Lean into the digital world to help your business and support others

By Leesa Zelken

Leesa Zelken is the owner of Send In the Clowns, a local children’s party business in Los Angeles.
Credit: Courtesy Send In The Clowns

Prior to March 2020, I operated a local, in-person children’s party business called Send In The Clowns. I was one of many business owners who had never given a thought to what it would look like to take my business online. What was the point; why would anyone want to celebrate a children’s birthday virtually? But, as the stay-at-home orders went into effect in mid-March, the Send In The Clowns team found ourselves with children’s parties booked and no way to deliver. So, we did the only thing we could do–we went virtual. And we haven’t looked back since.

As soon as event restrictions went into place, we began building out a party experience that would allow the show to go on. Within days of posting our new offerings on our Facebook and Instagram pages, we had several followers book our new virtual celebrations. I began posting more videos and pictures on Facebook and Instagram as a primary way of promoting our new capabilities. We leveraged every tool possible to engage and connect with our audiences while they were at home, including using Facebook Live to show off our latest available characters, posting our successful “Zoomabrations,” where characters join and take part in virtual parties, and our pre-recorded “Kideos,” where a child’s favorite character can record a special, personalized message just for them.

As we helped our local customers bring their celebrations online and continued posting about our happy customers, word began to spread. Traction built quickly and requests to book virtual celebrations began coming in from across the globe. We suddenly found ourselves filling a major void for the community, allowing families and friends from different households the chance to come together again for birthdays, milestones and holidays, all while remaining safely apart. Our formerly Los Angeles area-only business was now helping families everywhere from LA to Canada to the Cayman Islands connect and celebrate from afar!

Cut to present day and Send In The Clowns is continuing to offer these virtual experiences with no plans to stop when in-person parties resume. While many businesses have struggled to pivot and find their footing over the last several months, thanks to the power of social media and the support from our community, we have been able to not only survive, but thrive. My small business is here to stay, and we are inspired to continue to do what we love, providing “safer than, not less than” celebrations.

To fellow small business owners, these times have been tough and have left so many of us stressed, anxious and under immense pressure to help see our businesses through to the other side of this crisis. You may have already taken the initial jump to pivot your business like me or you may have put your business on pause or tried to stick it out with limited sales. Regardless of your path, I urge you to lean into the digital world we now live in. Consider the opportunities that are there. Ask yourself how you can use the digital tools available to continue serving your customers and reach a bigger audience than ever before.

As a customer and a small business owner myself, I urge the community to continue to show as much support as possible for the small businesses in your networks and in your neighborhoods, especially as we head into the holiday season. This is a difficult time for everyone, and I speak from experience when I say that your local small businesses are working day in and day out to adapt and find new ways to survive and to best serve customers like you during this crisis. You can do your part by sharing their stories and their pages with your friends, liking their posts, and most importantly, supporting local businesses with your buying power. Do whatever you can to support these hard-working small businesses. Your actions today will help see small businesses through this crisis.

Power to Speak is The Argonaut’s guest opinion column for community members to voice their views on local matters and does not represent an editorial position or endorsement by The Argonaut. The opinions, experiences, research and data analysis expressed in this article are the author’s own. Have a unique point of view on a neighborhood matter or a national issue with a local twist? Email kkirk@timespublications.com.