I am amazed, in awe, and inspired by the way many nonprofit leaders – many of whom are women – are leading their organizations through the uncertainty brought on by COVID-19. So much so, that I’ve decided to do a special series about Nonprofit and Small Business Executive Women who are living in the trenches, working to keep their nonprofits and businesses running, and doing critical work to continue to serve individuals and families during this crisis. I’m curious about their work and the people they’re serving, their biggest concerns, and how they are taking care of themselves and those around them. So, I asked!

Tracy Dempsey, Chef, Tracy Dempsey Originals/ODV Wines

Tracy Dempsey, For nearly a decade, Tracy Dempsey has been incorporating her dessert expertise into the “Tracy Dempsey Originals” line of packaged boutique confections that she sells to retail stores and creates desserts for local restaurants in Tempe, Arizona. She hosts weekly community supported agriculture (CSA) pick-up for Sun Produce Co-op, which works with local Arizona growers and farmers to bring the freshest, in-season produce to its members. She is a member of Local First Arizona, Blue Watermelon Project, Les Dames d’Escoffier, The Joy Bus, and recognized as a Green Business. COVID-19 may have soured her sales in some areas, but not her sweet spirit and desire to continue providing customers with her tasty desserts and wines – she’s just doing it differently right now.

Q.  Who are you serving and how are you serving them during this crisis?

A.  I run a small business – bakery, local products seller and wine shop. We also are a pick-up location for the local CSA, providing local clients with fresh produce from local farms. We are serving our customers like we have before, but have implemented new protocols and operating in a very limited and specialized way. During these unusual times, we are taking orders a day in advance via email and providing pick-ups curbside. We are also able to help our customers shop virtually and are licensed to deliver.

Q.  Have you added, changed or deleted any services because of COVID-19?

A.  We’ve had to pivot and come up with new ways to generate business. Since customers can’t come into the store, we need to provide them with information on what we have available, and how they can order/buy it. Last week we introduced some “stay at home fun” packages – cookie decorating kits for parents to buy to do with their kids, various wine packages (Sparkle in Place, Hunker Down in Place), and created a blind tasting wine package that you and your friends can order and do a virtual wine tasting via your favorite online video channel.

Q.  What are your biggest concerns right now? 

A.  My biggest concern is having enough business to keep our doors open, keep my three wonderful employees working, and continue to support the local farmers and makers.

Q.  How are you taking care of yourself, your staff and your clients?

A.  For me, wine. Lots of wine. For my staff, I’m coming up with new ideas for new revenue streams to keep our doors open. For my clients and customers, we’re still continuing to offer our baked goods, wines, and cakes.

Q.  What is your biggest need right now and how can people support your organization?

A.  Our biggest need is for our customers to keep shopping with us and support small business, order treats for the weekend, arrange for a wine delivery. I also encourage readers to join the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer.

Q.  What are you reading, watching, listening to, or doing to get through this?

A.  Cooking, baking, spoiling my cats. playing my ukulele, going on walks with my husband, and gardening keep me focused and distracted. I just finished The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, New Yorker, Noble Roy and am now re-reading Dearie (Julia Child’s bio), and revisiting countless cookbooks. Every day is different and so is my mood. I’m listening to Nine Inch Nails, PJ Harvey, Steely Dan, The Cars, Howling Wolf, The Minutemen, Queens of the Stone Age…whatever inspires me at any moment. I’m not watching much TV at all, but enjoying Miles Davis: Birth is the Cool right now.

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