While thousands of businesses across the country died in 2020, and thousands more are prepared to file bankruptcy, some businesses thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite Missouri having the 15th-highest rate of COVID-19 Chapter 11 filings per 10,000 businesses, a few Springfield businesses actually saw increased revenue.
One such business is Fastbreak Sports. A sports card and memorabilia store on Campbell Avenue that has been in Springfield, at various spaces, since 1992.
“ was the best year we’ve had by far,” Owner Robert Malina said. “And we were closed for 38 days in March and April.”
Part of Fastbreak’s success has been because of the astronomical rise in popularity of sports cards.
The most sought after cards have been sold for record prices seemingly day after day.
However, there are a few things Malina has done to take advantage of the increased demand for his product.
So too has Brittany Bilyeu, owner of Culture Flock, who saw her small business post one of its best years.
Culture Flock offers apparel, accessories, and more with designs and messages befitting progressive women.
Bilyeu’s success and bright business mind earned her a spot in Springfield Business Journal’s 40 under 40 class of 2021. The award honors individuals under the age of 40 for their professional and community accomplishments.
“Kind of surprising actually, but it’s a big honor,” Bilyeu said. “I was excited.”
So, how were they able to see increased success in a year that saw so many other businesses struggle or shutter for good?
Digital marketing came to the rescue for Springfield businesses
Bilyeu said she was fortunate enough to have already set her business up with a custom ecommerce website.
Then, just weeks before the pandemic forced shutdowns here in Springfield, she and her team decided it was time to be more open minded about posting not just their brand’s merchandise to their website, but also other brands they carry in the store.
“That didn’t have anything to do with COVID-19, it just happened by chance,” Bilyeu said.
Once the shutdown happened, the Culture Flock team also offered curbside pickup. Now, they were fully accessible for customers and posting stellar sales numbers despite in-store traffic and sales being brought down by the coronavirus.
“Making ourselves more accessible and just being diligent about getting all merchandise online so it is available for everyone was a big deal for us to be able to stay afloat.”
A willingness to try new things also helped Fastbreak Sports.
He had to overorder on his products due to both demand and COVID-19 causing card manufacturers production headaches.
However, he also decided to try to reach current and potential customers with a tried-and-true marketing content method: Video.
According to Fastbreak’s YouTube account the channel was started December 1, 2020.
“We’re trying to have videos of customers who come in and open boxes in the store,” Malina said. “Just recording them and putting it online so people can see what is going on in the store.”
He has posted several videos of employees and customers opening up boxes that potentially contain highly valuable cards or merchandise.
About four years ago, he would host highly popular in-store box breaks — an event in which a box or case of cards is divided up among collectors who purchase the right to receive certain cards (usually cards with players from a specific team) as part of a random drawing.
However, his box breaks draw too large of a crowd for him to host in his store because of coronavirus restrictions.
Also, he can’t keep enough boxes in the store to supply a box break because he’s selling too fast during the slow production. Part of that, he says, is thanks to his YouTube videos.
“We put up one video and the next day we got a phone call,” Malina said. “A little kid saw our video and had his mom call. She said, ‘I saw you guys opening the boxes of Leaf Jerseys on YouTube.’ It took one day. The first video. It amazed us because we have never really done anything like this before.”
Review and revise your marketing plan
If you’re a small business owner looking to take your marketing to the next level, it all starts with reviewing your current efforts and goals.
What is it you’re trying to improve? What are you doing to achieve those results? Finally, what is it that you can do to better put yourself in a position to reach your goals?
That’s what Bilyeu had to think about when she was prepping her business for 2020.
“Be willing to adjust your business model,” Bilyeu said. “I know it’s difficult when you have a set way of doing things. But there’s usually a solution in there somewhere. So, try a couple different things until it works. I think it’s important to experiment with different ways of doing business with your customers.”