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Perspectives from a family run business


By Elisabeth Cowell

During the day I have been advising corporate clients on how to tackle their communications in the wake of COVID-19, but my evenings have been spent lending support a little closer home, soothing my mother who runs a tearoom in the tiny village of Appledore, Kent.

My mum and aunt set up Miss Mollett’s High Class Tearoom over 10 years ago and since then it has become a haven for elderly villagers and weary hikers looking for some friendly conversation and a pot of tea to revive themselves.

The Prime Minister’s announcement on Tuesday that pubs and restaurants should be avoided, sent shockwaves through her business. “I’ve been inundated from messages from staff, and I don’t know what to tell them!” she exclaimed when I picked up the phone to her.

Unlike larger SMEs and corporations, which benefit from the wisdom of a suite of advisers, my mum felt very alone, not knowing how to interpret the advice in a way which kept her customers safe and her staff in a job, while also keeping the business afloat.

What ensued was a family brainstorm of how we could adapt to the current environment, proof of the creativity which can be provoked from times of crisis. This, together with messages of support from friends and customers, has created some peace of mind up until the Chancellor’s speech today which has enforced closure and thankfully provided support for her loyal team, helping her sleep easy at night.

All this turned my mind to how, as consumers, we can help keep the independent businesses that make how highstreets sing alive. Here are my top tips:

  • Email your favourite haunt and ask to buy a voucher
  • Walk the walk - shop local where you can
  • Be patient and flexible – have trust that their one in and one out policies is done with good intent
  • Request take-away or deliveries, even if this is something they haven’t done before
  • Call up, email and tweet and lend your support – kind words mean a lot