Three entrepreneurs on pivoting in the time of quarantine

Closures, quarantine, and “Stay Home, Stay Safe”, have impacted communities throughout the country. Residents are hoping for a return to a way of life that looks more familiar and businesses are adapting and changing — creating a new, better “normal” for the future.

 

Here are how three entrepreneurs in the Great Lakes Bay Region are putting this time to work.

 

Edmonds is renovating a majority of the café including the bathroom.Lyndsay Edmonds with Harless + Hugh Coffee

Eight years ago, Lyndsay Edmonds opened Harless + Hugh Coffee in downtown Bay City. She never expected a global pandemic to force a temporary closure on her dream. The doors have been shut since March 23, inspiring Lyndsay to make the most of her time. Edmonds and her partner Julia Ross have been steadily working on a few remodels that have been on an endless to-do list since the cafe opened. Simultaneously, she is chipping away at a larger goal that has been brewing in the back of her mind.

 

Regularly referring to her coffee shop as a “third space” for everyone to enjoy, Edmonds is seizing this unexpected opportunity to freshen up the space at Harless + Hugh Coffee.

 

“When we open our doors again, it’s a promise and commitment to give our customers an updated and enhanced space,” says Edmonds. “We’re working on refinishing our 100-year-old floors, tearing out the bathroom, repairing and painting the walls and ceilings with this time.”

 

Customers will enter their familiar spot and notice a facelift in the backroom of the cafe as well as in the restroom. The walls and ceilings are painted white to brighten up the space, while the bathroom is taking on a heftier change.

 

“We have wanted to do the bathroom renovation for a long time but couldn’t do it without closing,” Edmonds says. “The bathroom is now equipped with a new sink and new floor tiles; everything in it down to the light fixtures has been updated.”
The measures taken under Stay Home, Stay Safe allowed Edmonds to take some time for projects at the café.

The renovations are stepping-stones leading to a long-time goal of Lyndsay’s — obtaining a liquor license for Harless + Hugh. To obtain a Michigan liquor license, owners are required to renovate their properties. This stimulates renovation of old properties and encourages owners to feed money back into their businesses. Edmonds is happily obliging to the state guidelines and is projected to have approval by the end of summer.

 

Ever-changing and evolving, Lyndsay’s positive energy pours over as she says, “Staying optimistic is probably the most important thing for our communities at this time.”

 

With the doors closed and renovations afoot, Edmonds has placed Harless + Hugh merchandise and coffee for sale at www.harlessandhugh.com. Customers can enjoy the coffee they know and love in the comfort of their homes, while Edmonds continues creating a better third space for customers to return to.

 

Jamie Broderick, Bricks Real Estate

While a remodel or diverting sales to a website is one way a business could shift during this time, but how would one sell houses online in a time of “Stay Home, Stay Safe”?

Jamie Broderick, owner and real estate agent with Bricks Real Estate in Midland, has managed to find a way amid the pandemic to keep her clients moving forward with plans to buy or sell a home. Climbing an uphill battle to continue showings and adhere to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders, Broderick is focusing her energy on virtual tours and online tutorials.

Jamie Broderick of Bricks Real Estate.

 

“The biggest challenge to overcome is helping other agents figure out that we can still make work for clients,” Broderick says. “We are not deemed essential so we can’t enter a home, but you can still sell a home without entering it.”

 

Broderick began reaching out to other agents, inquiring about virtual tours and was met with a resounding “no” from realtors and brokers.

 

“I started to encounter a lot of people telling me no because they didn’t understand there are ways to show a home,” she says. “So, I got to work figuring it out.”

 

Jamie began running online tutorials for sellers, teaching them how to use Zoom — an app that provides videotelephony and online chat services. Once the seller is comfortable, the listing agent guides them via audio and walks them through showing their home to the potential buyers watching live.

Recently, a new listing was posted from a local agent and Jamie requested the showing be done virtually. With mild hesitation from the listing agent, Broderick was able to convince them this was possible.

 

“She ran a virtual showing with six buyers on it — resulting in multiple offers and an accepted offer within a few days,” Broderick says.

Broderick created a virtual home buying guide with resources for buyers and sellers.

 

Jamie believes virtual showings are here to stay. It took a pandemic and mandated stay-at-home orders to stray from tradition, but Broderick is excited about the changes. She will continue using virtual tours for clients who are moving from out-of-state, looking at multiple homes regionally, or simply do not have the time to traverse walking through several homes.

 

“If you have a buyer who is really interested in 10 homes but doesn’t have the time to see them all, at that point we can go through those homes, using technology,” Broderick says.

 

After they view the homes digitally, they can narrow their search down and view their top choices in person.

 

“I’m a pretty busy person and would love if someone did that for me; it’s a service that we will offer once this is over,” she says.

 

Broderick’s motto has always been, “Don’t tell me all the ways it won’t work; tell me the ways it will work.” This has never been more fitting than when she needed innovative ways to maintain her business and assure her clients that they are being taken care of.

 

Josiah Blackmore, Red Threads

Josiah Blackmore, owner of Red Threads in Midland, is assuring other local businesses they are not forgotten. Red Threads is a bulk print shop, selling custom T-shirts for events, teams and organizations.

90% of the profit from each purchase goes to local businesses.

When COVID-19 broke out and businesses began closing, Josiah started a campaign, inspired by something he saw on Facebook, to donate to Midland businesses. Blackmore noticed other groups and professionals around the nation using a certain model to garner donations for businesses in their areas. Josiah tweaked the model, allowing the customer more control of where their money is going. With Blackmore’s effort every T-shirt sold through this effort gives 90 percent of the profit to the business of the customer’s choosing.

 

“People want to give to their community, the people they love, the business they frequent,” Josiah says.

 

The Red Threads team, including Josiah’s wife Abbi, came up with the idea on a Sunday. The following Friday, they launched their campaign. Josiah had the inspiration behind the idea while Abbi was able to manage the flood of support that ensued. The pair wanted to make an impact and as of April 22 they have sold well over 4,000 units with a week left in the campaign.

A window decal of Red Threads’ “I am Midland” campaign.

“We were so successful right off the bat, thousands of emails a day for the first few days,” Josiah says. “This has impacted so many people and businesses, we were able to kick this off to help just in time.”

 

Josiah says the 30-day campaign is only phase one of a three-phase plan, though additional plans are not yet announced, Blackmore only hinting there is more to come.

 

“Some creative ideas are in the works of how to keep the story going and adding value and making it more fun for our business and residents moving forward,” he says.

 

To purchase a T-shirt or donate directly, visit shop.redthreads.com. The official campaign runs through April 30 and so far, Red Threads has amassed more than $63,000 for local businesses.

 

As the state remains idle for the time being, businesses continue to evolve — giving our communities and infrastructure a revamp and a new normal for residents to enjoy.
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