With the emergence of Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdowns, the US government has forced social-distancing measures so they can control the pandemic and this eventually led to declining sales for companies all over the country. So what these companies did to fight the pandemics was some odd business pivots to build PPE equipment. We’ve already covered some of these pivots and today, in this article we will share some more of these odd business pivots we’ve seen during Coronavirus pandemic.
- Location: Brooklyn, New York
- Staff: 7
- PPE product: Masks
Gina Riley launched her jewelry and accessories business, Rebel Designs, around 20 years ago from her apartment in Brooklyn, where she designed each item by hand. She had almost half a dozen workers this spring and a large order book. However the Coronavirus pandemic put an end to her small enterprise, causing her to cease activities.
Riley confronted a different reality when the business returned in June. Will the buyers be in a state to spend money on a $750 handbag or a $80 ring? She didn’t actually know either, so she plowed into the thriving PPE industry and began producing non-medical fabric masks for customers ($19 each coming in designs like a white-navy flame). And due to a local campaign, they are now being sold to the West Elm supermarket chain.
“As a small company, we don’t have the eggs,” Riley says. “We work and we invest and we work and we invest.” She stated, “We have to produce masks — this is obviously a requirement.”
Selling masks, and a grant from the government’s Paycheck Protection Program, have helped the organization stay alive. And although demand has declined, Riley said that the business intends to continue manufacturing face masks, particularly with new cases expected to rise this winter.
At this point, “this is just another accessory,” says Riley. “This is our new standard.”
- Locations: Gorham, Maine
- Staff: 40
- PPE product: Face shields
Just like many businessmen, Devin McNeill and Charles Friedman set up their business, Flowfold, in the midst of frustration. After the old wallet fell apart, Friedman made one of the fabrics used for the boat sails that made it lighter and more robust. After college, they relocated to a remote island nearby Portland, Maine, in 2010 and started selling to local stores. The business kept working until 2015 and when L.L. Bean became a client. Since then, they’ve added tote bags, backpacks and dog leashes.
“We’re a modestly profitable business, but then Covid hit us very hard,” McNeill says.
With profits skidding, the eight-person enterprise transferred the cutting machines used for wallets and bags to create face shields for clinics and hospitals. The UCDC have purchased 500,000 units in April. That kind of market demand, together with a $74,000 PPP grant, enabled the company to increase its employees to 40.
Originally, Flowfold had been planning to make face masks for a month, but it has been a sustainable enterprise and is now running out of 50,000 face shields every week. Most of the sales have shifted to customers, through its website, from hospitals and other major institutions. At the beginning of the school year, a children’s version face shield has been revealed and now takes up half of the sales.
“Now people have face shields for their daily lives,” McNeill says.
If market demand for face shields is limited, the business will switch other goods to these machines. All in all, the pivot to PPE enabled Flowfold a more nimble business and, as per McNeill, opened the company to several other new consumers.
“In the past, we could launch four to six products annually, but now we have the resources that we could do 10 to 12,” McNeill says. “We’re really happy about that.”
- Location: Chicago Area
- Staff: 50
- PPE product: Face shields
When Covid-19 pandemic struck the U.S. around March, Dimitri Syrkin-Nikolau was seeing a sales boom at the two Dimo Pizza stores he manages in Chicago. The 35-year-old wanted to pivot— and quickly — and save around 50 jobs.
Most restaurants have switched to offering food or more alcoholic drinks. Syrkin-Nikolau gazed at his pizza ovens and wondered of plastics and also how people were unable to get enough of the PPE they needed. In short order, Dimo reconfigured the acrylic molding ovens and began making a thousand face shields each week. The business charged only $5 for each face shield, which generated enough money to enable Syrkin-Nikolau keep his entire workforce. The corporation has obtained a PPP loan to ensure that the business stays afloat.
Around six months later, market demand for face shields decreased, with Dimo shipping less than 100 each week. In the meantime, the pizza business is back to around 60 percent of what it was before the pandemic. Syrkin-Nikolau looks back to how his business changed its gears with pride and a little remorse.
“You want to trust that what you’re trying to do is make an impact,” says Syrkin-Nikolau. “I felt quite overwhelmed by the fact that the United States is already leading the world in the number of daily cases and fatalities.”
Cadillac Products Automotive
- Location: Troy, Michigan
- Staff: 225
- PPE product: Medical gowns
Don Lowe decided to join Cadillac Products Automotive last year in search of new growth prospects. The family-run firm, established in 1942, had endured all these years by becoming a hub in the Detroit supply chain. The company uses polyethylene film to create heat, liquid and sound barriers for cars).
“We were already on our way to pick up a new business, but suddenly the virus struck and nobody was at work,” says Lowe, 63.
Around the same days, a representative of the founding family who served as a nurse wondered if the organization should make a safe gown for healthcare staff dealing with Covid. Turns out the polyethylene material can be used to produce plastic bags and, in days, the firm has developed a recyclable medical gown. The original manufacturing series, which was supported by volunteers, consisted of 50,000 garments distributed to local hospitals, police, nursing homes and fire departments.
And after, the company discovered that there was still a growing demand for gowns manufactured in the U.S., and the business moved to make them available for sale under a new company and brand. Since then, nearly half a million units have been sold, which, together with a PPP loan, helped the company remain afloat and hire 15 workers. The firm also invests in modern equipment, partly funded by local government, to lower costs and increase production times.
Also with the car market roaring back, the firm expects to start driving its current development business forward.
“We see it as a perfect match for us because we’re already making the film,” Lowe says. “We’ve just discovered a new use for it.”
- Location: Las Vegas
- Staff: 40
- PPE Product: Hand Sanitizer
When the coronavirus expanded to other parts of the globe, Ryan Lewis saw an online search increase for hand sanitizer in the United States.
Global Cannabinoids, a 41-year-old corporation, manufactured items such as lotions and drinks flavored with cannabidiol (which is obtained from cannabis and sometimes referred to as CBD) for the United States wholesale sector. But the company did not have a hand sanitizer, so they made one with the CBD. In just a few hours, 250,000 units were sold out.
Then Covid entered the U.S. and consumers started calling for a non-CBD sanitizer. The company soon obliged and profits grew. Shortages triggered by sluggish Chinese imports have boosted demand. The organization was well placed to pivot since it had a reliable source of ethanol alcohol, which is a crucial component in the manufacture of CBD products and hand sanitizers.
This new company helped counter a sharp downturn in CBD revenues and saved many jobs, although it was short-lived. Sales had slowed in July after supplies from China had risen, Lewis claimed. Yet worries about the consistency of imported sanitizers have driven governments and other institutions to purchase American-made sanitizers. And that’s a boost to Lewis, who has signed agreements with major school districts and predicts demand to rise as more of the economy re-opens.
“In the long run, it’s a healthy, profitable sector,” Lewis says.