The past year has been difficult for all kinds of small businesses. But it’s been disproportionately tough for women-led businesses, with women’s jobs nearly twice as vulnerable due to the fallout of the pandemic. On this International Women’s Day, we wanted to celebrate the achievements of three European entrepreneurs who have adapted and thrived in the face of economic uncertainty.
In London, Lyon and Barcelona
Syreeta Levy runs Levy & Co, a men’s barbershop in North London. As a gay Black woman, Syreeta’s intention has always been for her business to attract and appeal to a diverse audience. Levy & Co’s success is a testament to the strong personal connection she forges with her customers, regardless of their background. “It comes down to two core things: haircuts and counseling,” she explains. Her brand’s distinct personality figures in as well, and Syreeta features it in her marketing. Syreeta has also added the “women-led” and “LGBTQ-friendly” business attributes to her Business Profile, which potential customers can now see directly on Google Search and Maps. She believes this helps her business stand out in search results and they’re a big part of her shop’s appeal.
It’s a similar story for Allison Denis from Lyon, France. In 2016, she launched her “self-garage” business, Mabagnol, which gives drivers the space and the tools to fix their own cars. Allison’s biggest challenge has been establishing her place in the male-overrepresented industry of automotive repair, and like Syreeta, she's proud to identify as a women-led business online.
And in Barcelona, there’s Berta Font Amor, Monse González Yebra and Mavi Calabrese, who started Fit Lovas, a fitness community where women feel confident to be themselves. Promoting their venture online as a women-led business has helped Fit Lovas attract new members from around the world. As well as serving their local community, the growing business now regularly welcomes women from Mexico, Argentina, and other Spanish-speaking countries to their online classes.
Finding new ways to thrive
Even in the midst of the pandemic, all three businesses have found ways to stay afloat, adapt and keep communicating with customers.
In Lyon, lockdown restrictions have made Allison reliant on her online channels to attract customers and generate bookings as customers needed an appointment before visiting. As a result, she updates her Google Business Profile each day and adds new photos of her garage to help it stand out. Despite a fiercely competitive sector, Allison’s website attracts over 12,000 people each quarter, and a big slice of new inquiries are first-time visitors.
Over in Barcelona, Fit Lovas has gone virtual, using their Business Profile to indicate that they now offer online classes — which means they can also reach new international audiences. “Offering an online service allowed us to keep growing, thanks to women from all over the world,” says Mavi. They've since seen their membership grow, and the traffic coming to their website via their Business Profile has more than doubled between February 2020 and January 2021. Looking ahead, Fit Lovas are excited to build on this new hybrid business model and grow their membership even further.
Back in London, Syreeta has become 100% reliant on her online presence. "Because of lockdown, a lot of people at home are looking online to find barbers in the local area — and our Business Profile on Google is one of the first things they see,” she says. When lockdown restrictions were lifted in 2020, Syreeta saw a 70% increase in bookings, all via her website. “The number of people that came through the Business Profile to the website was off the scale,” recalls Syreeta. ”I'm not kidding you, last July I worked 10 hours a day, seven days a week.”
It's inspiring to see how these entrepreneurs have adapted their business models and taken advantage of online tools. A lot is uncertain right now, but we do know that small businesses are the backbone of our economies. That’s why Google renewed its efforts last year and pledged to help 10 million people and businesses in Europe, the Middle East and Africa find jobs, digitize and grow over the next 18 months through easy-to-use tools and training. We’re excited to see what they’ll come up with.