As COVID-19 began to escalate in Massachusetts, Emily Lagasse MBA’15, founder of Petwell Supply in Somerville, decided to stay open.
“Pet supply is deemed an essential business, so we can be open during the stay-at-home advisory from the governor,” she explains.
But, in spite of rigorous disinfecting and practicing safe physical distancing, she says, “I became uncomfortable that that just wasn’t going to be enough. I didn’t want to put people at any more risk.”
So, she closed for a week to reassess and, as she puts it, “see if there was a way to reopen responsibly.”
She soon discovered there was a way to stay open—virtually. So, she shut the brick-and-mortar shop and began conducting business online.
“This was the way we would be able to continue to serve the community,” Lagasse says. “A lot of the products we sell are not available on Amazon, Chewy, or other online retailers. And, we sell a lot of pet health products.”
She didn’t want her customers to have to forgo their pets’ optimum health during the pandemic.
“It has been a major disruption,” she says. But, the new temporary model is working, even though she has had to let go of a lot of staff.
“It’s been amazing to see the response of the community rallying behind small businesses.”
Emily Lagasse MBA’15, founder of Petwell Supply
Lagasse credits her Babson education for her ability to act effectively when it becomes necessary to change up your business model.
“My Babson experience taught me the importance of communicating with clear confidence and authority, being very transparent about what’s going on, and being compassionate toward the team and our clients,” she says. “That level of communication—that’s something my Babson education provided a good background for.”
The case studies in classes helped, too, she says. From those you learn that “there will come a point in the entrepreneur’s life where there is a crisis.”
That actually provides hope and optimism, she says, because you realize you can adapt. “On some level, I was ready,” she says. “Babson teaches you to prepare for the unanticipated.
“It’s been amazing to see the response of the community rallying behind small businesses,” she adds. ”It’s clear that small businesses play an important role in daily life for people, and they want to make sure we can survive this downturn. I predict they will come out in droves to support all their favorite local spots when this passes.”
And, the dogs and other pets—how can they be supported at this time? “Exercise is always important for pets and humans alike,” Lagasse says. It’s also important to keep pets mentally stimulated with interactive toys and playtime. “Dogs really love their people and they love routine, so trying to keep things as routine as possible can really be helpful.”
Lagasse adds that pets are exquisitely sensitive to our emotions and can sense when things are not right, so they may need some extra TLC right now, along with the physical activity.