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South Dakota businesses adapt to stay afloat during pandemic

December 21, 2020 GMT

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — From offering take-and-bake food options to mask-making, South Dakota businesses have been getting creative to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Sioux Falls, food trucks are offering delivery, retailers are selling their wares on Facebook Live, and some stores are reserving private shopping time for customers.

Sanaa Abourezk, who owns Sanaa’s Gourmet restaurant, has had an empty dining room since the pandemic reached South Dakota. She began offering carry-out and signed up with a delivery service, but she worried it wasn’t enough to make ends meet, the Argus Leader reported. However she found a way to stay afloat by using social media more, packaging her sauces for individual sale and selling prepared meals that people can take home and cook.

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“Take-and-bake is my lifesaver. It’s my lifeline right now,” Sanaa said. “Our lunch traffic is suffering, but the take-and-bake is making me sleep at night.”

Melissa Johnson, who owns Oh My Cupcakes, sold flour, milk and eggs when they were in short supply earlier in the pandemic. She added vegetable and fruit bundles when grocery stores were low on those and has continued to modify her business as the pandemic persists.

“That’s the key to making this year not only survivable but successful is to continue to innovate and be creative,” Johnson said. “It’s a different world than it was a year ago. I don’t think we can operate out of that same playbook.”

Businesses including Juna Sleep Systems began making cloth masks, Juniper Apothecary made its own hand sanitizer, and DaDa Gastropub has been selling bottled cocktails to go.

Matt Paulson, an entrepreneur, said innovation is necessary to keep businesses alive and thriving.

“If you aren’t changing and improving your business over time, someone else will improve theirs,” Paulson said. “Without constantly looking for better and new ways to do things, inertia is going to kill your business.”

Though Abourezk found a way to make sales, she realized she wasn’t interacting with customers like she’s used to. So she met them over social media — offering cooking lessons on Facebook, teaching a belly dancing class and more. It grabbed people’s attention and reminded them that she and her business were still there.

“I want people to laugh this year, and it’s something people look forward to. It makes me close to them, and they feel like they’re part of my restaurant,” she said.

Paulson said many businesses will resume normal operations after the pandemic, but some of the changes seen in 2020 will likely stick around.