MILWAUKEE - Pivot or perish! That was the mantra of a local business owner trying to cope with the fallout from the pandemic. It's not only a story of survival, but of growth. There’s a unique way a woman made it happen one step at a time.
On the streets of Milwaukee's lower east side, Milwaukee Food and City Tours is once again tasting delicacies and guiding guests through area history after the business had to do its own navigating...around the pandemic.
"We really had to stop and pause just because so many restaurants were closed," said Theresa Nemetz.
After doing walking and bus tours for 15 years, Nemetz, the owner said 2020 was a year like no other.
"We are grateful that we made it but we know that there is still a long road ahead," Nemetz said.
Getting here, came with twists and turns.
"It forced us to look at what we were doing and how we were doing and be able to pivot and do it a little differently," Nemetz added.
Wanting to still tell the story of Milwaukeeans, Nemetz shifted her operation by sending products right to people's doorsteps. Novelty countdown gift boxes which she said, "Each box contains 12 different businesses." For Easter, Mother's Day, Advent, and more.
Nemetz added, "We love the fact that we have been able to continue spending money in the community and helping so many small businesses."
Meanwhile, Peggy Williams-Smith with VISIT Milwaukee said the past 13 months have been devastating for the hospitality industry.
"The pandemic has disproportionately affected women especially in hospitality 40% of women in the U.S. have been without work for six months or longer," Williams-Smith said.
Tom Sullivan with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce thinks women are getting hit harder because of the dual role they play.
"31% of women business owners have a child at home doing online learning," Sullivan said.
Thankfully this pivot paid off.
"In a year we would’ve had about 14,000 tour attendees. Instead, we sold 14,000 gift boxes. We really ended the year in a pretty safe place," said Nemetz.
A place, Wendy Baumann with Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation, continues to help others get to.
"85% of the businesses in the state of Wisconsin are micro and small businesses. We need them," Baumann added.
Last year alone, WBIC served more than 5,500 clients in their business education, training, and counseling programs. Helping women rebound and stay resilient.
"Every day individuals through what they buy in terms of their consumables their products or services can make a difference," said Baumann.
It’s these products that allowed Nemetz to stay afloat, and expand and acquire Chicago Food Planet.
"We look forward to bringing groups back and forward together to explore Milwaukee establishments and Chicago places too," added Nemetz.
Sharing traditions of the past, as Nemetz's own history of business and transition has helped others have a brighter future.
"Now we are back out in the community and it’s so fun," Nemetz exclaimed.
Nemetz said the company will continue selling the gift boxes since they were such a hit and are currently taking orders for Mother’s Day.
As for the tours, booking for private and public tours are available and reservations are being taken for the next few months.