Thanksgiving 2020 doesn't look anything like Thanksgivings past (nor should it; stay distant and stay safe, friends). That's especially true as a small business owner.
Most Saturdays I write about the state and outlook of small businesses across America. Most of my posts include the dire prospects a lot of small businesses are facing amidst a raging pandemic.
But, today, on Thanksgiving Eve, I'm focusing on what I'm thankful for and - dare I say - hopeful about.
5 Things I'm Thankful For As a Small Business Owner
The generosity of companies
When COVID-19 began growing across the US and forced us to close our retail store, panic quickly set in for me. With tourism dried up and a recession looming, I wasn't sure if and how we'd sell enough products to stay open as a company and keep people employed. On more than one late night I brainstormed what we'd need to do to liquidate our inventory and close down.
But then companies starting calling, emailing, and knocking on our virtual door.
Company conferences went virtual. In-person trainings were held on Zoom. Sales calls still needed to happen, sans the face-to-face pitch. Remote employees needed encouragement. Companies turned to us to enhance each experience.
When companies could have gotten stingy, they got generous. They wanted to send well wishes, cheers, sympathy, and hope, and Batch was honored to be their gift provider. National partnerships ensued, we grew our purveyor network in order to offer more gifts from more iconic cities than ever before.
Thanks for being kind, corporate America.
The grit of the American maker
Without a solid and thriving network for small businesses producing what we sell every day, Batch doesn't exist. When this pandemic began killing off small businesses by the thousands (there I go again with the dire data), I was concerned about the hundreds of small and independent artisans we work with to fill our gift sets.
I spoke with several back in March about their fears, plans, and next steps—once we got done worrying, we got busy working. When new companies began to ask us for gifts made in more American cities, we saw a way we could do our part to keep folks busy chasing their dream, even if the hurdles were higher than ever before.
Since March, we've added over 175 vendors to our growing network of small business suppliers and we don't plan to slow down.
"We're super thankful for Batch for being one our very first retailers and for continuing to spread our hot sauce around the region and country."
- Chris + Chelsea, Hot Sauce Nashville
Thanks for hustling, small businesses.
The tirelessness of delivery personnel
Every day, since we converted our warehouse to a full-scale shipping operation for corporate and online orders at the end of March, we have put at least one full pallet of gifts on a FedEx truck. Some days, we've put more than a dozen on there.
Those boxes get trucked, routed, sorted, loaded, and eventually delivered to you so you can open, enjoy, and share (if your family member are the sharing type). While more machinery than ever is used nowadays, it still takes human hands to get stuff from us to you.
So far this year, FedEx has reported that volume has been increasing by tens of millions of packages. The postal service has shipped a billion more pieces this year than last year. That's more people bringing more stuff to more homes than ever before, often working longer hours in riskier conditions.
Our team works hard to prep and pack your order, but it's out of our hands as we give it to essential personnel to get it to your recipient.
Thanks for schlepping with a smile, FedEx guys and gals.
The heart of our team
I haven't had a solid playbook to consult this year on how to lead during a pandemic (the Obama administration made one but it was thrown away). As a result, I've made a lot of mistakes while trying my level best to lead with and through uncertainty. I'm thankful I have two passionate and kind co-founders to help me figure things out and keep going when the going gets tough or damn near impossible.
Leadership is only one very small component of what our team does at Batch. The day in and day out heart of our company is our dedicated "batch" of employees, showing up in masks and gloves to count inventory, bubble wrap glass bottles and jars, stamp boxes, pack, tape, write, load, and do it all over again.
Five (sometimes seven) days a week. During a global health crisis. With a smile.
We've been working hard to profile team members so you can see some of the humanity behind the cardboard. Each employee plays a vital role not just in getting batches out the door but in encouraging and working alongside one another so that when the going gets tough (or, like I said, damn near impossible) we keep packing.
Thanks for showing up every day, Batch Team.
The support of my family
No small business owner or entrepreneur gets to any level of success alone. If you ever hear someone try to inspire you by saying, "I did it all on my own," run. Fast. They're just trying to take your money. Don't believe what they're peddling.
In a year when I've traveled less than ever, I've done more than ever from home: recorded videos from my office (just off my living room), led virtual panels and workshops, pitched deals, written, brainstormed, trained, recruited, and closed deals.
This means my wife and kids have seen more of what I do and graciously supported and offered space so I can keep on keeping on. All of us have - at some point or another this year (and it may be happening again soon) - balanced working from home with schooling from home, daycaring from home, co-working from home, and recessing from home. (And then, bartending from home.)
These arrangements weren't planned but many of us have been working hard to make it all work and my family is no exception. Every employee at Batch, whether largely working at home or at our warehouse, is backed by friends and family both near and far, forming a growing chorus of cheerleaders and coaches that help us be our best selves.
Thanks for cheering, family. (That's you, Mary Helen, Lindley, Asa, Mom, Dad, Maribeth, and Molly.)
In a few weeks I'll share what gives me hope heading into 2021. For now, I'm going to remind myself of these five things I'm thankful for as a small business owner in 2020 (while enjoying some socially distant turkey and gravy (but no armadillo)).