Eleven Months

It has been Eleven Months since we learned of the pandemic and the shutdown. Of course back then, we thought it would be over in a month or two. Then there was the shutdown in Mid March. But we made the best of it and took the time to rearrange the studio and paint the walls and floors. We manage to keep our staff, without laying anyone off, and kept everyone busy making all modifications to the studio that I had been wanting to do for a long time, but that are hard to do while open. Well, hey, we got shut down and seized the opportunity. For several weeks of the initial shut-down, we used our time and emptied everything to one side of the studio or another as we made our way around painting all the walls, painting the floors, replacing the shelving, replacing tables and chairs in order to accommodate more social-distancing, etc. Additionally, we refined processes, created a warehouse for our new Art-Kit-To-Go business and created processes around that new business.

In spite of all the great changes and improvements, days and days went by with increasing stress and worry. I was fighting to pay bills and stay above water, and I hadn’t set myself up well enough for this kind of extreme and sudden decrease in revenue. Warren Buffet says that you can tell who has been skinny dipping when the tide goes out. It is very true.

In order to figure a way to sustain, we quickly got in gear and developed the DIY take-home kit for pottery and canvas and other types of craft kits. I worked on the website and quickly built the functionality for it, and launched with a dozen products on March 16, 2020. We posted it out on social media like crazy and it caught on. We were selling them every day. Total revenues still came in over 50% below where they were the same time in 2019. So it was painful to say the least. We are extremely thankful for the amount of people who purchased our kits. It kept our staff busy and able to have a job.

Quickly, it was clear that the pandemic was not going to be a short event. By end of March, we had converted our sixth annual summer camp (the biggest revenue event each year) to a choice of in-studio or online virtual camp. I was amazed at how many people signed up for zoom camp each week. I was even more amazed at how many registered for in-studio camp. It was tough, but the kids had a ton of fun, the parents seemed super impressed, and it really, really was awesome considering everything. We pulled it off at two locations in person, plus a dozen or so zoom campers online each week from end of May to end of July. We even added two, fairly well attended, additional weeks at the end of July, on the fly, when school closures continued into August. And our team was absolutely amazing.

During the last eleven months, I sold a rental house to pay payroll; I drove DoorDash seven days a week for extra income usually to put toward payroll; we finally closed our Tempe location at the beginning of August to downsize to the one location in Downtown Chandler; I sold another rental house; we received a couple of small grants thanks to the City Of Chandler and Maricopa County and the awesome people who look out for the small businesses; and still, I fight every day to pay everything. It has been, by far, the most stressful period of time that I have endured. At the same time, it has been the most enlightening and strengthening time in terms of the maturity of our team and our company as a whole.

I promised the staff at the onset of the pandemic that I would fight, with everything I had, to keep them going, and that they wouldn’t have to worry about losing their job. A couple of people from our team did decide to stay home and/or do other things. Yet, the majority stayed to fight the storm with us and this group has become the strongest and most amazing team in the history of Burst Of Butterflies. In spite of uncertainty. In spite of months of seeing no customers. In spite of each of them dropping down to half time and lower paychecks. This team stuck with us and still do. We all have grown and evolved tremendously as a team through this process and I am amazed and grateful for the team that we have in place.

On top of all of this, I am tremendously thankful we are still here. There are many, many businesses who had to close forever. It could be us tomorrow. But for today, I am going to just keep fighting.

Leave a Reply