During the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing was necessary for the health and safety of our communities. However, this left local businesses, and especially small businesses, scrambling to figure out how they were going to make ends meet while their doors were closed to the public. While government loans like the Paycheck Protection Program helped ensure bills were taken care of and employees got paid, many businesses got creative to bring in additional revenue. 

Here are some examples of how our business banking customers changed and expanded their offerings to continue serving their customers and thrive among the chaos.

Luigi's Italian Restaurant, Manitowoc – Sara Gallina

"When the pandemic began, we decided to close the dining room and bar, instead promoting our delivery, pick up, and curbside services. We were overwhelmed with all the support from our community! We began offering daily specials such as Two for Tuesday, Pasta Wednesday, Duo Thursday, and Friday Fish with an Italian flair. Advertising was done almost entirely done through social media and word of mouth. We are grateful to have been able to stay afloat during this time, but now hoping our bar and dine in will slowly get back to normal!"

DQ Grill and Chill, Green Bay – Terri Fote 

"To keep our business going, we got really involved with Facebook. We operate in Brown County, and someone developed a page for restaurants to join and post specials - 20,000 people followed the page! I posted something about DQ daily. At the end of March, we launched six new Blizzards and they have been a huge success. In May, we offered DIY Mother's Day cakes for kids to decorate for their moms. We transitioned our entire business to drive-thru, take-out, mobile app and even delivery. We had a lot of positive comments. As the state has opened up, we have gotten positive support to keep the dining room closed to keep everyone a little safer. We are so lucky to have such great fans of Dairy Queen!"

PetSkull Brewing, Manitowoc – Paul Hoffman

"In December of 2019, in an effort to create more options for our "to-go" beer, we purchased a Crowler Seamer canning machine from the Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry in Manitowoc. Crowlers are aluminum cans - as opposed to the glass-jug Growlers - that can be sealed, increasing the shelf-life of our to-go beer from 2-3 days with the glass Growler to a full 30 days with the aluminum Crowler. The cans were a tremendous hit and we sold a great number of them over the holidays. 

Fast-forward to March of 2020, and we find our taproom shutdown due to COVID-19. As a small business owner, it's always about being creative, adapting, and getting aggressive with new strategies when needed. Having this Crowler Seamer machine and knowing its capabilities, we decided to launch an online Shopify store and sell the cans online. Customers would order and prepay online, we would fill and fill and fill, can after can after can, and get all of the orders packaged and set aside for pickup. We instructed customers to pull up curbside in front of the taproom during the designated pick up days and times, they would provide us with their order number, and we would run them their bags of cans - with them never leaving their car! We found ourselves serving over 670 unique customers who placed more than 2600 orders!

These spectacular customers allowed us to maintain a stream of revenue that allowed us to stay afloat - and most importantly, to continue brewing great craft beer!"

Farm WI Discovery Center, Manitowoc – Jessica Mayer

"The Farm WI Discovery Center held a few events since temporarily closing the doors on March 17. The Drive-Thru Barnyard was a fun way for families to drive through the parking lots and see different parts of agriculture. There were many different animals thanks to the local farmers who brought them in for the event. We just reopened our doors on June 5, with much excitement for what this summer will bring. Farm Wisconsin is open Friday, Saturday, and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m."

Copper State Brewing Co., Green Bay – Melissa Martens 

"Our mission at Copper State Brewing Co is simple: Connecting people. Creating experiences. Crafting great beer.

When we were forced to not gather, not connect, not experience life with those we love, our brewery needed to get creative, both to fulfill our mission statement and to stay in business. So, we came up with a few ideas. 

We tried to create a social media movement of sorts with the hashtag #toastpositive, where people would virtually toast one another and bring to light the positive things going on in small ways in our community. The idea was also to support local breweries by encouraging people to buy some six-packs or growlers/crowlers of their favorite local beer, and take that home and do virtual cheers, tagging their friends and family they wish they were drinking with—trying to remain connected and stay positive while also promoting local breweries. We created a bunch of fun videos during this time that we put out on our social media, including toasting with Mayor Genrich via beer on a broomstick (proper social distancing) behind our bar to kick it off, and a few parody song videos that gained some traction as well. I believe we succeeded in keeping our business in front of people as a fun and positive face of social media. 

We continued to offer takeout food, as well as coffee and beer to go. Our distribution in cans picked up during this time, so we started the process of getting a few more beers into cans and out into the market. 

We came up with some fun family meals to take home and make together, including our pizza packets (homemade dough and from scratch pizza sauce, with all the toppings), and our burger and brat grill packets (burgers or brats with buns, fixin's, and sides of pasta salad and potato salad). With these, families could still support a local business and get a taste of Copper State at home, while connecting with one another to cook and create experiences at home. There still are a few families who get our pizza packets every Friday to continue a tradition they started during quarantine. Pizzas and burgers/brats go well with beer, so these food ideas were natural for us to promote, and when people came to pick up their food, many would leave with some great craft beer as well. 

Although things are still far from normal, we have great support from our community, and we know they want us to succeed. In the ways we were creative, I believe we lived our mission and were able to connect people and create some great experiences with loved ones over some food and craft beer."

Wisconsin Fastener Supply Inc., Manitowoc - Chris and Kerry Lindemann  

 "Change is a very hard thing for some people to deal with. 

Especially when it comes to unexpected, radical change, like a pandemic! It can put the strongest team into a tailspin, if not prepared.

Fortunately, our entire team at Wisconsin Fastener Supply has been training for over two years on a very specific and strategic method to deep dive into issues, rapidly design solutions, and swing into action mode.

This company-wide skillset enabled us to immediately pivot into issue solving mode. For many weeks we met daily to re-evaluate and pinpoint exactly what we felt our staff and customer's needs would be and what our action plan was for that day. 

In our case, it was significantly increasing inventory levels and the scope of our PPE product offering. We deployed a massive amount of sourcing efforts into purchasing anything and everything COVID-19! The next Issue was that people needed these products, but they didn't know where to find them! 

Therefore, we made the decision to increase our marketing efforts in NE Wisconsin through e-blasts, community organizations, LinkedIn and more billboards.  

The fact that we were able to help so many companies open-up and stay open made it possibly the most rewarding time in the history of WFS Inc."

We are so proud of our customers for finding the courage to try something new during a time of extreme uncertainty. It just goes to show that local businesses can accomplish anything, including overcoming the obstacles of a worldwide pandemic.

Does your company have a recent success story you'd like to share? Contact us at marketing@icbk.com.

Written by ICB Business Banking Team

Some content requires Adobe Acrobat Reader to view.