Four dynamic Philadelphia and South Jersey area female entrepreneurs have tapped into their strengths, figured out how to pivot, and are seeing some “silver linings’ during COVID-19 that can inspire each of us as we move forward.
This positive outlook comes amid reports that more than 100,000 small businesses in the nation, (or 2 percent), have permanently shut their doors as a result of the lock-downs since the Coronavirus pandemic was declared in March.
These grim statistics are according to a study from economists at the University of Illinois, Harvard Business School, Harvard University, and the University of Chicago.
While so many of us are grappling with a myriad of issues from COVID-19 –medical concerns, job losses and cutbacks, concerns over finances and more – business experts agree it is always wise to take a deep breath, find some positivity, think ‘out-of-the-box’ and establish a plan to help you not only survive, but also to thrive.
These experienced women have found innovative ways to offer their products and services to new and existing clients in a meaningful way.
They are also successfully pivoting, inspiring others, and eager to share what they have learned personally, and professionally, during this global health pandemic.
Here is a window to how they operate and what we can learn from them:
Renee Patrone Rhinehart
Owner, Party Host Helpers
In operation since 2014
Renee Patrone Rhinehart’s Party Host Helpers and these other innovative business owners were able to change gears and provide their current and future clients with exemplary products and services. This is according to recent studies from Harvard University and other noted colleges.
“Like many businesses, mine has definitely taken a hit. Throughout it all, we are focusing on our clients’ needs by posting recipes and upbeat, light content,” she explained. “We are staying COVID-19 compliant while staffing their smaller, more intimate gatherings.
For the past 12 years, the Philadelphia-based Rhinehart has been in the event planning business and realized the need for party host helpers when her wedding clients kept coming back asking for bartenders and servers for smaller gatherings. So, starting her national business, Party Host Helpers in 2014, was the natural next step, and expanded her business to include helpers, bartenders, servers and staff who do everything from soup to nuts at parties of all sizes.
“Our clients have done a lot of work to plan their parties and hiring a Party Host Helper allows them to breathe a bit and enjoy their party and their guests,” Rhinehart explained.
What does Rhinehart, a newlywed who recently had the pleasure of planning her own wedding, appreciate most about her party hosting business? “I love that we allow hosts to enjoy being the host.” It also allows them to focus on their loved ones instead of running out for ice or other last-minute items, serving, clearing, dishes, and clean-up.
Rhinehart, like these other inspiring entrepreneurs, has also found several “silver linings” to stay-at-home orders and other restrictions imposed since March. “I am a newlywed so it has been nice to slow down a bit and enjoy married life,” she said. “It also makes me appreciate the hard work that I have put in to build my business while taking the time to look back over the last six years.”
What value does she bring to new and long-time clients? “We are their trusted party staffing source. They can rely on us for whatever their needs are. Our corporate clients and catering partners know they can call us at any point in their planning to ensure their staff will be covered!”
Why do clients refer her to their colleagues and friends? “Our reputation for responsiveness is what sets us apart. We are committed to making our clients happy and that means responding to emails, texts, calls quickly, and getting the job done to their satisfaction.”
What sets her apart from others who operate similar businesses? “Responsiveness, the quality of people, and savviness.
What keeps her going when times are tough? “Remembering how much we help our clients and how happy they are after their parties. I also love being able to give people from all walks of life an opportunity to work as a “Party Host Helper.”
[Party Host Helper Renee Patrone Rhinehart surrounded by beautiful party decorations]
In business since 2015
Lori Diamond is a true visionary who has combined her passions for art and philanthropy to create a line of products that are helping to change the world.
Once her three children were grown, Diamond, of Dresher, Pennsylvania, (Suburban Philadelphia) paired her artistic vision with the missions of several nonprofits in order to raise money and awareness.
As such, through LoriDiamondArt she has helped children with Leukemia and autism and helped others feel empowered by wearing her designs on a variety of products, including sneakers, scarves, flip-flops, and masks.
“I love that I can use my unique gifts to leave an impact on this world,” Diamond explained. “My messages, in my product designs, are always about love and its power in this world.”
Diamond said she started her company to help small businesses stand out from their competition, something that is a necessity during the current challenging business climate. “So many companies are scrambling to pick up the pieces of what remains of their once-successful businesses,” she said.
“Reaching people is easy, but how they react after they see your product is a totally different story. Being an ‘out-of-the-box thinker’ is a great skill right now. It is my hope that my existing clients see that I genuinely care and will go the extra two miles. After establishing relationships with new clients, they will find that I love to connect people after I feel confident that they are the right fit for that marriage.”
She has watched many companies she works with ways to pivot during COVID-19, including a successful bandanna company, hire a sewing team and go into the mask business to help serve a national need for face protection.
At the same time, Diamond created a fabric line she had planned to use for home décor items such as pillows, but instead, she found new opportunities to use her art to make masks.
“I try extremely hard to see the ‘silver lining’ in all experiences in my life,” Diamond explained.
“This Coronavirus forced us to see how we are all connected, which means that if one company fails it could set off a domino reaction and we could all begin tumbling down,” she said. “So, we are beginning to help our neighbors like never before in our history. It gave me a clearer perspective on what is important to me in this life: the love of my family and what I can do to help others in pain.”
What sets Diamond apart from other companies? “I am very picky and want to have affiliates that offer my clients the very best products and services. I am constantly repeating what I am grateful for and finding others with inspiring stories that I can help. The Coronavirus forces us to stay in the present and not look too far ahead.”
She said that while we all want to know when our lives will go back to the way they were before the Coronavirus and will our loved ones be forced to reschedule their weddings for the second time. But through it all, “I learned that you can live a happier life when you realize some things are out of your control. I focus on what I can do to make a difference that day and I urge others to follow this advice.”
President of Intrepid Marketing, Inc.
In operation since 2013
Doreen McGettigan, who has always had a special way with words knew from the tender age of 10 that she wanted to become a published author and is thrilled that she has made that dream come true for herself three times.
Not only did she write Bristol boyz Stomp, The Stranger in My Recliner, and most recently, Realize Your Writing Dreams, McGettigan is helping others fulfill their dreams of becoming writers. “I love seeing my clients smile when they’ve realized their own writing dreams.”
After her first book was published in 2011, people began asking McGettigan for help with writing their own books and for assistance in getting published – no easy feat. “I realized there were very few people offering entrepreneurs, professionals, and writers any assistance with writing their own books, publishing them, and marketing those books. I saw a great opportunity to make a living doing what I absolutely love.”
She said that her affordable services through Intrepid Marketing saves clients valuable time and money and her company stands out because she works on her client’s specific time frame, and assists each of them in producing a book of which they can be immensely proud.
Since most of her clients come to her via referrals, social media, or LinkedIn and she has always worked remotely, she did not have to do a major pivot.
But when her third book, Realize Your Writing Dreams was released in March it came at a time when all the author events, book signings, and speaking engagements were canceled due to the pandemic. “I had to utilize social media, a newsletter, friends, family, and a blog to get the word out about the book.”
She has been busy during the past five months with so many business owners and other professionals deciding to write their first or second book. “The shutdown has given people that have always said they could write a book the time to sit down and write those books.”
On a personal level, her husband, John has been home instead of his usual 12 hours a day in car sales. “We normally have little time with each other. During the shut-down, we were blessed with three months of time spent together. We missed our children and grandchildren all the time, but it was good practice for my husband’s retirement taking place next year.”
She said that what sets her apart from others who guide the process of writing a book, is that she “works with her clients personally, one-on-one and only works with those whose project I believe in, which leaves me wanting to give them 100 percent.”
What keeps her going when times are tough? “Positive book reviews, emails, and social media posts from people that have read one of my books saying they couldn’t put it down, that my words helped them immensely or my stories affected them in a positive way,” she said. “The memory of placing a client’s published book in their hands for the first time is pure joy!”
[Cover of Doreen McGettigan’s new book, Realize Your Writing Dreams]
Leslie Blau Berlin
LBB Design, LLC.
In operation since 2016
Cherry Hill, N.J.
[Owner/Creative Director of LBB Design, Leslie Blau-Berlin]
Leslie Blau-Berlin is a visual thinker, and as such, she is using her myriad of skills to help entrepreneurs, small businesses and non-profits clarify their marketing needs with logos, website design, brochures, booklets and more.
After freelancing for various clients for several years and leaving a job as a newspaper graphic artist in 2010, she turned her passion into a business when it became an LLC a few years later.
One impetus for starting LBB Design was a self-survey from AARP which indicated that she would be happy being self-employed in her 50’s and 60’s, rather than working at a job or retiring.
With a strong background in art and advertising design, she is also a teacher. Although many of the web design agencies are purely technology-oriented, she eagerly embraces being called “an artsy geek.”
With some of her clients having limited digital skills, like her landscaper client Mike Larkin, who feels like a dinosaur with a computer, she explains that he had to “get with the 21st century and get a website. It took a while to prove it, but I’ve seen a noticeable uptick in views to his Facebook page and website. If he gets more calls and new clients, I believe I’ve helped.”
Blau-Berlin helps new clients clarify their brand as she delves into designing their logo and choose their color scheme after a thorough discovery session. “I help entrepreneurs move up from their “DIY” website and branding to look as professional as the more corporate brands they may be competing with,” she explained.
“For long-time clients, I offer updates to their websites like a custom ‘Before & After’ portfolio slider, and always push for promoting their businesses on social media. I also offer ongoing website maintenance which many non-techy and/or busy folks appreciate.”
When Blau-Berlin heard that nearly everyone would be in lock-down during the start of COVID-19, she jumped on the chance to register for designers’ boot camp, an online course, and also found ways to network and build her business.
While many people may complain about all the Zoom meetings rather than in-person get-togethers, she has found a ‘silver lining’ that makes it an advantage. “A lot of conferences, networking meetings, and book clubs are now all online. Although there may still be a fee to ‘attend,’ the geographic barriers to getting there are now eliminated. As long as you have a good internet connection, you can connect with individuals across the globe.”
As a self-employed home-based graphic designer, she has been able to continue to work on projects during this on-going crisis. “As long as I have my iMac or laptop, Adobe Creative Cloud, and a number of other cloud-based platforms, I am able to work from home.”
Even though she eagerly looks for ‘silver linings,’ she admits there have been tough times during this pandemic. There is so much uncertainty about the virus and when it will be over. She has drawn on her faith and meditation, as well as checking in with friends and family for emotional support. Leslie realizes that “You can see who your true friends are when they reach out during times of trouble.”
She believes that this pandemic could forever change the economy and how people do business. Previously, numerous corporations were reticent about allowing employees to work remotely, but since its success, during the pandemic, a lot of companies are considering more remote work arrangements. Also, Zoom and other digital conferencing platforms have become the norm for meetings.
“I believe there are opportunities to change and flourish for those who think outside the box,” says Blau-Berlin, “which I encourage all of us to do going forward!”