An optimistic approach to a difficult situation… and how to get back up again.

Posted by kieren walters on 13th April 2020 in Local business Uncategorised

There is no need to expand on the current situation, aside from acknowledging the heavy impact on many if not all small businesses in Switzerland and worldwide. Whatever industry you are in, there will necessarily be some form of adaptation to the exceptional circumstances we find ourselves in.

In these uncertain times, there is not so much need for reflecting on the gravity of the situation as for seeking out the positives and planning for the future in what will be in some form or another a very different world. There will most certainly be a ‘before’ and ‘after’ Coronavirus, and those who wish to flourish once things settle down must figure out not only how they can fit in, but lead the charge in redefining certain aspects of our society that have been shown as lacking in these challenging times.

So what have we learnt already? One of the first consequences of the virus was the slowing of global travel and trade. The trend of outsourcing production to cheaper climes, and the mass consumption of non-necessary products created by cheaper consumables, has been clearly shown to collapse under pressure – when things go wrong reliance on locally produced goods increases.

Closer to home, the economic impact of forced closure of small (and larger) businesses has been hit hard, and limited social protections for business owners and independents has forced a scramble to put in place new measures to avoid widespread bankruptcies. Should any percentage of these businesses fail it would cause not only a depressing fall in the beauty, societal interest, and variety of shops and businesses, but also put an unsustainable weight on the jobless benefits system as their average 5 employees lose their income.

Hopefully this realization will lead to a shift in consumer focus towards supporting small businesses, thus actively contributing to the economic health of their local area and job market, albeit at a necessarily higher cost. Perhaps the Coronavirus has done us the favor of demonstrating the personal financial risk at which our current consumer habits are putting the 26% of all employees in Switzerland who work for companies with less than 10 staff members, not to mention a happy and rounded society.

So what has this got to do with a small business such as Okapi Café you may ask?

We like to think at Okapi that we have been on the right path since our opening. Our specialty coffee beans are sourced from sustainable farms and roasted in-house. We have from day one taken care to use local produce, bought from small local businesses, wherever possible. Our breakfasts & lunches are tasty, healthy, and home-made. We provide a number of vegan and vegetarian options on our menu, but also include meat dishes to achieve a balance. All of our meats are Swiss and sourced locally. Our cakes are either home-made or sourced from local artisans. We do our best to avoid single use plastics. We donate products to local charitable events. Our first reaction to the Corona crisis was to ensure we had plans in place to avoid anyone losing their job.

We have done all of this yet we feel we can do more, and will need to do more in the coming months. How can we best identify and purchase from even more local businesses? How can we use our platform to showcase independents doing wonderful things in the catering or food products industry? Are we 100% convinced that we have chosen the best option for each and every ingredient that we use? Can we do more for our staff? What further charitable work can we do? How can we further reduce our carbon footprint? Are we doing everything we can to promote weird and wonderful seasonal local vegetables in our recipes?

I could go on, but the point is that we believe that if everyone tries to ask the right questions, we will collectively influence our society for the better and pave the way for more small local business to open up. This will enrich our town centers, positively enhance our social interactions, and help us regain a sustainable economic model that we can all be proud of.

One Comment

  • Well said Kieren. Couldn’t agree more with the sentiment of your post. I honestly hope this causes us to take a step back and reevaluate how, what, and from where we consume things. Here’s to getting back to a thriving local business environment in the near future, one that is sustained and appreciated.

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