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Zoom is part of the business model for some pandemic-era entrepreneurs

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A woman enjoys a virtual happy hour during the COVID-19 pandemic on April 8, 2020, in Arlington, Virginia.

Some online cocktail companies have thrived on Zoom during the pandemic. Above, a woman enjoys a virtual happy hour in April 2020. Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

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The latest earnings report from Zoom beat estimates, with revenue coming in close to where it was last quarter.

But Zoom is losing small business clients and individual consumers faster than it’s gaining large corporate customers, according to the digital intelligence company Similarweb. Still, some entrepreneurs have bet on video conferencing — including two small business owners — in an industry you might not expect to see online.

Shana Race was a bartender in Los Angeles, who would sometimes hold in-person cocktail classes. During lockdown, she lost those and her bar job.

“And I sat with my head in my pillow for about a week. And then I pivoted my cocktail classes online,” she said.

Her business, called Talk Tales, has corporate clients that include Better Mortgage, TrueCar and even Amazon, who buy her classes to recreate the after-work happy hour on Zoom. 

Race said companies that were looking to boost morale came to her. “They were scrambling, they were looking for a way to bring spirits back.”

Ahead of everyone returning to the office, Race plans to pivot to retail, selling cocktail kits.

That’s because Zoom fatigue can be a business risk, if you ask the guy that coined the term, Stanford communications professor Jeremy Bailenson.

“You can be physically fatigued, you can be socially fatigued — you don’t want to see someone — you can be overall fatigued. And it’s important to differentiate because there’s different solutions to each one,” Bailenson said.

For people looking to connect long distances, Bailenson expects Zoom to stick around.

That’s what Sarah Mengoni is hoping, too. She’s the owner of Historically Drinking, another online cocktail business, with classes and videos about the backstory of different drinks.

“Even as people are being, like, released out into the world, again, you can hang out with your friends and family from all over the country and all over the world doing this, which is great,” Mengoni said.

Mengoni still has a job at a bar. But this week, she’s holding her first online event after a hiatus and is hoping her audience will still be there. 

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