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In tough times, creativity, nimbleness, and flexibility are cited as success strategies for small businesses

Capital City Pedicabs Owner Mike Goldstein
Mike Goldstein
Capital City Pedicabs Owner Mike Goldstein

Scores of Tallahassee businesses vanished over the past twenty months—but there were also many survivors. We spoke with the owner of one surviving venture, along with a small business expert to learn why some firms are thriving despite the pandemic.

Ten years ago, Mike Goldstein's father, Ron Goldstein, Founded Capital City Pedicabs, LLC, peddling passengers throughout the downtown area. Mike took over the operation in 2018. He admitted passenger numbers took a huge dive when COVID hit, but are now rebounding.

"(We're) Hanging on a thread, but still going strong it seems like.

Goldstein attributed that survival to his willingness to try new ways to keep the dollars coming in.

"We got some (government) grants last year and I found new revenue streams as well with the merchandise, shirts, and all that. So I found different ways to adapt over the last year as well."

Keith Bowers, regional director for the Small Business Development Center of Florida A&M University, said Goldstein and many other local businesses that have made it through the pandemic tapped into the same secret sauce. Something that other companies can emulate.

"I'd say the most important thing they should do is to remain open and flexible. Because one thing the pandemic has proven is that nothing's constant and everything's moving. Especially in the marketplace."

Bowers acknowledged the challenges have been many and difficult.

"Supply chain woes, labor shortage, inability to open at 100% of capacity. What we're seeing is those businesses that come out are the ones that are adaptable, creative, and nimble."

Since Goldstein's business depends on people to peddle his cabs, the lack of willing workers has hit him hard. Although he said that's slowly turning around.

"Yeah, we're getting three (employees) on a good day and I'm trying to have six up by next year, so we're slowly getting back to full force."

Goldstein is building back his workforce as the number of customers for his services is also on the rebound.

"It's nice with [FSU/FAMU] campus being somewhat normal and then events coming back slowly—concerts, festivals, sporting events, things of that nature. It's coming back to pre-COVID times. It's not there yet, although we're still trying to make it count."

And for those businesses that have not seen a significant improvement in their fortunes, small business expert Keith Bowers has this guidance: "I'd just say, 'Ride the wave!' and determine the best places for you to continue to push your products or services and listen to your customer base. They will definitely tell you what they need and what they value."

As the old saying goes, even in what may be the aftermath of a globe-girdling disaster, the customer is always—or at least usually—right.

Follow @flanigan_tom

Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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