Wes and Tonya Beyer have operated their screen printing and embroidery business, W&T Graphix, since 1988 and have fun out of their current Truckee location in 1992. Business had been particularly successful over the past few years with the pair seeing their best first quarter ever, right as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.
“The phone stopped ringing, emails stopped coming through, it was like someone flipped a light switch off,” Tonya Beyer said.
They had no idea what to expect as they saw the resulting impact to Truckee-Lake Tahoe tourism.
Luckily, W&T Graphix never had to officially close their doors, as they were deemed an essential business in order to supply the hospital, Public Utility District and police department. On the flip-side, fewer orders meant they had to lay-off employees. The pair ended up working excessive hours for five weeks without a day off to stay afloat.
“It was a triage time, we were planning for the future, forecasting what that might look like, going through customer lists and Quickbooks just trying to figure out who would and wouldn’t be ordering with us in the future...and it’s not just dollars, there’s a name and a face with each one of those clients, it was just devastating,” Tonya said.
During their five-week triage period they updated the website and adapted their operations to be successful. Tonya and Wes have been educating themselves on backend software to bring their sales to a digital platform. They’ve attended webinars and tackled late-night reading on their industry and what comparable stores are doing to adapt.
“We want to make sure we’re on top of everything. We have to learn everything, like the software for verifying addresses and taking payments online - we’re learning how to be computer coders at the same time [as running the print shop],” Tonya said.
Keeping in the loop on various social media groups, the Beyers learned about the Resilience Fund - Sierra, applied and were approved for financial and coaching assistance.
“I felt like it was pretty easy for me to do the application. My Quickbooks is always perfect and I recently did an updated personal financial statement, which I submitted to the Resilience Fund. If a business doesn’t have a current one it takes some time, especially if you’re a sole proprietor and your financial and personal statements are all the same. After doing that legwork the application is turnkey,” Tonya said.
The Beyers describe receiving funds as giving them a little breathing room to not feel so worried.
“We feel so supported by our community through this. It’s hard because we aren’t a business that you can support by pre-purchasing gift cards, for example. We appreciate the business support,” Tonya said.
They haven’t spent their funds yet but say it has allowed them the time to study-up on pivoting their business and plan for the future.
Since so many events have been cancelled due to social distance guidelines in the wake of COVID-19, their orders for logo printed merchandise have also been cancelled. Without orders for things like team sports jerseys and concert koozies, the next big step for W&T Graphix is to move from in-person to a digital-first model.
“We’ve never done the business-to-customer direct model but we are looking to pivot to online merchandise stores where we can help local businesses get their merchandise out where they have less cash outlay and we can help with fundraising,” Tonya said.
In the near future W&T Graphix will offer their screen printing and embroidery services to local companies through online stores. Businesses can sell their logoed merchandise as a fundraiser to their customer base online. This way, the business owner can save money by ordering a smaller quantity and simultaneously create a new way to raise funds during suspended operations. Community members looking to support their favorite businesses can purchase logo products online and W&T will ship the product directly.
“I absolutely would recommend [the Resilience Fund to small business owners]. I’ve highly recommended it to people already,” Tonya said.