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'The staff make TikTok videos': How this small Irish business is using technology to keep afloat during Covid-19

Phil Carter opened an ice cream shop in Waterford city a few weeks ago.

Phil Carter with his staff at Carters Chocolate Cafe.
Phil Carter with his staff at Carters Chocolate Cafe.
Image: Phil Carter

“WITH EVERYTHING GOING on, people still like to have a little luxury. There’s demand for that still.”

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to cause turmoil for businesses across the globe, it hasn’t put a halt to Phil Carter’s plans for launching not one, but two new businesses. 

First up is The Ice Cream Place, which opened in George’s Court Shopping Centre in Waterford city in the middle of September. At The Ice Cream Place, all gelato is made onsite using local ingredients.

It might seem like a risky time to launch a food business, but Phil is no stranger to taking chances. An architectural technician by trade, Phil lost his job during the recession in 2008 – and used his savings to open a chocolate cafe the following year.

“We first opened Carters Chocolate Cafe in 2009, in the middle of a recession,” he says. “And then we had a really bad snowstorm. So we had no one come in for two weeks, and I thought, ‘this is the biggest mistake I’ve ever made.’ All of my savings went into it. But it turned out really well.”

Since then, Phil has opened a restaurant in the same location, and is now preparing to launch a pizzeria and Italian bakery in the coming weeks – all while getting The Ice Cream Place off the ground. 

unnamed Source: The Ice Cream Place

When asked about his thought process behind opening two food businesses during a time of huge economic uncertainty, Phil says people still want “the little things that make them happy.”  

So, how has he adapted The Ice Cream Place to work with current restrictions? As well as taking the correct health and safety measures, Phil says social media is key.

“We have to have everything online. Social media is huge for our type of business. All of our businesses are connected through the cloud, as well, so having a good internet base is huge for us.”

“For Carters, we’ve always had Facebook and Instagram. I don’t get TikTok at all, but my kids do, so we used the phone we have in The Ice Cream Place to make a TikTok account for the shop. So the staff, who are from the younger generation, do the TikTok videos. It’s great for people to see the place that we have, the product that we’re selling and it’s a bit of fun.”

unnamed (1) Staff at The Ice Cream Place. Source: The Ice Cream Place

To help get The Ice Cream Place set up with an internet connection, Phil went to the Vodafone store in Waterford city and spoke to Business in Retail advisor Ciaran Doyle.

“When he was setting up The Ice Cream Place, Phil came to us for an internet connection because he was going to be using a card machine,” says Ciaran. “In case of another lockdown or more restrictions, he also wanted customers to be able to phone in and order, so he got two mobile phones for that.”

“The Ice Cream Place is a two-minute walk from us. So if they have an issue, they can just walk up and say ‘is there something wrong with the internet?’ and we can check it for them there and then.”

“Places which wouldn’t have needed internet are now going, ‘we need to get internet because we need to do online orders.’ People want to know that if they need to close their doors in the morning, they won’t be completely shut off.” 

With a plan in place, Ciaran was able to advise Phil on what technology would work best for his new business and organise how to make it happen quickly.

“I told Ciaran what we wanted and within a couple of days there was an engineer in fixing everything,” says Phil. “Because of the way everything is going, some people don’t want to come in and queue, so we’re trying to sort out our click and collect on our phones, too.”

While social media and technology has played a huge role in successfully launching his new business, Phil says that a positive attitude is the cherry (or Flake, in this case) on top.

“If you weren’t positive about things, nothing would get done,” he says. “You’d just give up. You have to be positive.” 

Are you involved in a small business in the Munster region? Whether it’s Gigabit Broadband or tailored mobile plans, Vodafone Business has the communications technology solutions to help get your business ready for the future. Visit vodafone.ie/business for more information. 

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