8 UK Businesses on the Effect of Covid-19

Mike McGrail
12 min readMar 13, 2020

Covid-19 is having a clear impact on many aspects of life. Aside from those who contract the virus and fall ill, or tragically don’t survive it, the stamp it is, and will leave on business and the economy could be vast.

As a small business owner, I wanted to know how other SMEs in the UK are adapting their businesses in light of Covid-19, so I quizzed eight of them on that and more, ranging from a spice manufacturer to a producer of hand sanitiser.

1 — Travelisto.com | Abraham Bravo, Founder

What is Travelisto?

I organise tailor made trips around the world: luxury cruises, escorted tours, flights and any travel related service. We are based in London with one employee.

Has Covid-19 already had an effect on your business, if so, what?

Yes, absolutely. All clients have expressed concern and either cancelled their trips, or changed the dates. In many cases, the overseas suppliers have been understanding leaving neither the traveller nor Travelisto out of pocket. But in other cases, there has been losses for the consumer as well as Travelisto . That is relation to existing bookings.

In relation to enquiries for future trips, there has been a complete halt. All clients are waiting and seeing what will happen next and they are looking at stay-cations instead of risking going overseas.

Among industry partners, we believe this situation will last at least 3 or 4 more weeks. However it is not certain. Even as a business which has just launched, the situation is very unsettling.

How do you see it getting worse?

Many friends and former colleagues are already experiencing “forced” unpaid leave, reduced working hours and pay cuts. As we have seen with the demise of Flybe, which was a troubled business for a long time, the fast effects that this situation is having on short-term cashflow as well as long term projections, are causing many businesses to come close to a cliff.

The situation will get worse with more travel businesses laying-off staff, consumers confused with the fast changing events, many overseas hotels and smaller businesses going bust and help from governments arriving too late.

Are you adapting your business in-light of C19? How?

At Travelisto we have paused many expenses and go into cost-saving mode in order to survive this uncertainty. Marketing campaigns not only need to be stopped but completely adjusted to destinations where there is no a current advice against travel.

All current expenses have been put under analysis and trying to defer or post-pone any unnecessary cost until end of summer. The travel industry is very fragile, particularly as many business including us, make the most of our profits during the winter months, which is our peak sales season. During months where travellers are already away on holidays (like summer months) the sales and therefore profits are lower.

Do you feel the government is doing enough to support small businesses at this time?

Certainly not. There is no sufficient information, no clear guidelines and no campaigns to reassure either the industry or the public. Relevant travel organisations like ABTA are lobbying and reaching out as they always do, but there is no message being sent across the industry. TTG Media has been particularly vocal about this, yet with no specific response.

Do you think your business will survive C19?

Yes, I remain positive as the business has just started and has no debt and few assets.

2 — AM Bid | David Gray, MD

What is AM Bid?

We are a bids, proposals and tenders specialist based in Edinburgh with 10 employees.

Has Covid-19 already had an effect on your business, if so, what?

Yes. Some conferences and events we planned to attend have been cancelled. As events represent a key opportunity for us to network and meet new clients, this may have an impact on our sales funnel and potential revenue. Other events we attended have had some cancellations — around 50 people were unable to attend the Bids & Proposals Europe Conference I spoke at in Amsterdam last week, mostly because their organisations had banned international travel as a precautionary measure.

How do you see it getting worse?

First and foremost, my concern is about the potential health impact on our people, their families and those close to them, if one or more of our team are unfortunate enough to contract the virus.

In the short to medium term, I expect to see more conferences and events being cancelled, teleconferences and videoconferences being requested instead of face-to-face meetings and a general reduction in face-to-face, in-person business interaction.

Are you adapting your business in-light of C19? How?

Yes. We have temporarily cancelled non-essential business travel and event attendance. We are preparing to move to a home-working model, should it be necessary, providing our staff with practical guidance on this, whilst also reviewing our videoconference and teleconference provisions, to ensure we remain as ‘connected’ as possible.

Our clients work with us because of the expertise our people bring to their bids and proposals, so it is important that we do whatever we can to protect our teams’ health and wellbeing, to mitigate the risk of them becoming unwell or having to self-isolate for an extended period.

However, we are also maintaining a database of experienced and qualified associates, to ensure we have adequate expertise available to provide business continuity for all of our clients.

Do you think your business will survive C19?

Like any crisis, there will be opportunities as well as threats. It will be important that we respond with agility to a rapidly changing situation, to ensure we continue to add value to our clients, even if we may have to do this slightly differently for some time.

3 — Movebubble | Simona Bojare, PR Manager

What is Movebubble?

We’re a property rental app, based in London, with 20 employees.

Has Covid-19 already had an effect on your business, if so, what?

We’ve noticed that with the potential corona fears renters are reluctantly attending viewings or might be unable to if the situation in the UK reaches Italy levels as many will self-isolating or quarantined.

How do you see it getting worse?

A big concern for us as a startup is another recession.

Are you adapting your business in-light of C19? How?

We’ve supercharged an extension of our product that wasn’t in the pipeline this soon, but rather later in 2020 as a response. We will be the first ones to introduce this in the proptech space.

We’re seeing many letting agents cutting the number of property viewings available. The extension of our product will solve this issue for those that are also likely to be self-isolating or quarantined. This will enable renters to not stress over expiring tendencies or needing to move for whatever reason.

Do you feel the government is doing enough to support small businesses at this time?

No and the budget announcement that was made clear.

Do you think your business will survive C19?

Yes!

4 — Fluidly | Caroline Plumb, Founder

What is Fluidly?

We offer cash flow management and are based in London, with 51 employees.

Has Covid-19 already had an effect on your business, if so, what?

Yes, people have been contacting us worried about Coronavirus and what it means for their cash flow and lending.

How do you see it getting worse?

Given recent analysis on unique data from fluidly of 17,999 small businesses up to January 2020, 1 in 5 small businesses were already in their overdrafts. This is only going to get worse. The pressure on small businesses is only going to increase.

Are you adapting your business in-light of C19? How?

Yes we are:

  • Asking all staff to take laptops home every night in readiness should we need to work from home for extended periods
  • Making a plan on how that work-from-home would work e.g. check-in times
  • Ensuring all our systems are remote-accessible
  • Asking the team to hand wash regularly
  • Buying hand-gel and wipes for the office. Asked everyone to wipe down their desks after our all-hands last week
  • We’ve reviewed sickness policies
  • Making a fast-start on sales this month and be focused early this month in case later trading is impacted

Do you feel the government is doing enough to support small businesses at this time?

I think small businesses will welcome any support they can get whilst facing this perfect storm, but to call this (the budget) a ‘protection of the majority’ is a massive stretch. The biggest cost for most SMEs is payroll and if revenues fall, that will force small employers into difficult decisions.

Prior to coronavirus, one in five SMEs were already in their overdraft, that’s one in five with no cash in the bank. Offering loans for short term protection doesn’t resolve the longer term challenges SMEs face in the UK and they will, in the future still have to pay these loans back at a time that doesn’t guarantee they will be in better position to do so.”

Do you think your business will survive C19?

Yes.

5 — Get Ahead VA | Rebecca Newenham, founder

What is Get Ahead VA?

We offer marketing and business services and are based in Guilford, with 46 employees.

Has Covid-19 already had an effect on your business, if so, what?

Covid-19 has already had an effect on our business. A couple of our clients have reduced the hours we provide for them as their work has been cancelled, so the support we provide is not currently required. Clients who run workshops and talk at events have particularly been affected as these group gatherings have been postponed or cancelled.

How do you see it getting worse?

If more client work decreases this will have a knock on effect on us, and we are forecasting for reduced revenue in March and April. Some key events which we exhibit at such as Flexpo and the AFA conference have been postponed, so we will not see the benefit of those until later in the year now.

Are you adapting your business in-light of C19? How?

As our team already works remotely/virtually, we haven’t had to adapt significantly as yet. What we are doing is sharing our knowledge about effective home working to help our clients to adapt, as well as sharing tips on local radio (Radio Surrey), LinkedIn, and publising an ebook and infographic.

Do you feel the government is doing enough to support small businesses at this time?

The Budget measures announced today will be a big benefit to some small businesses. But not all will qualify for help and some vulnerable small businesses and organisations are not being supported.

Do you think your business will survive C19?

Yes. Although we expect there will be some short term downturn in revenue, as a flexible, virtual, remote working agency we are well placed to protect ourselves from C19 and to help our clients to do the same.

6 — Spice Kitchen | Sanjay Aggarwal, founder

What is Spice Kitchen?

A spice manufacturer based in Widnes with 12 employees.

Has Covid-19 already had an effect on your business, if so, what?

Yes — reduced sales online and across our retailers. Trade shows cancelled or postponed. Delayed shipments into the UK and then also slower exports due to reduced number of containers coming in.

How do you see it getting worse?

I’m unsure at this stage, but it seems like things might be moving to higher levels of lockdown and business shutdown. There’s potential opportunity for increased online sales though as people venture out less.

Are you adapting your business in-light of C19? How?

Unfortunately we can’t do much!

Do you feel the government is doing enough to support small businesses at this time?

Not sure what they are doing and can do or what support we need. It’s all a bit uncertain at the moment. Don’t think can support financial business loss nationally.

Do you think your business will survive C19?

Yes.

7 — Appetite for Business | Sheryl Newman, founder

What is Appetite for Business?

We help companies to use Office 365 more effectively and are based in Aberdeen with 10 employees.

Has Covid-19 already had an effect on your business, if so, what?

Yes we have had a number of training initiatives cancelled.

How do you see it getting worse?

There is lots of information to wash hands but in shared offices this is not going to mitigate risk for those who choose not to do that and this advice will not be enough to stop this virus spreading. I think it’s going to peak over the next 2–3 weeks as not enough action is being taken.

Are you adapting your business in-light of C19? How?

As a tech business we are able to work from home as we have the tools and procedures in place to support us. I had a plan in place to have rotational home working as a small team As a business owner, the safety of the team is of huge importance — followed closely by making sure our clients can continue to operate and thrive. Putting this level of protection in place is key. As a business you cannot afford to have your whole team off ill.

Do you feel the government is doing enough to support small businesses at this time?

No I don’t, I think there needs to be more support for small businesses to ensure they can look after their employees and also meet the additional financial burden this will place on them.

Do you think your business will survive C19?

I hope so.

8 — Teepol Products | Darren Weale, Sales and Marketing Manager

What is Teepol Products?

We manufacture specialist, janitorial, household, automotive and marine cleaning products.

Has Covid-19 already had an effect on your business, if so, what?

We face massively increased and urgent demand for alcohol hand sanitizer and related products. We’re also experiencing raised awareness of the company as people search for hand sanitizer. We’re proud to be part of the fightback against the virus.

How do you see it getting worse?

We’d like to see it — coronavirus — eliminated as fast as possible so that it doesn’t get worse. We don’t want it among our staff and their families, or in the local community. It is unlikely that demand for alcohol hand sanitizer will be reducing in the short term so we’re set to remain very busy. We look forward to when we can get back to selling more of the specialist cleaning solutions that we’ve been manufacturing since 1938

Are you adapting your business in-light of C19? How?

We’re coping with a huge rise in demand for essentially one product, hand sanitizer, out of the almost 200 that we make, so that has meant a change of focus and more hours.

We are trying to and we are largely succeeding in meeting the needs of established customers and some local people and businesses near our factory in Bromley. That is despite our receiving and fulfilling some very large new orders.

Do you feel the government is doing enough to support small businesses at this time?

We haven’t had the time to pay that much attention, as yet, but it is very obvious that this could be much-needed.

Do you think your business will survive C19?

Yes.

Author’s note — this is in no way a sponsored placement etc, I just felt that this was a very interesting insight as to how some sectors are actually benefitting.

It’s clear that Covid-19 is already having an effect on businesses across differing sectors. It’s great to see how they are adapting and that the long-term view is generally positive. How is Covid-19 affecting you or your business? Please do leave a comment.

Covid-19 Business Resources

  • Guidance from the Federation of Small Businesses here
  • BBC Guide on the 2020 budget here
  • Guide to remote working here
  • Resources for freelancers and sole-traders from Leapers here

Find out more about me here or visit my own small business, Getgo Studio.

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Mike McGrail

Marketing consultant with 12+ years in the game. I work in whisky and gin marketing. It’s great. Writing about many things.