Wed | Oct 21, 2020

Finding opportunities in the pandemic - CEO and founder of Totally Male encourages SMEs to embrace change

Published:Friday | October 16, 2020 | 12:09 AM
Sandra Samuels.
Sandra Samuels.
Sandra Samuels
Sandra Samuels

Sandra Samuels is encouraging small business owners to embrace change.

The CEO and founder of Totally Male shared her experience of being a beauty therapist and running an all-female business for the past 25 years. Since Sandra opened its doors in 1994, Totally Male has survived hurricanes, a recession and several relocations. The small business, like many across Jamaica and the world, is now adapting to operating during the pandemic.

“In the Caribbean, we are familiar with hurricanes, we know that its impact is time-bound, we can actively prepare, and customer patterns eventually return to pre-hurricane levels. This pandemic is completely different. The impact has lasted longer than initially projected, customer pattens have changed as people stay home, and moratoriums provided to small businesses by banks and landlords are running out. It is daunting but we must embrace this change.” Sandra was speaking frankly to the almost 200 entrepreneurs and small business owners who tuned in to the recent C&W Business Jamaica’s webinar which was hosted under the theme ‘Strategies to Sustain Your Business in 2020 and Beyond’.

Samuels shared details about the changes in her own organisation since the pandemic. Implementing enhanced sanitation measures, leveraging the relationships of staff members with clients to communicate business changes in a personalised fashion, and reducing business days while continuing to offer stellar customer service were some of the strategies implemented to keep Totally Male viable.

“We’ve had to assess our business projections on a monthly, weekly and even daily basis in keeping with the dynamic national response to the pandemic. This has forced us to be agile in responding to new challenges such as keeping costs down as we operate reduced hours and serve fewer customers, while still ensuring our employees get a salary to take care of themselves and their families,” shared Samuels.


The Totally Male CEO encouraged business owners to look for new opportunities during this time. “New business opportunities are available. It is for you to look at the market, price your product properly and take advantage of them. Some [of these opportunities] may be time-bound. For example, dressmakers have seen a reduction in customers so many have turned to mask making. It is a related opportunity that can keep their business viable during this time even if the need for masks does not last forever. This is embracing change,” she said.

The female entrepreneur also used the challenges associated with the current financial climate to encourage business owners to develop a habit of saving and nurturing relationships.

“Every business will go through difficult times. It may not be a pandemic, but it will face challenges. The important thing is to prepare for these possibilities by saving and having a strong relationship with your stakeholders,” shared Samuels.

She continued, “I learnt a long time ago to treat saving as mandatory in business. It had to be done each month. I also developed and maintained strong relationships with my landlord and my bankers. It was fortunate that I did because I had to draw on those relationships and some of the savings during the sharp fall in revenue when the pandemic arrived on our shores in March. Otherwise, my business would have been in trouble.”

Samuels ended by encouraging business owners to be bold. “Seek the help that you need to get through this time. It may mean brainstorming with a friend to change your business strategy or speaking with the bank to renegotiate the terms of your loan. Now is not the time to hide. We must show integrity and be proactive.”