Kate Healy, Founder and Owner of Virtually Together, set up the business in April this year. She saw a gap in the market to help bring people together virtually and inject some joy into digital events during COVID-19.
Starting up a business during a global pandemic might seem risky, but lots of people have been remodelling businesses to fit the new norm or starting something completely new. We spoke to her about launching Virtually Together, creating customer demand and sharing lessons for those thinking of doing the same.
Tell us a bit about your business
Virtually Together is a hub offering activities and entertainment for virtual events, celebrations and special occasions. Our number one aim is to bring joy to households and keep people’s social lives alive. Just because we can’t always be together in person, doesn’t mean you can’t connect with friends, family or colleagues for some fun.
Activities include wine tasting, murder mystery parties, bingo and escape room games. We also offer magic shows, cocktail masterclasses, dance lessons, cooking classes and craft workshops.
What made you want to start your business during the pandemic?
Before COVID-19 hit, I ran a luxury hen party planning business called Ladies Who Hen. Once lockdown started we were forced to cancel or reschedule all of our booked parties for the summer.
After seeing how disappointed many of our clients were, I wanted to find a way for people to still mark and celebrate their special occasions. I reached out to existing suppliers to see if they wanted to offer their services virtually, and some of them said “Yes”. We launched the concept online starting with a small selection of activities. These included afternoon tea, life drawing, a live DJ set and some craft sessions.
It was so successful that I had groups enquiring for birthday parties, team hangouts and even anniversary celebrations. That’s when I realised there was a real appetite for virtual activities and Virtually Together started to take-off. I haven’t looked back since.
What was different about setting up a business during a pandemic? What challenges have you faced?
The main difference is that my entire strategy has been digitally focused. From the beginning, I knew that creating a standout website and lots of engaging organic content to drive my SEO ranking was going to be key. I invested in social media and Google ads to help spread the word and attract new clients.
One of the biggest challenges of starting a new business during COVID-19 has been brand awareness. I’ve definitely felt the time pressure of knowing that I needed to make the most of this period and get the Virtually Together brand out there to give it longevity beyond the lockdown.
What has the response been to Virtually Together so far?
The uptake over the last 12 weeks has been incredible. I feel really fortunate that we were able to spot a gap in the market and create something that has brought people together during this difficult time.
At the beginning of our journey we had a lot of bookings for celebrations such as birthdays.
However, in the past month or so we have seen a big boost in corporate bookings. We’ve been organising monthly team virtual socials, client entertainment and virtual summer parties – with lots of repeat bookings, which is great.
Lots of small businesses are wanting to be part of the Virtually Together family and journey too. Companies contact me almost on a daily basis to ask if they can be listed on the website. I love that I can also help other businesses during this time with bookings.
What advice would you have for anyone looking to start their own businesses at the moment?
Before you start investing lots of money and resources, do some research. Identify if there is a demand for your business idea. Allow yourself to test, learn and explore the market you’re looking to enter. This will help you to refine your idea and to keep innovating until you get it right. Most importantly, have the courage to take the plunge!
Visit our dedicated site for more resources, webinars and inspirational stories to help you emerge stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic.