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Courier produces useful, inspiring content for modern entrepreneurs. Our Friday newsletter features stories on living better and working smarter.
Friday 3rd July

Ahead of the weekend, we check in with the founder of a new platform for Black leaders in the food and hospitality sectors, try and figure out what 'no-code' actually means and talk reopenings (and closures) with small business owners in Austin. Plus, a wellness trend that's been nicknamed 'Headspace on heat'. Enjoy!

‘No-code’ has been popping up lately in Slack channels, tweetstorms and design circles. The phrase broadly describes the rise of apps and software that allow those without coding chops to still make cool stuff.

But it means different things to different people – which is why we enjoyed this explainer from no-code company Adalo, which surveyed experts in the field and also came up with its own definition (sort of): ‘The art of creating a unique solution to a problem that could have been written with code but the individual(s) have made it using visual methods without coding.’

Adalo's David Adkin breaks it down further:

  • ‘No-code is about solving a problem and the end result, your solution, can take many forms. Because of this, the definition is intentionally vague to be inclusive of all aspects of code – apps, websites, voice, e-commerce, automation, etc.’

  • ‘The solution was created without coding. This doesn’t mean that code wasn’t used to create it. It just means that the people who made it did not write the code themselves.’

  • ‘The solution must be unique. This means that templated solutions provided by SaaS companies are not no-code.’

This is exactly the sort of topic we’ll be digging into from next Wednesday in a new bi-weekly ‘Workshop’ email and podcast. Both newsletter and podcast will be packed with practical information and actionable advice on how to better run and grow your business. Every other week, we’ll explain one essential concept needed to get you where you want to go – defining key terms, pointing you in the direction of useful tools and, most importantly, helping you understand why the topic is relevant to you. Keep an eye out for it.

In the US, the food world was already imploding over structural racism when Black Lives Matter recently kicked off further necessary debate. Why are there 'ethnic' food aisles in grocery stores? Are we okay with white chefs making their names cooking food traditionally from Black communities?

And it's not just what food we eat that matters, but how and where we talk about it. Despite the explosion of media that covers food, chefs and restaurants, the coverage of Black-owned restaurants has remained chronically weak. For Frankie Reddin, co-founder of the new London-based platform Black Book, this problem might be even worse in the UK – where, as this Eater article points out, just two black-owned restaurants have received a national newspaper review in the past five years.

‘From cultural appropriation to representation in the food world, conversations are definitely happening here in the UK. But there aren't enough platforms to amplify these voices. We are still being led by what's going on in the US,’ Frankie says. ‘More Black people will want to be involved in the food world, but only once they start seeing themselves represented better.’

Black Book is looking to address the inequalities and erasure of Black voices in the food world and, over time, help improve the ability of black people to thrive in hospitality. ‘We want to support those in the Black community who are working in hospitality to make sure they get the recognition, visibility and rewards for their work that they deserve,’ says Frankie.

To help build momentum, Black Book has just launched a series of online talks entitled ‘Decolonising the food industry’ that take place every Sunday at 2-3.30pm. While the talks are free, donations can be made here.

Make sure to also check out the latest episode of our podcast, in which we dig into the role of black-owned food businesses with Dominic Cools-Lartigue and Bejay Mulenga, founders of The Great Feast of London – a virtual food festival that kicks off today.

In recent weeks we’ve been catching up with lots of small businesses – from Copenhagen cafes and Shanghai restaurants to plant shops in Athens – to find out how they’re reemerging from lockdown safely and profitably.

One common theme has emerged: it’s been tough to make projections, order stock and maintain a team with constantly-changing government advice and restrictions. As Alfonso Ali Wright, founder of the black-owned business Brooklyn Tea, recently told us: ‘Until the pandemic is over or there's a vaccine, it seems almost foolish to make long-term plans. So we're focusing our energy on how we can pivot, evolve and adapt to what's coming this week and next week, just to stay alive.'

Right on cue, expectations for a summer revenue boost have already been squashed in some parts of the US – businesses in at least 12 states are preparing to shut down yet again following a surge in new Covid-19 cases. In Austin, where new restrictions have been introduced, we caught up with the team behind restaurant and underground cocktail lounge Devil May Care, which opened in December 2019 – just in time to generate buzz for a SXSW that would never happen.

‘Starting in January, we gathered a lot of press and reviews and were blowing away our original expectations,’ says investor Aaron Desimone. ‘March came, and we shut down. We were able to do meals and cocktail kits to go, which gave us a little bit of revenue. We reopened in May at 25-50% occupancy and shut down again last week.’

Last Friday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order that bars and businesses with more than 51% of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic drinks had to close – while restaurants could remain open for dine-in service at 50% capacity. Although Devil May Care could remain open as a restaurant, most of the revenue – like most spaces on 6th Street, a party street in the city’s downtown – comes from alcohol sales. At 25% occupancy, it would cost more to stay open than to close again. ‘The other thing with being so new is that we don’t want to confuse people by providing an experience at 25%,’ Desimone says. ‘It’s not the same feel.’

Elsewhere in Austin, the founders of Greater Goods Coffee Co, which operates two cafés and a training campus for certification courses, decided to keep their sitting areas closed and continue with curbside and takeaway service – despite being allowed to reopen. ‘The numbers weren’t convincing for us [to reopen],’ explains co-founder Khanh Trang. ‘All of our 23 staff members rotate between the cafes and the roastery so we wanted to keep our team as safe as possible.’

Greater Goods’ in-house coffee brand supports four local Texas nonprofits and it took that community support to make it through lockdown financially as well as mentally. ‘With the community being incredibly supportive of us and making sure that we survive – everybody ordering online helped a lot – we were able to keep all of our staff on as long as they were willing to do whatever,’ Trang says. ‘But it’s honestly been emotionally challenging for all of us involved. To reopen and prep everybody… only to shut down again would have been costly. We are open for a lot less hours and making a lot less, but the team is holding up and we’re still here.’ He expects they’ll be serving the Austin community curbside until the end of the year, at least.

Meanwhile, hospitality businesses in the UK have finally been given the green light to reopen tomorrow, with new government guidelines on what they can and can’t do. Restaurant owners might also want to check out 86 to 101, a useful new ‘platform for restaurant problem solving’ that has caught our eye.

To stop this email being buried in spam folders, we're borrowing one of Caroline Spiegel's less graphic ways of describing the audio content on her website Quinn – as 'anything within the boundaries of fantasy or play'.

When we caught up with Caroline – the 20-something younger sister of Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel – and her co-founders at their office in Brooklyn late last year, soon after the platform launched, we spoke in depth about how Quinn’s lofty plans came at a good time for companies working in industries previously considered taboo. You can check it out here.

More recently, we’ve started noticing Quinn and other similar platforms being described as a kind of ‘Headspace on heat’ and the next big wellness trend. Watch (and listen to?) this space.

This company wants to use plywood sheets from shop windows to make sidewalk dining kits for restaurants and bars in NYC.

But then again… outdoor seating might not make sense.

TikTok has launched 'TikTok For Business' – a new platform for brands and advertisers.

A weekend long-read on the future of tourism.

How cooking schools, wineries, distilleries and food halls are getting creative.

A good list of retail experts to follow on Twitter.

Which country has the most businesses per kilometre?

And why now is a good time to build aslow burn startup’.

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