PAW PAW — When clients pivoted, so did Rene Rodriguez.
In one instance, an industrial packaging maker in Bangor that serves the auto industry slowed when the pandemic hit, so the company retooled and shifted to design and produce face shields.
Within four days, Rodriguez worked with Barber Packaging Co. to develop a website for the new protective products division to sell online.
“We were able to come together and develop this website and they’re starting to fulfill orders,” said Rodriguez, a sole proprietor and owner of photography studio and graphics communications firm StudioOne Creative in Paw Paw.
The move is just one example of how Rodriguez has been able to drum up some business during the pandemic, both for himself and clients.
As many clients had to close because of the state’s stay-at-home order or lost business during the pandemic, StudioOne Creative has focused on helping some clients create a web presence and to “try to find other ways that they could pivot and continue to sell their services, if possible,” Rodriguez said.
“I take great pleasure in helping so many businesses succeed, and it’s unfortunate and it’s very difficult when it’s limited to what we can do currently to help businesses during this pandemic,” he said. “We’re going to do the best we can. We’re shifting and we’re taking everything online, and we’re setting up so many online sales for clients and adding that capability to their website so they can continue to sell their services, gift cards or anything else because they need to continue to be viable.”
Still, StudioOne Creative’s business has fallen off considerably. Revenues are down about 60 percent from this time a year ago.
Like many small business owners, Rodriguez worries about what the future holds for his company and his clients. He counts among his clients a Paw Paw restaurant that had served 2,500 to 3,500 meals a week and employs 30 people. The restaurant has now been closed for weeks.
“It’s really slowed down for me with the marketing services I provide for many small businesses in a variety of different industries,” Rodriguez said. “It’s very tough currently on many of us. We’re just concerned; we really don’t know what’s going to happen moving forward.”
One difficulty during the pandemic comes from the simple connections to people he’s gained by running a small business.
A self-described “people person,” Rodriguez loves the “personal interaction with my clients” that’s now missing. He typically works on five to 10 projects a day for small businesses and nonprofit clients.
“We just don’t have that currently,” said Rodriguez, who serves on the board of directors at the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “It can be difficult and it can be at times depressing, to be very honest, because we just don’t have that human interaction that we’re used to.”
Rodriguez has operated StudioOne Creative for 12 years. He’s a married father of two daughters, ages 10 and 12 years. His wife, Diana, is an educator in Van Buren County and has continued working during the pandemic.
While times are tough right now as a small business owner, Rodriguez does remind himself: “That’s the role we chose.”
“Sometimes, it can be feast or famine,” he said. “That’s the nature of working for yourself.”
As a marketer, Rodriguez personally has sought to do what he can to help fellow small businesses in Paw Paw where he lives.
“I go out and do curbside. If I can, I pull out the owner, I take a photo and I share it on social media and say, ‘Please consider this business as a business to get takeout because they need our help,’” he said. “The least we can do is try to support them during this time, and we do. We share it on social media as much as we can and hope to drive some business to them.”
News coverage in the small business section of MiBiz is made possible by advertising support from the Small Business Association of Michigan. SBAM is the statewide and state-based association that focuses solely on serving the needs of Michigan’s small business community. This advertisement has no effect on editorial consideration in MiBiz.