by Jo Englesson
The entire world is affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Everyone has their own story of trials and triumphs. Our story started 3 years ago when my wife Arian and I moved into the house across the canal from Adrian and his family. We quickly realized we were all busy chasing toddlers and the American dream. We became good friends and spent many weekends together so the kids could play.
A year later, Adrian’s wife and my wife gave birth only two weeks apart, just a few weeks before Hurricane Irma ripped through Florida. The bond grew. In 2017, Irma destroyed my entire 10,000 sf leadership training center, all while I was being cyber bullied by a disgruntled student. Adrian and his wife Tess was always there when we needed support or simply functioning as a neutral sounding board.
In 2018 Adrian was looking for a new space for his small printshop. I suggested he contact my landlord to see if they had any open space. Within a few weeks we went from being residential neighbors to commercial neighbors and I moved 90% of my printing needs to his shop and became a valued customer.
After securing SBA disaster and business loans after Irma, I was able to restore my business and we moved back into our restored space, 2 years after the hurricane, in September 2019. The first 2 months of 2020 were amazing! I finally could see the light at the end of the tunnel and plan for a successful and exciting future.
Then COVID-19 arrived. On March 15th, I was forced to close all business activities overnight in 5 cities given the nature of our in-person, large trainings. I was devastated, financially and emotionally.
Adrian also lost his main source of income and we were all suddenly confined to our houses with small kids out of daycare and school. After 2 weeks of individual quarantine we decided to let the kids play and formed a 2-family quarantine to ease the pressures on all of us.
Both Adrian and I are innovative entrepreneurs and the conversations about our uncertain future began in front of a pool filled with active kids. We were paying attention to the Coronavirus news daily. After 3 weeks we decided to tend to the need of the nation as well as our families, given our resources: a print shop, a 15,000 sf empty space, and the priceless domain name Gratitude.com.
Adrian started designing, printing and sewing face masks and orders started coming in. I suddenly found myself sewing at night after the kids went to sleep and handing overflow to my father-in-law down the street. Adrian had his dad and sister in the shop, printing and sewing. Our biggest challenge became sourcing supplies to try to fulfill the orders.
We quickly realized it was time to scale up and got excited about being able to offer income to people who had lost their jobs and had the skill and equipment to fulfill this new, unprecedented demand.
While our vision is big, we are still a local small business, committed to providing work, custom printed masks for businesses and individuals, and more than anything, a personal experience and GRATITUDE in these trying times.