Running a Small Business During a Global Pandemic

Running a Small Business During a Global Pandemic

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It goes without saying that globally, life is drastically different now that we're in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Worldwide, routines are significantly disrupted, incomes interrupted, and sadly, well over 200,000 people have lost their lives. It's impossible to avoid the topic in the limited social interactions we have and talk of the virus dominates the airwaves. Despite these challenges, in many ways the world is coming closer together over the inescapable reality of the situation.

Trying to make sense of it all and maintain some semblance of normalcy can be quite challenging, if not impossible. As a compassionate, empathetic human, it's hard not to feel at times overwhelmed by the gravity of it all. The illness, the death, the loss of jobs & health insurance, the inability to make rent or mortgage payments, the increase in domestic violence, students unable to attend school, ceremonies cancelled, and the countless other ramifications all layered on top of each other feels almost like an impossible problem that at the same time cannot and must be solved--like a bad fever dream.

As a small business owner, I believe there's an element of responsibility one accepts when starting their own company. Whether you want to or not, you're assuming a position of leadership. First and foremost to yourself, then to those dependent on you--your family. Also to your employees and vendors, and of course to your customers and the community as a whole. As co-founder of Players Pickleball and the driving force behind most of what we do, I've approached that responsibility with a solemn sense of duty.

I want this company to do right by people and I work hard every day to be sure I do all that I can to support that goal. Sure I want to have fun in all that we do, but I also want to do it in a way that fulfills the responsibility to all those supporting and/or supported by us. I spent several years as a teacher earlier in life and it's with the same sense of duty that I approached teaching. I enjoyed teaching as much as I do running Players Pickleball, but it's not all fun and games, and it certainly involves more than its fair share of responsibility!

In some key ways, Players Pickleball is in a fortunate position when it comes to the current global landscape. We are a small (and I do mean small) company. I do the bulk of the work with some part-time help from my wife Macy, business partner Mike, and a couple of other former employees (from our contract manufacturing days of making over 700 paddles per week) who are happy to chip in when they're available. The majority of our sales are through our website and we ship our paddles directly to customers all over the world. When it comes to social distancing, working from home, and closure of non-essential businesses, the only major change we had to do was closing our showroom to local customers and in-store sales. 

This isn't to say it's business completely as usual for us. The year got off to a great start. We released the new Rogue2 paddle and the reviews were fantastic. In early March, we were on pace for the best sales month we'd ever had. by mid March, sales slowed and have continued slowly ever since. We know that brand awareness is one of the greatest challenges a young business faces and getting our paddles on the court is our best marketing asset. With courts closed across the country, that avenue is a non-option so we're left with online advertising as our best method for spreading the word about our products and philosophy.

For me personally, advertising online feels a little slimy even at the best of times. We much prefer the genuine word of mouth, paddles on the court kind of advertising. We also want to see Players Pickleball thrive in the way we know it can--with true innovation, superior technology, and lower prices than the competition. Advertising online during a global pandemic can feel (to me, at least) almost painfully tone-deaf. With all of the legitimate crises happening seemingly in every direction, it feels anti-empathetic to chime in, cheerfully telling you all the reasons you should by our latest pickleball paddle. 

There's a big part of me that wants to go dormant until this passes. We can still accept orders, build paddles, and ship them out, but we could turn off of social media and unplug our online advertising promotions. That's the empathetic part of me. There's that other part of me, however--the part that feels the solemn duty of the responsibility I accepted as a small business owner to fight for those who support this company and those who are supported by it (myself included). We won't go out of business over this, but we will be significantly affected on a personal level financially. 

I recognize that there are all of those doing much more dutiful work--health care workers, first responders, grocery store employees, public transit workers, mail carriers, take-out & delivery drivers, and so many others. As much as we all love pickleball, we realize it's a non-essential activity and don't for a second confuse ourselves with those who truly keep the wheels on this planet spinning.

Still, small business owners are the lifeblood of our local economies and communities. They're where innovation can thrive, employees can be valued, and customers can be treated well. For that reason, I've concluded that the show must go on. I will do my best to accept the challenges we're all facing collectively, while also acknowledging the extreme hardships some have already confronted and will continue to endure while this runs its course. Through it all, I will also do my best to promote this slice of escape that I've worked so hard to create and foster--to further spread word about this little company in Bellingham Washington that makes some of the best paddles you'll ever play, with innovation and technology you won't find anywhere else, all at prices well under the competition because we prioritize you, the players, over profits. 

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I hope you understand our position. We're passionate about what we're doing and felt like opening up about our thoughts and feelings was the right thing to do at the moment. If you support our company and the people behind it, share your experience with a friend, consider buying a backup paddle from us, or post a photo of your paddle and smiling face to social media! If you're learning about us for the first time, buy a paddle--you won't be disappointed! Every paddle sale, every public mention, every positive remark helps us immensely!

Thank you again, and as always for your support. Stay safe & healthy, and we'll see you on the courts worldwide soon enough.

Josh Bechtel

Co-Founder, Players Pickleball


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