Silly Chilly Hot Sauce: How This Small NYC Business Is Thriving Amid Pandemic

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Small businesses are the lifeblood of the U.S. economy. As per the latest report from the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration, they generate about 44 percent of the U.S. economic activity creating two-thirds of new hiring.

Unfortunately, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has shattered small businesses creating massive job-loss. The latest Economic Average Report by Yelp  (YELP) - Get Report, a popular online review website for local businesses, revealed that 60 percent of businesses have permanently closed since March 2020.

However, amidst this depressing time, there are still some small business owners, who are adapting to new business strategies and innovative ideas, to remain afloat. Sufia Hossain, the founder of Silly Chilly Hot Sauce, is one of them.

Hossian, originally from Bangladesh, currently lives in Queens, New York. She started her hot sauce business in 2016, after leaving her corporate job at The Gap GAP. Her business quickly took off selling in more than 120 stores in the tri-state area.

But everything came to a halt when the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. in March. Like many, her business also suffered.

"Everything started getting canceled, and we got nervous," Hossian said, "And we didn't know what to do."

To make the matter worse, one of her biggest clients, WeWork, a popular co-working space, stopped ordering from her.

"They were canceling orders they already placed because they closed down their offices. Nobody was going to the office, so we were very, very nervous," she said. "We had no idea what to do, how to go about it, and we had so much inventory that we produced to sell through the year."

Like many of us, Hossain was also forced to work from home. However, it actually became an opportunity for her to grow her business as she pivoted to online marketing.

"Right now, for the first time since I started Silly Chilly, I'm running my business from home since the lockdown," she said. "Thankfully-- knock on wood-- our business grew over 600% since last year. Our sales-- Amazon  (AMZN) - Get Report sales are up 83%. Online sales have been up, and then we also landed another bigger account, which has been a blessing so far."

"During the pandemic, I actually hired one more person full-time because the e-commerce has grown so much to handle that, so I didn't have to let go of anyone," she said.

Entrepreneurs are often known for finding innovative ways to address challenges. Well, Hossain, was no exception. As many of us are wearing masks to protect ourselves from the COVID-19 virus, she saw a business opportunity there.

"I found a group of women who live in Queens, and I am also from Queens. And they're immigrant women, and they all sell masks and other stuff from home," she said.

"At first, when I met them, I was going to just order one for myself. Then the idea was like, how can I help them through my business?" she said.

"Everyone is wearing masks, and we will be wearing masks, I believe, for a long time. And at that time, I was like, oh, let's launch a mask with like a chili pepper on it, and I hand-paint the chili pepper on it."

Hossain has been selling masks online since August.

Watch the video above to know more about what advice Hossain is giving to small business owners like her.

The Business of COVID is a video series presented by TheStreet.com. Recently, TheStreet's Anuz Thapa caught up.

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