Adapting to COVID-19: How This Cheese Company Bounced Back
The coronavirus pandemic has been extremely challenging for all companies, but small and medium sized businesses have found themselves among the most vulnerable. One such company, the Wisconsin-based Cheese Bros., gave us a breakdown of how they pivoted in response to COVID-19.
“Up until March of this year we were a face to face retail company. We sold our cheeses at festivals and pop-up events around the country. I was traveling to over 40 different cities per year. We counted on big, public events with lots of people,” said Eric Ludy, Co-Founder of Cheese Bros.
“I knew in February that COVID was going to impact our business, but I wasn’t sure by how much,” he said. “In early March I was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota setting up for an event when an announcement came over the loudspeaker that it had cancelled. I knew then that the way I did things was over.”
While researching the financial options available to him as a small business owner, he also reached out to the company’s social media followers to discuss what was happening, and noting that “we had a ton of inventory and that our website was still open for business. The response was immediate and overwhelming. We received over 30 online orders that day which was a lot for us at the time.”
When a friend in marketing pointed out that he’d essentially posted a Facebook ad, he reposted it officially as an advertisement, and the results were again encouraging. Ludy says:
“We went from around 50 online orders in an average month, mostly to Wisconsin and the midwest, to over 4,700 orders spanning the entire nation in April. Things have ‘slowed down’ since then to around 2,000 per month.
“We didn’t have any volume shipping capability in March when things took off. I also wanted to quarantine myself and my family. My family and I moved temporarily from St. Paul, MN out to my parent’s house in rural Wisconsin, and we set up a makeshift shipping center in their garage. I was working 14 hour days out there to get the shipments out.
“We absolutely overwhelmed the local village post office, but they took it with great spirit and faced the challenge with us head on. It gave me a very healthy respect for the USPS and what they have managed to do during the pandemic.”
To survive during COVID-19, Cheese Bros. unexpectedly – but quite successfully – pivoted from a brick-and-mortar retailer to an e-commerce company, with no signs of slowing down. In fact, it’s preparing for what may be the busiest holiday season it has ever seen.