The abrupt outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic sent unprecedented shockwaves across the globe, creating an unparalleled crisis in terms of our health, severely impacting the way we live and work. Measures such as social distancing and travel restrictions, have disrupted production and supply chains, reinforcing a demand shock. In the midst of this pandemic, however, there are leaders of resilient firms that are effectively responding to these changing times. Using a multiple-case inductive enquiry, the paper analyses how leaders activate resilience in small businesses. Employing a process framework, which focuses on sequences of activities and their interrelations which we analyse to uncover how these leaders activated this resilience and explicitly integrated the literature of resilience with that of sensemaking. Resilience emerges when cognition and behaviour work in conjunction, with businesses adapting to combat the crisis. When it comes to global disruptive crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, extant literature provides us with little guidance. The study not only makes a number of contributions to extant literatures but also provides valuable insights and tools to help leaders effectively navigate and respond to this crisis. By doing fast research in real time the paper provides novel and original insights.