Coping with COVID in Kent

  • 11 Sep 2020

Three Kent members share how their business has been affected by lockdown and the pandemic, and how they are working their way through it.

IVDeology Ltd are a small company focusing on providing consultancy and training to the medical device industry throughout the world. “We’ve grown in the past two and a half years since myself and Nancy Consterdine started the business in 2019,” said Operations Director and Co-Founder Stuart Angell. “We have five full-time employees and a number of sub-contractors working for us. We moved into our offices at the Historic Dockyard in Chatham late last year having been completely home-based previously. It was a big decision at the time but we felt we needed to commit to renting an office space to base the company so we could grow as a company.”

 

“Like everyone, we struggled with lockdown! A large part of our business is to provide face-to-face training at the customers’ site or at venues across the UK. This part of the business completely stopped, in addition we had a number of short term projects cancelled or put on hold. We were lucky in that we had a number of projects that we could keep working on to provide enough money coming in to pay the bills. Then we all had to get used to working from home again, and many of us in the company have young families so we had to balance the home schooling with work responsibilities. It was difficult to adjust and we had to stretch our working hours throughout the seven day week but as a team we managed.”   

“We have been lucky since May this year in that we have been heavily involved in supporting small and large companies design and release in vitro diagnostic Covid-19 antigen and antibody tests which are being used throughout the NHS. While we still work flexibly and working most days from home we use Microsoft Teams as the way to communicate with each other and our customers. We have started to go back to the office one day a week and we are lucky to be able to use social distancing whenever we meet up. We have had picnics in the park and Teams ‘tea at 10’ video calls allowing us to interact together as a group while in self-isolation.

“Six months on and we now have a greater appreciation for the office space and we focus more on team interactions when we are in the office rather than focusing on project work. While we’re still mindful of the potential increased lockdown measures which may come this Autumn, we try to take a pragmatic and cautious approach to planning for the coming weeks and months, and we are all much more grateful for what we have, and who we are with.”

 

Mandie Davis, Founder and CEO of Les Puces, a French language company for children, has found it very hard. “I’ve had to make my full time member of staff redundant and withdraw from teaching in schools altogether,” said Mandie. “2020 was set to be a very exciting year for us. We had already interviewed for a second area manager, had chosen someone and were about to let him know when the schools closed on 17 March.  99% of our work was with schools so we lost almost everything. You may have read about me working in Sainsbury’s to try and keep our heads above water.  

“When schools didn’t restart properly in June, all hope was on recovering in September.  One by one, schools let us know that they were no longer going to be offering after school clubs, or if they were, the guidelines were going to be impossible to work with.  There are so many restrictions (the children are not even allowed to sing!) that I think it’s going to be a liability nightmare if any child becomes ill.  We lost almost all of our curriculum teaching work too - I think schools are incredibly nervous of having outside companies visit the premises now. Then my teachers started leaving.  Many had gone back to their own countries to be with family through Covid-19, and there was no sign of when it was going to be a stable environment to return to.  Add to that the alienating Brexit, and most of my teachers probably wouldn’t be allowed to come back even if they wanted to.”

Diversifying may be the lifeline that Mandie needs.

“We had so many fantastic books, projects and materials ready to use - I had to support the hard work that had gone into creating these over the past five years.  We have now launched a hybrid learning pack. Every two months the children receive a book, project, worksheets, progress card and stickers.  They then go onto a members only area of the website where they listen to the story being read in French and English,  learn the song by watching a video with the actions to the song, then progress to a sing-a-long version, and then to karaoke.  There are videos to help them play the games, make the project and also to help work through the worksheets.  We are also offering private and group lessons by Zoom.  Take up has been very low but we are rebuilding again slowly. I feel like I’ve fallen down a long snake in a 'snakes and ladders' game and am now back on one of the first rows again! So sad after years of hard work.”

 

Corporate video production company, Limewood Productions, Director Jacqueline Franklin, says, “It has been a crazy time. We’re working with Locate in Kent and their 12 hour free consultancy to help us, via New Level Results. We’ve completed projects over the lockdown period, but we have lost a ton of work, too. The work that is being done is generally essential projects. There are things in the pipeline too but a lot of speculative discussion. I think this reflects that businesses are trying to find their way.”