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. While shut down, we made the best of it and took the time to rearrange the studio and paint the walls and floors. We managed to keep our staff and kept everyone busy with projects we had long thought of doing, and that shut-down gave us the opportunity. For several weeks we used our time each day and rearranged 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 set us 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 on March 16, 2020 with a dozen products. We posted it out on social media like crazy and it caught on. We were selling them every day and adding additional kits to the online shop frequently. 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 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 to build this on the fly without falling on our faces, 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 spontaneously added two, fairly well attended, additional weeks at the end of July, when school closures continued into August. Our team was absolutely amazing in its ability to dance gracefully and purposefully through the constant changes and uncertainty.
During this past eleven months, I have sold a rental house to pay payroll; I have driven DoorDash seven days a week for extra income usually to put toward payroll; we made the extremely tough choice to close our Tempe location at the beginning of August to downsize to the one location in Downtown Chandler; I then sold another rental house; and thankfully 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. Yet, I fight every day to pay everything that needs to be paid and I spend way too much time trying to juggle the bills and the budget. 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 basically no customers walking through our doors. In spite of each team member reduced 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.