New Entrepreneur (NE)
Name & surname: Dayna-Ashley Gross
Age: 33 years
Sector of activity: Publishing
Have you already started your business? No.
Name of business: No Thanks
What is your future business? No Thanks will be a bookshop for self-published contemporary artists.
Host Entrepreneur (HE)
Name & surname: Victoria Gosling
Sector of activity: Publishing
Experience in running a business: 10 years
Name of business/website: The Reader Berlin / www.thereaderberlin.com
What is your business? The Reader Berlin offers English-language creative writing workshops, editing services and writing holidays. It is also the founder of the Berlin Writing Prize.
Period of exchange: 01.03.2020 – 30.08.2020
Duration of exchange: 6 months
Even the Best Laid Plans go Awry
Could Victoria Gosling and Dayna Gross adapt their Erasmus Exchange plan in light of a global pandemic?
In February 2020, Victoria Gosling, a writer, editor and host entrepreneur, and Dayna Gross, an aspiring podcaster and new entrepreneur, embarked on their ERASMUS exchange in Berlin. Together they had created a detailed plan for their time together. The aim was to create an ambitious series of podcasts recorded at live literary events…Then the global pandemic hit, Germany introduced a nationwide lockdown and all live in-person events were off the menu, as was working together side by side in the office!
This created a number of challenges, not only for the exchange, but for Victoria’s business. The Reader Berlin, Victoria’s company, offers creative writing workshops, events and courses – all of which were predicated on meeting in person. Victoria says, “The Reader is very much a community-led organisation. We pride ourselves on bringing together Berlin’s English-language literary community. When the pandemic hit, I wasn’t sure if we would survive.”
Should they cancel the exchange? Should The Reader go into hibernation until Covid was a thing of the past?
In the end, both Victoria and Dayna decided to continue to work together and proved highly adaptable. They quickly pivoted to working together online, first via Skype and email and then using Zoom to communicate. Initially, Dayna’s podcasting plans were paused while the two entrepreneurs strove to adapt the existing business model to embrace a digital format. Within a couple of months, the mainstay of the Reader’s products – a diverse range of creative writing evening courses – had gone online. Initially, numbers suffered but soon the two’s transformed social media strategy brought in new customers from outside of Berlin, customers who had previously been unable to attend workshops.
Once numbers had stabilised, it was agreed that Dayna would use her talents to create an audio series ‘The Corona Files’. In this ongoing podcast, Dayna Skype-interviewed long-serving Reader Berlin tutors – all authors – and asked them questions about their courses, their thoughts about writing and creating, and how their workshops help aspiring authors to get to the next level. Released online, these podcasts, along with regular newsletters, helped to keep The Reader’s community engaged during a time when many people were suffering from isolation and it was impossible to hold the regular events that had previously cemented the Reader’s following. “The series proved really popular with our writers. It was something we could offer during a really dispiriting time,” Victoria says.
Nine months on, as Germany looks ahead to a long winter of lockdowns, how does the future look for The Reader?
“We’ve managed the disruption really well,” Victoria says. “All our evening courses are now digital and numbers are almost back to what they were. We’re also making plans to reboot our weekend workshops and event programme, making all our offerings online for the foreseeable future. While circumstances aren’t ideal, sales are solid and we’re bringing in new customers from all over the world. I can’t thank Dayna enough. When lockdown happened, our plans were thrown into disarray, but she was absolutely unflappable. She supported me during a hugely challenging time for The Reader. Via our Zooms, Dayna offered support and solutions and I credit her with creating a wonderful audio series that helped keep our following interested during massive disruption. I’m not sure how I would have managed without her.”