saw a demand for courier services and decided to venture into the logistics industry, a move that would pivot her business in a new direction. Yvonne shared, “We decided to announce to our network of friends and suppliers of our intent to provide logistics services and they had helped spread the word to their own F&B clients. It was through this word of mouth that we managed to clinch a few accounts for eg. Bones ‘n Barrels, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Singapore Recreational Club, etc. So, the response was rather encouraging.”

Sailing through unchartered waters

With a new purpose in mind, Mike guided Yvonne through the transition from shutting down some of her pubs to setting up a logistics company.

“My team and I realised that it would be in our best interests to shut down 3 of our pubs and focus our energy on transforming the remaining pubs into bistros where we can offer simple meals and finger foods as well. During this process, Mike had advised us on the proper steps needed to complete the process,” related Yvonne.

In May, Yvonne successfully set up On the Double (OTD), a courier services company, specializing in products and food delivery. Given the nature of the business, Yvonne had considered building her own fleet management system to properly manage order assignments.

As the logistics industry is competitive, Mike recommended Yvonne to conduct some market research from the beginning. He elaborated, “There are a lot of competitors currently in market like Ninjavan and Lalamoove, so Yvonne spent some time studying the industry before expressing interest in developing her own fleet management system. I had informed Yvonne that there are pre-approved solution providers available and advised that she sought out 2-3 quotations to have a clearer idea on which approach would best meet her needs.” This proved useful to Yvonne as it gave her a clear direction on what to look out for and reduced the amount of time taken to source for vendors.

Currently, Yvonne and her team are in midst of building their clientele and heightening OTD’s brand presence in the market. Yvonne is optimistic that the new direction will unlock new opportunities for her business to scale. Yvonne concluded, “Over the last few months, we have managed to secure a few clients and am in talks with an international company to kickstart our first pilot project. I am excited to see what the future holds for OTD and am glad we made the right move by pivoting ourselves amidst a difficult period.”

Mike believes that Yvonne and her team can go far with OTD. “Yvonne came to me at a time where there was a lot of uncertainty and apprehensiveness about the state of economy. The Circuit breaker had put a stoppage to Yvonne’s businesses, but she kept fighting and persevered. Her resilience and determination to adapt is a trait an entrepreneur should have,” suggested Mike.