4 ways one business is growing during the pandemic

How baker and activist Maya-Camille Broussard is keeping business growing during the pandemic.

Pie slices from Justice of the Pies bakery

Drop by Maya-Camille Broussard’s website for her pie making business, Justice of the Pies, and you’re greeted with the words, “HEY CUTIE PIE.” (Smile: Activated.) 

From her small-but-mighty Chicago commercial kitchen, Broussard bakes the traditional (sweet potato pie) and the unexpected (lavender blueberry pie). 

But here’s the thing: She’s about way more than pies. Activism is her other passion. 

She wants to bring together what she knows (how to run a business) and who she knows (like-minded community powerhouses) to change her corner of the world.

Against the odds, Broussard’s pie company is thriving during the pandemic. She credits four key moves she made for her business’s success.

1: Know when to hit the gas

Since Broussard opened Justice of the Pies in 2014, she’s taken a methodical approach to growing the business. After the curveball of the pandemic, she’s had to balance her slow-and-steady approach in some areas with hitting the gas in others.

The farmers markets, festivals and corporate events she’s always relied on were mostly canceled for 2020, so she’s leaned on an old faithful—wholesale orders—more than ever. 

At the same time, she’s had to quickly and aggressively add new engines—social media, for one—to diversify her income. “Social media was the perfect solution,” she said.

I said, ‘Let’s buckle up. What’s the plan?’ That’s when things got really magical for me. I feel like I've been rewarded for not giving up.-Maya-Camille Broussard

2: Partner with corporations and organizations to amplify purposeful work

Life works best for Broussard when she marries her two passions: doing what she loves and having it make a difference. 

“As I see it, we can be stewards for fairness and equality with the opportunities that come our way,” she said. 

Before the pandemic, she used her business as a vehicle for activism, such as working to end food insecurity in Chicago neighborhoods and organizing pie drives to support free legal services for families.

During the pandemic, she started feeding frontline hospital workers. To do that work on a bigger scale, she then partnered with corporate brands that each contributed $10,000 or more. That transitioned to feeding communities whose quick-serve restaurants and grocery stores were decimated in the recent civil unrest. 

“It’s all about love and purpose,” Broussard said. “I can do almost anything as long as I have both.”

3: Look to social media for new business revenue streams

Broussard felt everything come to a standstill when the pandemic hit.

“I didn’t get a single order in April,” she said. “My inbox was dry.” Since the food industry has such slim margins, she knew she needed a new revenue stream that didn’t require many overhead costs. “It needed to be something I could do at home by myself,” said Broussard. “[It had to be] something that didn’t take a lot of money to produce.”

That’s where social media came in.

To fill her time, she launched a test kitchen on Instagram Live, trying out new recipes for her bakery and creating content to attract followers. Next, she produced subscription-based online cooking classes, Justice for All, that transcends geography with members from New York to Los Angeles to Paris paying to virtually cook alongside a professional chef.

4: Fight for your business because you love it

Broussard is determined to fight for the business she loves, no matter what. Money worries almost forced her to shut down in 2019. She figures if she didn’t do it then, she won’t now.

“When the pandemic hit, I thought, ‘OK, this negative thinking isn’t helping. So, let’s buckle up. What’s the plan?’ I started leaning into opportunities and saying yes to them. 

That’s when things got really magical for me. I feel like I've been rewarded for not giving up.”

These are unprecedented times for businesses, with owners learning as they go. Taking Broussard’s advice could help you weather the storm.

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