May 11, 2020

Employers encouraged to look ahead, think of business differently (w/video)

By: Andrew Lenderman   Comments: 0

Look ahead, and don't be inhibited by what you thought your business was three months ago.

The CEO of Heritage Distilling Co. shared this insight Monday with Washington employers during AWB's weekly Employer Resources webinar series. Heritage and other employers shared their challenges, successes and best advice as the world economy adjusts to the coronavirus pandemic.

One way that employers are adjusting to the current environment is by looking toward e-commerce. Monday's webinar also featured Olowo-n'djo Tchala, CEO of Alaffia; Brian Forth, the founder and CEO of SiteCrafting; Trisha Letourneau, the Northwest District Retail and eCommerce Marketing Manager at UPS; and Tory Graf and Erin Callahan of Trillium Creative Solutions.

Another way is to be flexible. CEO Justin Stiefel shared how his company has done "a complete pivot." The Heritage pivot began Jan. 21. Stiefel and his team met as the coronavirus was spreading, and estimated there was a six or seven-week lead time before there were supply chain disruptions in the United States. The company worked overtime to "fill the warehouse with spirits" by the time Washington shut down bars, restaurants and much of the rest of the economy on March 13.

Then, Heritage reached out to their partners at the Chehalis Indian Tribe. The tribe and Heritage had plans to open a 35,000 square foot distillery and brewery this month. But those plans were shelved, and people began making requests for hand sanitizer.

"The last six weeks we've spent re-piping the facility, and we now have the ability to produce 30,000 gallons per day of the hand sanitizer," Stiefel said.

The company is now selling hand sanitizer in individual and bulk quantities alongside its award-winning craft spirits.

As Washington reopens for business, Stiefel described several scenarios where hand sanitizer is a must-have product, from restaurants and offices to Realtors showing houses.

"We think the world has changed. And we think that the ability to supply this, and ship it is significant for our business," he said. "It's really what kept the doors open for us."

The founder and CEO of Alaffia, a personal care products manufacturer based in Olympia, has also led a major shift in recent months.

The company has focused on connecting with customers through strong communications and e-commerce as business shifts from retail and larger packages, CEO Olowo-n'djo Tchala said.

"One, is that we have to successfully ensure that we are very strong on social media, and that has to do with having…a communications team," he said. "And then the second part is organizing the distribution and the packages here, to ensure that we can get these small packages out fairly quickly."

Tchala advised employers to create meaningful connections with their customers, especially now.

"You don’t have to have too many followers on Instagram or Facebook," he said. "You start small. You could have 10. Talk to them. They need to see your face. They need to see that you're family, that you're there for them, that you're working."

AWB's next webinar features updates on the agriculture industry with U.S. Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dan Newhouse, and Jon Wyss, the state executive director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Register here.