Covid-19 has reshaped every aspect of our lives including how we run our businesses on a daily basis. Hao & Dixya (our dumpling pop-up business) has been operating consistently for about two years now and just when things were picking up at our newly opened retail & culinary studio – The Table, we had to quickly make business decisions and shift gears. We paused all of our in-person cooking classes, cancelled events, and moved the retail market to an online ordering system for curbside pickup and delivery. We are taking things one day at a time and adapting in order to thrive during this pandemic. Last year, I did a post on “Lessons Learned from Pop-Up Business” and I think it’s time for a follow-up post. I also reached out to a couple of my friends in the food/hospitality industry to see what they are up to.
Despite the uncertainties and having to change our business practices very quickly, I am happy to report that both the businesses are thriving! For Hao & Dixya, we had to pause our public dumpling popups, cooking classes, and naturally, all the private events were cancelled. Instead of going to breweries and coffee shops, now we do monthly pop-ups only at The Table and everything is pre-ordered and picked up on the day of the event. It is less stressful than a regular popup as we have total control over the orders and we can plan and prepare the orders accordingly. Family dumpling boxes & build your own dumpling kits are two other ideas we are playing with right now as well. PS. Our next dumpling pickup pop-up is on August 2nd, noon-2 PM.
Currently, The Table is only offering online shopping for curbside pickup or delivery via Alto (delivery service). While we miss seeing, interacting, and spending time with everyone at The Table, it is for the safety and wellness of us, our staff, and the community to keep operating this way until further notice. The online store has definitely been a learning experience & we are using that as an advantage to keep our doors open 7 days a week and continue to offer local products from 20+ small businesses in a safe manner.
For cooking classes and workshops, we are trying things out virtually where participants pickup ingredients from The Table & meet us online for an interactive class from the comfort of their homes. After a successful Fermentation & Gut Health Workshop, Indian Weeknight Feast, and Dumpling Making Class, we are offering them again in August. Our virtual class schedule is listed below:
Gut Health and Fermentation Workshop : August 9th, noon: Learn about the basics of gut health, importance of fermented foods, and how to make kimchi and lacto-fermented hummus. This class is open to everyone with an option to pick up ingredients for the class if you are in DFW) for an additional cost.
For more about The Table : https://www.thetablemarket.com/
Follow : https://www.instagram.com/thetablefw/ https://www.instagram.com/hao_dixya/
Momo Shack : Dallas, Texas
We initially came across the frozen momo (In Nepal, dumplings are called momo) idea in 2018 when we participated in the Business Idea Competition Idea at The University of Texas at Dallas. Our pitch was to make Momo Shack a national dumpling brand via frozen momos. Unfortunately, we didn’t win the finals but it sparked an idea.
Post the competition, we continued hosting pop-ups throughout the year until Q4, when we decided to test our frozen momo idea. Huge shoutout to Peticolas Brewing Company for allowing us to use their space and for always supporting local businesses. We initially started with Ziploc bags for the momos and Venmo. We wanted things to be perfect, but we also knew we wouldn’t get there unless we started. Then COVID-19 hit and we knew we had to either pivot or stop operations altogether. We intuitively kept moving forward and we believe this comes from the fact that we are immigrants. Being immigrants has taught us to adapt to different situations and continue persevering. We double-downed on Momos @ Home by designing the package, partnering up with local businesses as pick-up locations (Trinity Cider, Sno Tea, Verbena Parlor) and sharing more of our story to connect with people.
The biggest lesson for us has been the importance of storytelling. We strongly believe that storytelling is absolutely essential to connect with people virtually, especially in a global pandemic. The ability to create deeper connections with people is extremely important, especially in business. It enables you to have genuine interactions with people and creates a magnet that forms a community around your brand. This is a significant lesson we are still learning as we hope to continue to grow.
For next pickup date, visit : https://www.momoshackdumplings.com/
Follow : http://instagram.com/momoshackdumplings
beSpiced – Sapna Punjabi-Gupta: Dallas, Texas
A life of a solopreneur is always filled with adventures and up for new challenges. For the past seven years, I have been living and loving a life that allows me to practice my passion for culinary wellness while staying true to my cultural identity through my brand beSPICED (https://www.bespiced.com). beSPICED allows me to combine my Indian roots and personal ayurvedic practice with my western expertise as a dietitian to make ancient wisdom deliciously modern and practical for everyday living. From teaching in-person cooking classes around the Dallas metroplex, conducting wellness workshops, managing retail line of spiced products, to creating content for my social media platforms and youtube channel, I get to juggle multiple roles in a day each satisfying and motivating in its own way.
2020 has been a year like no other where every life has been impacted in one way or the other. For a WOC-led micro business like beSPICED that thrives on in-person sensory experiences and education, I found all my scheduled events and plans cancel after the other earlier this year when COVID-19 affected us all. After concentrating on my family’s immediate needs and adding on the role of a home-school mom (something I never anticipated to do) to my long list of daily roles, I focused on how to keep beSPICED alive and sustainable in this uncertain times. I always believe that adversity gives rise to new opportunities. And our new world and new times was calling for new ideas. Food, spices and cooking has always been my source of sharing my story, my viewpoint and my knowledge with others. It also allows me to invite others to get a glimpse into my lifestyle, my culture and food values.
Thanks to COVID-19, I pushed myself to launch a brand new offering of live online cooking classes in May of 2020. It energized me to find new ways to staying connected with my followers. The online cooking classes are live cook along format where I provide a common platform for my attendees to connect virtually as we cook together in our own kitchens. I feel humbled to play a small role for multiple families enjoying a freshly cooked meal in their homes at the end of each of my class in different parts of the world. These virtual cooking classes has helped me to create a brand new online community of folks interested in seasonal cooking, embracing plant based menus and learning new ways of finding practical wellness through everyday food and spices. And this is just the beginning and I can’t wait to see where this leads next.
Hope to see you cooking alongside with me someday. You can go to my website for the most current online cooking class schedule and other events. And in the meantime, if you have been thinking of doing something new but hesitant or questioning yourself…take a leap. There is nothing to lose, only much to gain. And if your idea doesn’t work, at least you can tell yourself you tried. Cheers to new beginnings!
For full class schedule & more : https://www.bespiced.com/online-cooking-classes
Follow : https://www.instagram.com/Be.Spiced/
WERO Kitchen, Fort Worth, Texas
I’ve lost a lot in the pandemic, both personally and professionally. I think a lot of people were able to use quarantine to hash out new ideas and use the extra time at home to innovate, I didn’t really have that experience. Losing family to the virus early on put me in survival mode, the last few months have been stressful more than anything else. But even through that in the moments when you relax the creative juices start flowing on their own and you get ideas. For me being a very social person, the isolation element of the pandemic has been challenging, I’m used to being around people all the time. We are fortunate to be living in a time when we are all connected online and have technology available to see and talk to each other whenever we want. Cooking at home has provided moments of peace, a kind of active meditation. That sparked the video series Cocina Cuarentena, a way of visually expressing those feelings, processing what’s going on silently, and also giving others a break from the fast pace of changing events and circumstances.
I used to teach cooking classes and really enjoyed that, so adapting that experience to an online format made sense to me. It poses unique challenges in that you are limited to just the visual and auditory senses while so much of cooking relies on touch and smell and taste, but it also opens up the experience to people who normally wouldn’t be able to attend due to geography. It adds to the experience knowing there are people in other cities, states, and countries, taking the same class as you, and in many cases cooking along with you. I hope to do more videos and expand the scope of what I do in them, virtually include guest chefs, etc., and also to offer more and different livestream class options.
For more, visit : https://werokitchen.com/
Follow : https://www.instagram.com/werokitchen/
The Tiffin Kitchen: Indianapolis, Indiana
I’m sure this comes as no surprise to anyone when I say this year has definitely been rough. And it’s not even over! When the pandemic started to feel real, I felt like I was straddling two worlds. I was working on the front line as a speech pathologist in a hospital full-time, while also trying to build momentum with my food business and blog. We’d put on four sold-out and successful Chai popups and were just starting to book at home events. Chai High Tea – my afternoon chai experience, history and cooking class took so much work and passion to build. Then when the pandemic happened, we decided to put a pause on the classes for safety and I have no idea when I’ll feel like it’s safe to resume them as they were. I isolated for weeks from my entire family because in March we knew so little, and I was working with COVID patients daily.
Usually a social butterfly I found myself fighting depression living alone with all of my evenings and weekends free, and so like many of us, I threw myself into bread making and trying to create more content online. I continued studying to become a tea sommelier, despite my exams being a little more difficult to complete and still social distance from my family. I filled my once busy evenings with zoom dinner parties- but of course, it wasn’t the same. Eventually, due to a combination of burnout and some other factors, I was forced to slow down. Luckily I was working with a holistic health coach who was able to hold space for me and help me break things down.
Despite how hard this year has been for me and everyone I know, there’s so much I’m grateful for. I’m grateful to have skills that can help patients recovering from this horrible virus. I’m grateful to have more awareness of my privilege and of ways I can help fight against injustice. I’m grateful to have a home, food, and family.
I’ve learned a lot about myself this year and have been forced in directions that demand growth and thinking outside of the box. And my food business is thankfully still here and evolving in ways I wouldn’t have expected! We are teaching online classes and launching Chai products this fall and I couldn’t be more excited about how our business is expanding. I’m looking forward to the day when I can feel safe traveling, going out to eat, and hugging friends.
Learn more: https://www.thetiffinkitchen.com/
Chef Julia Dunaway: Fort Worth, Texas
My chef business, focused on healthy plant-based food with no oil, was thriving as an in-person cooking class focused business. I had nine cooking classes in the month of February, including one on one intensive workshops and large groups. People were flying in from out of state, driving from Houston, Austin, and Oklahoma to attend a class. On March 15 everything stopped. All my in-person classes were cancelled abruptly with no future date available to start again, not knowing how long the pandemic would last. I was inspired to do something I had never done before, a Facebook live video.
I decided to just cook what I was preparing for dinner and go live. The response was positive from the first day and that turned into 50 consecutive days of live cooking videos. I gained a new following of people stuck at home with plenty of time to watch live cooking shows, particularly with my way of eating, whole food plant based no oil. People asked for my recipes, which although were posted every day with the video, were not in a collection such as an ebook. I wrote an ebook, called 50 Recipes in 50 Days of Facebook Live Videos and it has sold nearly 300 copies since May 2020.
In late April I started testing Zoom as a means for conducting cooking classes. The first couple classes I did for free just to see if I could do it. Since then I’ve done all my classes on Zoom and more than 50 people typically attend, paying a fee for the class and recipes. Lastly, in an effort to get serious about my own healthy eating, I started the #chefjulia21daychallenge on my Facebook group, Chef Julia Support Group. After 18 days I experienced a 40 point drop in my cholesterol, reported that and the other positive results to the group. Since May 18, 2020 my support group has grown and I’ve continued to lose weight, get stronger and healthier and at the same time help others. I post my daily food and exercise for others to see and try to set a good example for them to follow. Now I’m working on a new ebook called, Chef Julia 21-Day Challenge with recipes, exercise tips and more.
I’ve also been on Good Morning Texas, WFAA, Channel 8, twice in the last 2 months, spoken to the Culinary School of Fort Worth Summer Institute, and was featured in the DFW Plant-Based Podcast. The pandemic forced me to do new things, take risks, work harder than ever and I’m busier than ever.
Link to ebook. https://www.e-junkie.com/i/zmtu?&card
Learn more, visit: https://chef-julia.com/
I hope this post gives you a brief insight on how small businesses are thriving and pivoting to this new reality. We wholeheartedly LOVE what we do so please be patient with us as we juggle multiple roles to keep our passion and businesses alive. I am honored to call all of them my friends and a huge thank you for contributing their stories and photos because together, we learn and grow!
When possible, please support your local businesses even more so than before – book classes, purchase gift cards, share the event, write reviews, if you have attended or tried their class/food, recommend them to your friends, co-workers and family members.