COVID-19 Silver Lining Stories
Contributors: Marian Hinebauch, Mitch Heiman, Stacy Gardner
Months after ‘Stay Home. Stay Safe.’ orders were issued, print shop owners everywhere were all facing what the new ‘open for business’ meant. We asked decorators to reflect on how their business decisions made during the shutdown generated unexpected impact. The questions provided answers that might inspire other business owners to throw open their own doors with a revitalized point of view.
Over a series of email interviews, a leading pattern emerged—the act of sharing was central to many Covid-19 business strategies. “We opted to continue paying our employees full wages and benefits,” says Mitch Heiman, of Perrin Sportswear in Michigan, “Our company is defined by our employees and we know our long-term success is determined by each and every one of us.” A key decision made in March created a silver lining of hope for team members during the shutdown and created an even brighter silver lining with Perrin’s partners once Michigan re-opened. “Our decision allowed our partners to see who we are and what we believe. It reinforced their choice to work with Perrin and give us first opportunities with their replenishment orders,” says Heiman.
In Las Vegas, Marian Hinebauch of Logo Droppers Inc., shifted their screen printing and embroidery facility to producing and donating masks to a wide range of companies and organizations—from Delta Airlines to the Boys and Girls Club of Southern Nevada. “When we heard Nevada was re-opening, we felt ecstatic and extremely proud” says Hinebauch. “The Thank You cards and positive comments from people have been worth it all.” Pivoting the business during the shutdown allowed Logo Droppers to keep working safely. “A significant impact? Our employees are grateful,” says Hinebauch, adding an emoji for emphasis—😊. Heiman echoes the sentiment, “It was important for us to let our employees know that we had their back. Most were awestruck about our decision. A team member wrote to say, ‘Perrin’s response to this Pandemic has played a key part in the well-being of myself and my family.’”
Learn More: Joining the Fight: Making Masks
In upstate New York, Stacy Gardner, founder of Pillow for Keeps, transitioned the sewing studio of her small business into a mask-making production space. Designing and building masks in response to the Covid-19 crisis reinforced her company’s core values. “I’m just doing what needs to be done. We create meaningful keepsakes that can be cherished for many years, while always going above and beyond for our customers,” says Gardner. Making personalized masks allows Gardner to continue purchasing supplies to donate masks to essential workers. She acknowledges that her “buy one—donate” approach might make the “business gods” cringe, “There is no strategy. I am just doing what needs to be done. Our country needed masks—I had the capabilities.” During the shutdown, a spontaneous social media decision in response to Nurses’ Recognition Day generated unexpected results. “15 donated masks turned into 36 in a matter of minutes! I learned a valuable lesson but was happy to do it. All 36 nurses got their masks within 7 days, and I got additional orders as a result of that...but again...it wasn’t really a strategy, I just wanted to do something for the nurses.”
Hinebauch also acknowledges that sharing more on social media has helped her company expand their community online as well, “Our company is going in a few different directions. We never really had a presence on social media before the shutdown, but we are starting to now.” Gardner concurs that her company has seen an uptick in business when posts are re-posted but she also finds that the sharing is mutual. “I listen to feedback. I ask questions about the masks and I always am looking for ways to improve them.” For Gardner, instigating a social conversation led to new mask innovations and better designs for a wider range of people’s needs.
“Difficult times have a way of showing your true colors,” says Heiman. “Throughout this Pandemic, I was fortunate to see many stars in our employees, partners, and accounts. There is no question it united us.” Across the country, the different ways print shop owners and their companies are responding to the Pandemic are illuminating how the power of sharing can yield results beyond the bottom line and become a blueprint for business as companies re-open. Gardner offers up three words, “Don’t hope, DO.”
The email interviews were edited for length and clarity.
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