This time last year, businesses were facing unprecedented times, experiencing business disruption and full closures due to the spread of COVID-19. For the last several weeks, we’ve been catching up with companies to get their thoughts on the previous 12 months and outlooks for this year.
When COVID-19 first hit, Liz Haas of Rayzist Photomask says the company didn’t initially see a huge threat.
“We didn’t believe a virus would be much of a threat, as we had heard the similar scare with the SARS virus a few years prior, which seemed to be a non-issue within a few months,” she explains. “Since the beginning, the fear factor has been overwhelming, and the fact this has crippled worldwide economies is unbelievable. Initially, we did as most businesses did and began the shift to keep as many employees as possible home and only essential workforce workers in the building.”
Because of the almost immediate impact on businesses across the nation, especially in corporate markets, Rayzist set a clear plan on March 13, 2020, to focus on education. This was the same day an order banning public and private gatherings of 500 persons or more shut down the Irving, Texas, NBM SHOW (now GRAPHICS PRO EXPO) last year and cut their trade show experience short.
Haas adds, “Education has been a priority of Rayzist since the first sandcarving class in 1985. Our plan was to bring our education virtually. Our idea was to immediately offer a virtual trade show event where we could teach interactive online events.”
The company held its first virtual event on March 24, 2020, and because of the great response, it proceeded with 22 consecutive weeks.
When many businesses were forced to cease operations, Haas says home-based businesses that were mainly selling custom gift products online flourished.
“We had many customers providing sandcarved lighthearted/novelty 2020 cups and glasses tumblers. Graduation and year-end gifts were at an all-time high for companies selling quick turnaround times online,” she says.
She also notes that customers who sold custom wine bottles maintained business throughout 2020, and those who leveraged social media to encourage sales also did well.
Over the last year, Rayzist has learned a lot, and Haas says the family-based company became more aware of other family-owned and small businesses as so many were struggling to keep the doors open. From inventory issues to order fulfillment and unknown shipping times, Haas says customers dealt with a number of struggles unique to 2020.
She adds, “Small businesses do not often have large bank accounts nor a large corporate backing to sustain a shutdown, and their business could easily be lost. These owners have poured their life into (it), which could be lost to no fault of their own. We as a family-based business know it can be difficult. Our focus will continue to be to help and support the small businesses.”
Outside of its customer base, Rayzist’s owner Randy Willis also did what he could to help his surrounding community. During 2020, Willis ordered lunch once a week from a local small business for all the employees working in the building, knowing how much the restaurants needed it.
“He received multiple personal phone calls thanking him for the support,” Haas notes. “Our company and employees did their best to support local restaurants in our area.”
In the last 12 months, Rayzist has communicated with its customers more than ever, helping them achieve lower costs and quicker service, according to Haas.
“We kept busy through the past year helping businesses get off the ground and helping past customers dust off their equipment and get producing with them again from their homes,” she says.
When it comes to internal operations, the company was fortunate enough to keep all 60 of its employees without layoffs or furloughs. “It has not been easy, and we have had to sacrifice as an organization, but we made it happen for our staff and their families,” Haas notes.
As far as the next six months to a year is concerned, Haas says the resurgence in the market is evident, and the company is excited to see what the year holds.
“Rayzist remains strong as a manufacturer. We are optimistic that our industry will return. We took the shutdown as a time to examine what we do and how to make better products,” she says. “We believe businesses will recover. It may be slow, but it will continue to climb as our country opens. We have worked harder to assist our clients and will continue throughout 2021.”