To say 2020 has been a lot is an understatement, and the holiday rush has us all feeling like we’re sprinting toward the finish line. But yesterday, we had the opportunity to take a break from the race to focus on three very special businesses: Athletic Arts Academy, The Boogie Down Grind Cafe, and 40 Dreams Catering.

In our partnership with the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership and their Women of Color Connecting program, Sullivan hosted virtual marketing bootcamps for three Black women-owned small businesses in our area. At a time when most small businesses are struggling, our teams were thrilled to be able to help these amazing entrepreneurs.

We took a deep dive into each business’s positioning, website, and social media marketing strategies. We quickly realized that each faced a unique challenge and opportunity amid the pandemic, but were optimistic and resilient about emerging stronger. For example, while COVID forced Majora Carter’s restaurant, The Boogie Down Grind Cafe, to close, it also allowed her to expand her seating area by taking over the sidewalk of her corner lot.

With community and culture taking center stage for this unique South Bronx-based cafe, we worked together to get inside her customers’ heads to create a more engaging, differentiated, and connected experience for her marketing efforts. We can’t wait to see how she brings our recommendations to life—and will definitely be visiting the cafe as soon as it reopens for coffee (or more likely, sangria).

Another business directly impacted by the pandemic, Athletic Arts Academy, channeled the fearlessness built through decades of gymnastics experience into a positioning that set them up for growth. Associate Strategist Emily Angelotti, who worked on developing a new brand strategy for the New Jersey gymnasium, praised owner Iya Karade’s “strong mission,” saying that “it felt great to help her think about where she wants her business to go” and that she was “truly inspiring to work with.”

In addition to meeting three inspiring entrepreneurs, the Sullivan team was thrilled to partner with our colleagues in new ways. Managing Director of Technology Greg Pymm said, “Working with folks I don’t normally work with was awesome. I had no idea what a superstar John Fantini is, and now I’ll ask for him on all my projects!”

While our sweet spot will always be working with large, complex businesses, it was energizing to work with different types of companies for a day. Carver Low, a Strategy Director, said, “So much of our work takes a long time to implement or see results. Speaking to small business owners meant we could focus on things that would make real change for them quickly, and that was invigorating. Hearing Adrienne Fudge from 40 Dreams Catering say, ‘I really hadn’t thought of it that way before,’ was very rewarding.”

We loved partnering with the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership and look forward to continuing to work together. Jill Johnson, Co-Founder and CEO of IFEL, echoed our enthusiasm: “Our entrepreneurs were blown away by the well-executed workshops and talented stream of people they met throughout the day. When faced with the many responsibilities of running a business with a small team and limited capital, marketing is often low on the priority list. We’re grateful that Sullivan could offer their expertise in such a concentrated period of time and in a way that presented an actionable path for implementation by each entrepreneur.”

We ended the day feeling renewed by our partners’ visions and by all the fun we had sharing our craft—and are ready to get back in the race!