This is Part 5 of our series “Our View: Looking Back At 2020.” If you missed previous parts in this series, you can read the summaries below and find links to the posts in their entirety.
Part 1 Summary
Our fairly new company had a lot of consulting and training work booked in the first quarter of the year and we were very optimistic. And then, while out on the road, the world changed as the pandemic took hold. (To read Part 1, click here.)
Part 2 Summary
To get the work done, we had to change all of our travel plans and logistics. We worked with our client to make sure we left them with good printing conditions. Then, we began the long – and eerie – voyage home. (To read Part 2, click here.)
Part 3 Summary
We were on the brink of layoffs when we had our epiphany. We called on our partners in the industry for help and soon we launched a dye sub business making socks and gaiter style face coverings. (To read Part 3, click here.)
Part 4 Summary
How we started up ChromApparel and built a second dye sub lab. (To read Part 4, click here.)
Part 5: The Summer Comeback In Consulting
We started the summer months excited about the potential for ChromApparel. The Etsy store was starting off slow, but we got a few more bulk orders in that were being produced in the Milwaukee lab. Meanwhile, I was still researching Etsy trends and creating more custom designs for the store. Jim was researching and investing in Etsy ads. We felt like the sales would come in time.
While we were waiting for online sales, we got a different surprise. For the first time since we came home in March, we were starting to get requests for onsite consulting. We remained cautious about our situations; but this was great news.
We did not take going back out on the road lightly. We talked through the decisions we made from flights to hotels and even the facilities where we would feel comfortable enough to work. We considered which states we felt safe visiting, as well as the states we could not travel to. Here are some of the measures we took during this first trip and that we have continued to take:
- Research each state before we visit. What are the COVID-19 case trends? What restrictions does the state have? States that require quarantines upon arrival can’t be considered.
- Book flights carefully. Choose airlines that block middle seats and require masks. If a connection is necessary, make the layover as short as possible.
- Stay at hotels that promote health and safety. When possible, book rooms that have refrigerators and kitchenettes so we have the option to make our own meals.
- Avoid dining inside restaurants whenever possible. Choose options like Uber Eats or DoorDash. If we have to eat at a restaurant, find one with outdoor dining with distanced tables.
- Travel with plenty of masks and antibacterial liquid or wipes.
- Piggyback trips (combine consulting trips) so we have fewer flights and less exposure points.
- Consider quarantining after the trip if we found ourselves in any questionable or uncomfortable situation while traveling.
First stop: Georgia
On June 10, Jim and I flew to Jacksonville, Florida, and then drove over the border into the small town in Georgia where we were to conduct our first matter of business. We planned to do two days of consulting in Georgia and then drive to Orlando to catch a direct flight to Las Vegas where we had another two days lined up.
In hindsight, this could have been a mistake. Georgia and Florida were operating in much different manners in June. Florida’s borders were closed to travelers from Texas and Louisiana on its western border and from many northeast states such as New York, New Jersey and Connecticut on its northern border. We saw the checkpoints driving out of the state. It was rumored that they were also doing Covid-19 tests and temperature monitoring at the borders. We had some concerns like we did back in March – that we would be unable to get to where we wanted to go.
We did our work in Georgia while masked up and socially distanced. When we drove back into Florida, we got lucky. They had shut down the checkpoints for the night. We drove to Orlando with no issues and boarded our flight to Vegas.
Second stop: Las Vegas
On June 13, we arrived in the very surreal land of Las Vegas. Although we had heard that there weren’t many people on the strip, we still chose a hotel off the strip. If there was a crowd, that’s where it would be. We weren’t even sure we wanted to visit it at all. But curiosity got the best of us. We made one trip to the strip on a Sunday night when we thought it would be the least crowded. Boy, were we right. (See the image gallery at the end of this post for images during this comeback summer including some of a nearly empty Las Vegas in mid-June.)
Despite how different everything was on this first road trip, it was great to be back on site working to help our clients with their color management strategy.
Flexible work hours and environments
July and August gave us a few more onsite consulting jobs. It was as if the ball was rolling again. Many of our clients had used the “pandemic pause” to invest in new printing equipment and experiment with new technology. But as they implemented this new equipment and technology, they found themselves in need of color management help.
While still taking all those precautions, we were happy to help. We found ourselves becoming more flexible with our schedule. Many of the facilities we worked in were not yet up to full capacity with their employees. The employees either rotated in-person shifts or worked from home full-time. Other companies requested us to come in over a weekend when their employees weren’t working at all. When we work at those facilities, it’s easy to avoid exposure to a bunch of people and maintain social distance. We even go as far as to say we appreciate the concern for everyone’s health and safety. These flexible work hours and environments made it possible for us to continue our onsite consulting.
Meanwhile in the ChromApparel world …
ChromApparel hadn’t been forgotten while we were traveling. We had an employee handle any orders that came in. I was able to adjust designs for different size requests from my hotel room if need be.
In July, we found out we could acquire some traditional over-the-ears face masks from our source Vapor Apparel. I re-purposed some of the gaiter designs to be used on the masks. I had also continued researching Etsy trends and our own sales. Why, for instance, was a kids’ small construction trucks masks so popular?
I learned two important things over the summer about Etsy and people’s mindsets.
- When it came to mask wearing, people wanted to either wear something that represented their personality or showed off something they liked. If you’re a parent of a 5 year old who loved construction trucks, what better way to get them to wear a mask than to have one with construction trucks?
- People loved themed items and ones that made them laugh. In August, I started making funny masks (such as the corn on the cob face mask in the image gallery below). Around that same time, I started holiday themed collections. The first one I focused on was Halloween.
While we had some consistent sales from the Etsy store, the best was yet to come. Between my new design ideas and Jim’s focus on Etsy ads, we were about to get very busy.
Part 6 is coming soon!
Image gallery from summer 2020. Click on an image to enlarge.