Calculating the future

How a former Waterloo student is helping local retailers prepare and predict the impacts of COVID-19

With the sweeping arrival of COVID-19, Marcelo Cortes was quick to realize the devastating impact it could have on small, local businesses.

As chief technology officer (CTO) and co-founder of Faire, an online wholesale marketplace that helps emerging brands and boutique retailers grow their business, Cortes recognized more help needed to be offered.  

In response, he and his team worked quickly to develop an online calculator that turns key financial details into lifespan projections for a particular business. The results can help owners spot inefficiencies to better prepare for the future.

“We immediately began doing research and mapping out various scenarios,” says Cortes. “We realized that Faire was well funded and would survive, but that many of our customers faced far more difficult situations? We asked ourselves ‘how can we help?’”

Listening to retailers and makers
Cortes felt the first step to helping retailers and makers was to better understand their situations. After surveying more than 20,000 customers about their COVID-19 preparedness, Faire worried about the incoming results. Retailers were expecting a temporary revenue reduction of 50 per cent or more, while 70 per cent of retailers surveyed said they didn’t have sufficient cash on hand to handle this type of crisis.

The impact calculator hopes to soften the blow.

Recognizing that a full understanding of a business’ financial situation is the first critical step to making informed decisions about how to respond, the calculator will act as an assessment tool as local makers/retailer look to the future.

Launched at the end of March, the tool has already been used more than 5,000 times, alongside a list that highlights the immediate steps retailers should be considering during the pandemic. It includes practical advice on reducing costs, finding financial relief and ways to increase revenue.

The future is (still) local
7 people standing side by side smiling posing for a picture
Beyond finances, Cortes is also emphasizing that businesses stay close to their customer base.

“Many customers care about your business and will be eager to help you through this difficult time,” says Cortes. “It’s key to engage with your customers and build a sense of community.”

Cortes says that Faire is currently focusing all of its resources on helping retailers and makers navigate this unprecedented crisis, with the online impact calculator just the beginning of more helpful tools to come.

“Our mission is entirely about empowering entrepreneurs,” says Cortes. “We depend on retailers and makers for our business and they depend on us. The whole ecosystem can only be successful if our retailers and makers are successful.”

Do you have a good news story of an alumnus or/and alumni-led business that has displayed care, kindness, and the power of innovation during the COVID19 outbreak? We want to hear from you!