The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone, individuals and businesses big and small. We sat down with POD Print’s production manager, Traci Grote, to discuss the impact it has had on the local, family-owned printing company.
Overall, how has the pandemic affected POD Print?
In 40 years, we’ve seen our share of ups and downs, but this has hit us in a very unique way. Most of our business comes from other businesses, so when COVID restrictions started limiting what they were able to provide and sell to their customers, orders dropped dramatically. To say it’s been a struggle is an understatement.
What has changed in the day-to-day operations?
Because we print critical materials for essential businesses, closing our doors for even a short time isn’t an option – but we are still committed to ensuring our employees’ safety. First, like all businesses, we evaluated who could work from home and set them up. Many of our staff though don’t have that luxury. We are fortunate to have a large facility with a limited work force, so social distancing on the manufacturing floor isn’t all that difficult. But – we have changed our daily meeting setting to promote distancing, and we’ve provided masks for team members that want them. We’ve done our best to be flexible with schedules when hardships arise, like interruption in day care or the need to care for another family member. We also recognized that the safest place to be was home. So, we encouraged our staff to hunker down and aggressively attack our production schedule and limit on-site hours. This allowed them to shelter at home as much as possible during the critical quarantine period.
Now that the world is slowly coming out of shut-down mode, we plan to maintain this same safe work environment.
What was POD Print’s response to the pandemic?
We learned from friends and family that we weren’t the only ones hurting. We aren’t talking about loss of business. We mean feeling loss – of hope, gratitude, joy. We realized that we could literally provide pieces of thanks and encouragement in the form of printed postcards and began our SmileShare campaign. Within a day we had designed six messages and printed thousands – free to anyone that wanted to share them.
How did the SmileShare campaign go?
It was amazing! The response from the community was immediate and huge. In addition to our initial run, we actually reprinted cards multiple times to keep up with demand! We heard from teachers who were grateful for an affordable way to brighten their students’ day. We provided free postcards to volunteers who included them with care packages for local healthcare and hospital workers. We even had calls from people several states away, including a convalescent home director who distributed cards to residents who hadn’t been able to visit with family members due to COVID restrictions. Our hearts lifted a bit more with each request for cards. It really is true that the gift of giving is better than anything we could have received.
Has anything changed in POD Print’s overall goals?
Pre-COVID we were already looking at expanding our client base, but when things shut down, the cost was high. Things are coming back – but slowly. In response, we are hurriedly fast-tracking our plans to reach out to new customers. We have a lot to offer small businesses and individuals alike, and we are exploring how to best tell the community that we are here and can help.
They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
What are you taking from this strength-building experience?
I am proud to be a Wichita native. We’ve always done a good job supporting local, but the way we’ve come together during this time to offer help to struggling people and small businesses is nothing short of inspiring. I really do believe the old saying is true… “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Let’s keep it going!