Redlands – In March, when everything shut down, Kadir Fakir and his sister Kamrun Parveen, founders of Cheesewalla, a gourmet grilled cheese shop in Redlands, were on edge.
“I would wake up every morning to look at my phone and see what was going on. I have 13 employees—they have no income. So, I was terrified that having to shut down, what the employees were going to do? What’s my sister going to do? We weren’t sure.”
Luckily, the duo was initially able to operate, not at a profit, but at break-even, paying employees for the hours they were working.
By April, the team was happy to have a job and felt still being open was a blessing. According to Fakir, that was the best thing they did.
One of the greatest lessons in Cheesewalla’s survival proved to be the value of social media and the support of the local business community.
“I was on the phone with different business owners, exchanging stories, asking what they’re doing, what’s working for them. Business owners would tell us the delivery services they were using, what platforms they were using to market.”
Instagram proved to be one of the biggest lifelines because of the amount of people active on the platform.
Due to the health crisis and ongoing changes in operations, local Redlands businesses rallied around each other. As Fakir shared, “Everyone was posting things that weren’t just about their products, they would post our products. Everyone was reposting each other’s stories just so customers would know what was open. It was amazing. We were stronger in numbers.”
Fakir credits shared social media and promotion among the local businesses with bringing him new followers and customers despite the quarantine. “Small businesses definitely thrive in our community. All our regulars were coming in a lot more just because they knew the importance of shopping local. I think they knew, if they didn’t come to us, we would have had to shut down,” said Fakir.
As the County progresses through its reopening phases, Fakir said every industry must be ready for change and that business will need to stay on top of new rules and regulations.
However, for business to thrive, Fakir can’t stress enough the value of social media marketing.
“I think people have seen how well it’s worked for us. Use it. It’s something free.”
Fakir’s other business advice is to stay on top of what resources are available out there, including programs such as the County’s COVID Compliant Business Partnership Program.
The good news is business is getting better. He added, “Since things have opened up, we can’t even keep up with the demand. Every day has been slammed. People are getting back into the flow of things, wanting to get out a little bit more.”