Pivot Profiles

We heard stories about how the pandemic affected ten small businesses and nonprofits. New demands brought on by the pandemic led to changes in supply chains, delivery systems, products/services, pricing, customers, and partnerships. Pivots covered the themes of Community, Arts, & Education, Food Access and Small Manufacturing.

“There’s an old saying here in Eastern Kentucky that our Appalachian forebears survived and thrived in their challenging wilderness environment because they quickly realized they had to “make do with what they had.” Pivot Profiles illustrates how COVID-19 may be helping to reawaken that spirit of radical imagination and small business adaptation across contemporary Appalachia. Through sharing with my clients the “a-ha” moments and strategic lessons learned during these conversations, I am becoming a better small business coach.”

– Robert Donnan, Business Coach

Ready to pivot your organization? Check out our Pivot Toolkit to find your next pivot idea!

Community, Arts, & Education

Print My Threads with Kyle Robinson

 [0:00 - 15:46] 

Print My Threads, a screen-printing business in Flatwoods, KY typically services small groups and organizations around the country for all of their custom apparel needs. Reconnecting to their business purpose, Print My Threads launched the Local Lifesaver program — where individuals can purchase a local lifesaver t-shirt custom to their region to support participating local businesses in the area.

Stages Music School with Melissa McKinney

[15:46 - 33:26]

Stages Music School (Princeton, WV) Director, Melissa McKinney, was already considering making the transition to online teaching to expand access to students further away. This happened sooner than expected as a result of COVID 19! Many parents have expressed appreciation for not having to drive up to 45 minutes.

New River Gorge Learning Co-op with Glisyn Maxwell

[33:26 - 50:52]

This small Montessori school in Fayetteville, WV had to decide whether or not to resume instruction in the fall. They have pivoted their “delivery model” to ensure a safe in-person learning environment including limiting enrollment and creating more outdoor learning opportunities.

Food Access

Cowan Community Center with Valerie Horn

[0.00 - 16:24]

In partnership with their local supermarket, Cowan Community Center in Whitesburg, KY has used the supermarket’s credit with some of their suppliers to expand the Community Center’s ability to purchase food for distribution. This public–private partnership has enabled them to provide over 400,000 meals to children in the community (with groceries purchased on credit as they await reimbursement from the USDA).

The Public Market with Eleanor Marshall

[16:24 - 33:49]

When the pandemic hit and schools shut down, the Public Market wanted to be a part of the student meal crisis solution in their community. Building on what they had, including commercial kitchen access and relationships, they launched their student feeding program. As a result they provided 2,000 free meals a week in Ohio County, WV through linking pandemic-affected chefs to public schools. The Public Market was able to create a healthy meal standard by compensating participating chefs $5 per meal (fundraised through the state and local foundations). 

Fruits or Labor with Tammy Jordan

[33:49 - 53:03]

Fruits of Labor (Rainelle, WV) was faced with the question of whether to continue individually with their plans to launch their online ordering and distribution system or work with local partners to distribute food in the community. Thinking back onto the experience, Founder Tammy Jordan remembered to stay rooted in the mission and work with others to address food access issues for vulnerable communities brought on by the pandemic.


Zero Waste Event Productions (ZWEP) with Shannon Pratt-Harrington

[0:00 - 15:14]

With large gatherings postponed until further notice, ZWEP (Athens, OH) invested time and capital to manufacture products from recycled plastic. As an event waste management service, recycling was a natural, but now they are sourcing from household waste, instead of events.  Partnering with the hard of hearing, ZWEP’s face shields are having a huge impact.  ZWEP will further pivot to manufacture additional products that are sustainable, once the need for PPE is reduced.

Bluegrass Biochar with Aaron Durson

[15:14 - 32:04]

Aaron Durson took the time away from his cabin rental business in the Red River Gorge (Wolfe County, Kentucky) early in the pandemic to focus on his biochar manufacturing business — Bluegrass Biochar. Working with a business coach, he has been able to create new relationships with urban markets in the tree-servicing industry. Aaron had always hoped to find urban uses for this renewable resource produced in Kentucky.

Carolina Textile District with Molly Helmstreet

 [32:04 - 50:02]

When the Carolina Textile District (Morganton, NC), a network of cut/sew and furniture manufacturers, faced a shortage of furniture and apparel contracts — they pivoted together to manufacture PPE. The 60 participating manufacturers combined their production power to keep local folks employed and jointly fulfill contracts up to $2 million. 

JC Tec with Judy Scmitt

[50:02 - 1:05:44]

During the pandemic and economic downturn commercial and private contracts dried up for the contract manufacturing firm based in Anneville, KY. JC Tec’s business model requires highly trained employees in a variety of different skills based on regular production line changes. This enabled employees to quickly transition to meet the demands of new governmental clients to manufacture COVID-19 related products.