Pivot Power: Local Businesses Adapting to COVID-19
By Ansalee Morrison + Briana Stewart
Pivot. Reinvent. Innovate.
During the onset of Covid-19 and the subsequent economic downturn, these business terms became the mantra of companies large and small. We were entirely impressed with how quickly local businesses adapted to a new normal — so here’s a smattering of success stories to inspire us higher.
Amilia McKay’s inbox started filling with messages from brides either postponing or cancelling their weddings. And pretty soon every cake order for March, April and May had disappeared.
For the past four years, McKay’s been running Grapefruit and Thyme from her Provo home. Last year she quit her job to pursue wedding cakes exclusively. When the Covid-19 pandemic handed her an empty calendar, she needed to do something different.
“So many cake decorators had to stop completely. My business was my full-time job, so that wasn’t an option,” McKay says.
She pivoted to pies, deciding to offer her customers both savory and sweet pies available for pickup.
“Pies are just natural for me. They’re second nature,” she says.
On the second week of offering pies, she was able to offer a pickup option in Murray through Bakers C & C — and sales doubled. And since then, they have set up online ordering and delivery options through Wasatch Milk.
“If the pandemic can’t stop my business, nothing can,” McKay says. “I feel pretty unstoppable.”
The thought of flying commercial during the height of Covid-19 was just plane nerve-wracking. But it was a problem a private jet charter like Keystone Aviation knew how to rebound from — and take to new heights.
Private air travel lends itself to stronger sanitation systems and controlled passenger groups — helping families and businesses stay safe on the move with less points of contact. And amid the pandemic, Keystone has been able to step up and enhance those practices at a jet-speed pace.
“Our No. 1 responsibility at Keystone Aviation is the safety and protection of customers and our crew,” says Dan Govatos, director of operations. “We continue to meet customers’ needs with as little disruption as possible while providing a safe and healthy environment.”
On March 27, Water Gardens Cinema 6 showed their first drive-in movie, “The Dark Knight,” on a 40-foot screen made from a massive donated “Star Trek” poster.
Truckloads of people came to enjoy an old-fashioned night at the movies from the comfort of their cars.
The day Water Gardens in Pleasant Grove closed their doors due to Covid-19, the staff decided to create this drive-in movie experience. During the week of transition, the hustle was real. General manager Kyle Larsen and his team mobilized to build a screen and frame, collected cones and reflective vests, and advertised and polled community members for which movies to show. Larsen pulled several 19-hour work days in the process.
“I always knew this about Utah, but we have a very charitable spirit. Everyone is so willing to help,” Larsen says. “There has not been one problem we’ve had as a business that our community hasn’t been willing to help us solve,”
Now they’ve created three screens and purchased one LED screen that can be seen in the daytime. Larsen says they received the best response to their showing of “Jurassic Park,” with about 345 cars coming to view the classic film.
“As a kid, I went to the drive-in, but there are a lot of kids and adults who have never experienced it. So seeing people go to a drive-in for the first time has been really fun,” Larsen says.
Another bout of innovation for Water Gardens was the drive-in graduation ceremony. Teachers drove through the lines of cars, waving to students. The principal gave a speech on a microphone everyone could hear. They played a slideshow of pictures from the year and streamed the event so grandparents could tune in and watch. Then everyone watched a movie together.
“Our No. 1 goal wasn’t to make money; it was to pay our employees and give the community something to do — and do it safely,” Larsen says.
Like many recipes, it started with flour.
Culinary Crafts’ employees casually mentioned to owners Kaleb and Ryan Crafts that they couldn’t find simple baking staples at the grocery store. So the brother duo offered to sell some of the company’s supply to employees. Realizing that the Utah Valley community was experiencing the same shopping shortages, Culinary Crafts opened it up to everyone, listing pantry items like sugar, yeast, chicken, ground beef, potatoes, oil, and rice available for sale on their website and for pick up at their Pleasant Grove location.
And because the Covid-19 pandemic and associated restrictions have upended the hospitality industry, Culinary Crafts’ recipe for innovation has kept rolling forward. The business model at Culinary Crafts looks nothing like it did pre-Covid, and yet they’ve managed to stick to their values more than ever before: abundance, excellence, and service.
“It was not until this crisis that I knew how true those were,” says Culinary Crafts’ marketing coordinator Meagan Crafts-Price.
They launched a meals-to-go menu that can be picked up or delivered. They partnered with Tabitha’s Way to donate food to families in need. They made some Culinary Crafts original dishes available to purchase like frozen dinner roll dough, the Culinary Crafts private label wine, and their custom coffee blend. They’re selling cutting boards handmade by Kaleb Crafts. And they hosted a pop-up socially-distant BBQ in their parking lot.
“I have been astounded by Ryan and Kaleb Crafts,” Crafts-Price says. “They’ve acted with grace and nobility and worked for the best interest of our team and our community. They have been beacons of light during this time.”
For the past two years, Love Woolies has hustled under the mantra of “create joy despite the flaws in life.” This motto was inspired by their business model of turning old wool sweaters into scrunchies, hats and mittens. When the need for face masks arose, owner Marcella Hill asked her team of seamstresses if they’d be willing to sew and donate 500 masks. After a week of mask-making, they’d sewn 1,500. This Vineyard-based business has donated masks to the New York Police Department, the Salt Lake Police Department, military personnel and more.
Customers started asking if they could order the brightly-colored face covers. After two weeks of volunteer work, Love Woolies pivoted, creating the business plan to donate one mask for every mask sold. The first day Love Woolies made their masks available to their customers, they sold 800. And just in the month of April, they did over $120,000 in sales — 12 times better than their best month ever.
Since the orders started to rain in, Hill has added 50 new seamstresses to her payroll.
“I’m able to pay that many people! For most of these girls, during the time we hired them, their husbands had been laid off or furloughed. We’ve helped them supplement that. Every night handing out the PayPals has been amazing,” Hill says.
Cognitive FX in Provo treats patients with concussions and traumatic brain injuries from around the world with a week of intensive in-person therapy. But like most medical clinics, Cognitive FX had to close its doors in response to the Coronavirus. This meant 178 people longing for relief were suddenly left high and dry.
Those with concussions and TBIs are already predisposed to mental challenges like anxiety, so when the uncertainty of COVID-19 combined with the discouragement of treatment cancellation, Cognitive FX started receiving concerning messages from patients. Founder Dr. Alina Fong and her team mobilized to help their patients from afar.
After two weeks of collaborating via video conferences, the Cognitive FX team rolled out Epic Headstart, a program where patients can video chat with a Cognitive FX therapist every day for a few hours. During these sessions, the therapist works with the patient on mindfulness, breathing exercises, and practices that can help deal with anxiety and improve brain function.
All 40 Headstart spots filled in the first day they opened enrollment.
“Now they know our therapists and have created a connection with them. It makes this concussion population feel safe and taken care of,” Dr. Fong says. “I’m grateful my company has this flexibility and innovative spirit. It started off as a Band-Aid, but now it will become another cornerstone of what we can offer. We love the messages we get from our patients — it inspires us to be better. We can’t afford to go under. Too many people need us.”
Some stories were originally posted on the @UTAHVALLEYMAGAZINE Instagram page.
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