May 20, 2020
You Might Have Just Saved Us Manitoba
It feels like it’s been years since we wrote a blog explaining how were going to try to survive during COVID-19; it was only a few weeks ago!
In that time hundreds of people have signed up for our new monthly Ice Cream Club. Our hope was that 150 people would join, but Manitoba you have gone above and beyond. Our goal was to reduce the losses from not being open during our most important part of the year, and that when we could open, there would be a chance to survive. The response has been extremely heartwarming and at the same time incredibly challenging.
One good thing we did early on was setting up a proper web store to handle the club through Shopify, with a little extra help from local company Bold Commerce. With that in place we could automatically collect flavour selections and handle the large influx of orders without many payment issues or problems keeping track of orders.
However, on the morning of Saturday, April 25, we confronted the reality that we had over 400 orders to deliver and there was absolutely no way that Joseph could do it just by printing lists and heading out with coolers of ice cream. We had completed less than 75 deliveries that way the previous week, but with the influx of monthly orders we needed to get this done before the next wave of deliveries was expected. Also, rightly so, people wanted their first delivery ASAP, not three weeks after they signed up.
Along with increasing our delivery efficiency, we also needed to communicate with club members about WHEN we were delivering. Ice cream cannot be left on a doorstep to melt, so we needed to let customers know a drop off time and have the ability to re-schedule to when someone was home. This is a big issue that we had not fully considered prior to launching the club.
Luckily, we were able to find an effective, albeit expensive, software that puts all the orders on a map of Winnipeg and lets us assign it to drivers in efficient routes. It also lets us email people about upcoming deliveries and store their feedback about when they are available. As a bonus, it messages people when we are coming, tracks our progress, and messages them when we arrive. We sometimes pull up to kids jumping up and down in the front window yelling, “Ice cream, ice cream!” Or adults standing behind their storm door, looking like they are about to spring out like a hungry, but happy, beast as soon as we make the contactless delivery. It’s these moments that have made all the work worthwhile.
We will complete all the deliveries for the first round of the club this week – a tremendous accomplishment for the whole team who worked for weeks with no days off. In celebration we took two days off this past weekend.
Have we made enough to save our business? The answer is maybe. With the large number of club members, we have been able to bring back Valerie to work alongside Saada and Zainab making ice cream. We have been able to hire back Tekla, one of our front of house team, to do deliveries, and we have hired Aidan, a Red River College computer student, to handle IT. With the 75 per cent wage subsidy, we are close to breaking even; maybe even making a small profit. This is beyond what we’d anticipated when our initial hope was only to reduce losses until we could see the summer lineups at our store and our cart at events.
Yet, the wage subsidy ends soon, and recent events make us doubt we will see big line ups happening anywhere this summer, and all large events have been cancelled. We will not be able to put away a summer nest egg to get us through the winter. This is a hard reality. But thanks to the incredible support the club has received we may have a fighting chance to make it to next summer, somehow.
The club has also blessed us with something to do. We have a purpose beyond trying save our business; we are bringing something fun and joyful right to people’s homes during a challenging time.
Thank you for your support Manitoba; we deeply appreciate it.
Zainab, Joseph, and Darryl