My first recollection of learning how to pivot is in basketball!  Sports teach you so much!  You pivot with one foot on the ground without changing its position on the floor.  The other foot is used to improve your position while in possession of the ball.  You might continue to dribble, or you might get free enough from your opponent to take a shot or pass the ball to someone else.  The pivot is used to provide options! 

Well, the business pivot is quite similar.  You are trying to protect your business and gain options. The main goal is to improve your revenue, your market, or your market share. Businesses pivot all the time, but 2020 is probably the grand year of the pivot!  And just like in basketball, the way you pivot, the direction, can make all the difference!

Pivot One – Shut Down Studio

Our first pivot was forced as Harris County shut down all non-essential businesses due to the pandemic.  We closed to the public.  Our dominant revenue stream was from glassblowing experiences, demos, and events.  We could no longer do those in person. We were a shuttered venue.  We did not know how long this would last, so we decided not to cut off our furnace.  Therefore, that big utility expense was ongoing.  We also had to pay the mortgage and help keep our contract workers “alive.”  So, we started thinking about reducing expenses and promoting additional income streams for the short term and the long term.

We applied for PPP, EIDL, and an artist grant from the Glass Art Society.  We were lucky and got all three.  None were very sizable, except the EIDL loan, which we have to repay over time.  It is still unclear if the PPP will be a loan or a grant. So we may owe money there, too.

Pivot Two – Expense Reductions

We made some hard choices, reducing our presence both physically and virtually in Houston. We gave up our gallery space at The Silos in Sawyer Yards.  This was so difficult as we loved the creative energy at the Silos and the crowds that came through during the events.  However, the building had been shut down to the public, and our art was sitting there, and rent, utilities, and insurance expenses continued.  Luckily our lease agreement was up for renewal in May.  So we gave our 30-day notice, which required an additional month of rent, and we moved out. 

We also spent some serious money on growing our virtual presence via marketing using the Houston Chronicle. We had a year’s contract with them, equal in cost to our gallery space rental.  We determined that we had to cut these costs too and stop all of our paid marketing.  Luckily the Chron let us out of that agreement, although it did take considerable effort.  Not every company would have done that. We appreciate it greatly.  We continued to look at our expenses, trying to reduce what we could, where we could, including our cable tv subscription at our residence!  

Pivot Three – Reopen with new Safety Precautions

So, now here we have our Gallery & Studio, and it’s a destination location when no one is traveling!  Our focus has always primarily been on our studio and the energy around creating and sharing that experience with others.  But now, things had changed.  Performance art in the studio was a no-no.  On safety, we listened to the science.  Even with masks, hand sanitization, and social distancing, we didn’t feel comfortable having large groups come in. We participated in zoom calls with other studios around the world to see what they were doing. We all faced similar challenges, but Texas was ranking especially high in Covid risks.

So, how do you share such an intimate experience as glass blowing, even in a one-on-one experience?  We can’t let someone else blow in our pipes and get their germs, we did not want to be within 6 feet of each other, and you have to do that, and it’s tough to blow on a pipe in the heat through a mask. 

We purchased mouthpieces, hand pumps and tried them all in the studio.  Our two main gaffers both have school-aged children who were being either homeschooled or virtually schooled.  The homeschooling glass maker decided he just had to cut his hours, couldn’t work at night, and didn’t want to work both days on the weekend.  This really put a crimp in things.

Pivot Four – Change in Services

So we made a second pivot.  We tried to do what we called Watch & Learns.  You make your reservation, come with your quarantine group (up to 4 people), and make the pieces for you in a private demo.  People loved this, but they also wanted to do hands-on.  It was the best alternative we could come up with and feel safe about for us and the public. But the interest did not fill our space on Saturdays & Sundays like before.

Pivot four was building out an online store.  For some, this might be quite a simple task.  But if your product is glass and one of a kind, it means you must photograph, measure, and weigh each piece.  You must figure out all the technology and get that working correctly.  Then you have to optimize it. 

Which shippers do you want?  Who’s the best, who costs the least, which plans are better, and you select them and the size boxes you will stock.  How do you get payments online?  Next, you figure out you need to get more people to come to your store.  So you have to figure out how to build a funnel, pull new leads in, and find a way to persuade them to purchase. 

Then, you realize you need to make your website perform better so that the customer experience has less friction.  Next, it’s live chat to help people with questions.  You see, it just goes on and on.  We are still at the optimized point on this pivot.  We were fortunate

that our furnace went down so that we can’t blow glass and I can spend time every day at the computer.  I am going crazy!

Then the vaccines start being distributed.  You feel slight ease, but you realize that this is going to last quite a while.  So you start thinking about your next pivot.  You start streaming your furnace work on Facebook, and you start thinking about Virtual Experiences.  You start working on your community blog, still trying to figure out what will work best.  You know when you love what you do, it is heaven. When you can’t do it, it’s hell.

We have a dream.  We are your local Glass Art Gallery & Hot Glass Studio, and we want to build a community with you.  Our tag line is “Enriching lives through artistic self-expression.”.  That self-expression comes in many forms.  We want to know you, and we want you to know us. Sharing a dream is its biggest reward. After all, our dream is nothing without you.

Stay safe and have fun!

Enriching lives through artistic self-expression.

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