Our Pandemic Year, and Beyond

Like other companies supporting the event industry, Tent OX was forced in mid-March of 2020 to abandon an aggressive marketing and sales effort that we thought would bring us our biggest sales year ever.

But with Covid-19’s arrival, the entire Tent and Event sector was faced with an elemental decision: How to best survive the abrupt shutdown of everything we were counting on for the year?  Massive cancellations of May and June weddings as well as graduation exercises were accompanied by grim talk of layoffs and dwindling cash reserves. At Tent OX we decided the best thing we could do would be to lend a helping hand – and some hope – to the tent and event community.

In the third of five pandemic-related Tent OX Round UP Zoom meetings, HR issues lawyer Dan Gilmore of Pittsburg’s Squire Strategies presented insights on managing staff furloughs and layoffs. Other Round UP’s covered cash preservation, two sessions on Federal SBA loans, and practical steps to take to remain afloat.

We were determined not to host Zoom “pity parties. Customers’ needs were clear:  They were:

  • looking for help with basic cash preservation strategies
  • asking for practical information on how to apply for government SBA stimulus relief, and
  • seeking a place to meet online to share what they knew.

Pivoting to a survival support role

Based on their input, we took advantage of Zoom to launch a series of “Round-UP” webinars to support customers and prospects with straight-up survival information. We recruited friends from some of the country’s top tent and event companies as well as outside experts who know the event industry well. Since they were willing to participate as volunteers, we were able to present crucial information in real time at no cost to attendees.

  • On March 19, only days after the first state shutdown, Tent OX hosted its first Covid-19 Round UP featuring Brian Rieke, VP of Operations at Stamford Tent and Kevin Vasquez, CTO of Made In The Shade. They, along with Tent OX Founder Scott Woodruff as moderator and Managing Director Scott Pickel managing the Zoomcast, offered practical first steps for survival.
  • March 26 we were “on the air” with Gary Stansberry of The Stansberry Firm. He talked about “CASH: the Most Important Resource for Surviving Covid-19.” Gary offered steps companies should take extend their cash runways through the low- or no-revenue months of December, January and February, after which revenue for the 2021 season would begin to kick in.
  • March 30, we covered SBA Loan options with Eric Schuibbeo of Event Central of PA (and two other event companies) and Frank Thomason of Rent & Rave of Kentucky. They shared their early experience in securing SBA loans, earning deep thanks from attendees.
  • April 7 brought us Dan Gilmore of Squire Strategies, a law firm specializing in HR issues. He covered Covid-19 Legal Strategies and was brought to us by Dan Nolan, a client and long-time executive of Epic Tents and Peachtree Tents.
  • Covid-19-themed Round UP sessions continued into May with the Latest Info on Covid-19 SBA Loans, featuring return appearances by Eric Schuibbeo and Dan Gilmore.

Our efforts on behalf of the event community attracted press attention, including two visits to our online Round Ups by Intents Magazine’s editor as background for reporting she was doing on the pandemic’s impact.

Moving back toward a new norm

In May, a great many customers were heading – thankfully – into a busy season with mostly smaller scale events, and we decided to adjust our focus accordingly. We offered a well-attended maintenance webinar for Tent OX machine owners, featuring Avant Tecno USA’s Director of Customer Service. It’s available to stream upon request.

Some event companies were fortunate to salvage a decent season from 2020. Coastal Tented Events in Delaware had committed to purchasing a second Tent OX System just before business ground to a halt. The company was able to eventually justify the purchase as business picked up, particularly weddings, especially when the number of attendees allowed at a gathering in the state was bumped to 50.

The year-round staff lacked its normal complement of seasonal workers, but having two “OXs” gave Coastal the labor bandwidth it needed to meet all of its event obligations. Read about their experience here.

A Year Without A Tent Showvirtual event

Finally in December we broadcast our own virtual industry event.

We streamed nearly three hours outdoor product demonstrations and tech sessions from Special Events Virginia. Owner Mike Fitzwater was a great host and Matt Smith from Special Events demonstrated safety training techniques.  We played newsworthy prerecorded interviews with customers. Avant Tecno USA President Jukka Kytömäki introduced the new 735 loader. The 735 delivers Avant Model 755 lift capacity at a price closer to a Model 635! Finally, we spiced things up with a three-way stake-driving competition, with first-rank operators piloting three sizes of “OX” systems.

Aiming toward a better year in 2021

Like most of you, we didn’t meet our success projections for 2020, but we feel happy to have offered a measure of hope and help to many in our community.

As an indication of how much we’re looking forward to a strong rebound in 2021, we have ordered 40 machines factory-direct from Avant that will begin delivering later in this month of January. And, we are a Gold Sponsor at January’s IFAI Tent Rental Division Virtual Summit 2021, with founder Scott Woodruff participating on an industry panel. We are determined — more than ever —  to partner with our friends and co-workers throughout the tent and event rental sector.