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From pivot to permanent: Two tales of how unprecedented times led to unexpected rewards

The COVID-19 pandemic hit small business owners hard, forcing virtually every business to explore new ways to reach their customers. For many, the challenges to keep the lights on led to some surprising results. The term “pivot” emerged as a buzzword to describe how businesses were changing the way they operated. Some of those changes were so impactful, they have become permanent fixtures. Here’s how two Maryland companies incorporated their pivot into daily operations.

Davie Feaster founded Patuxent Brewing Company in 2017, when he began selling beer at a farmer’s market in La Plata. (submitted photo)

Davie Feaster founded Patuxent Brewing Company in 2017, when he began selling beer at a farmer’s market in La Plata. (submitted photo)

Patuxent Brewing Company

When the craft beer scene started becoming extremely popular in the mid-2010s, Charles County had no brewery. To enjoy artisan beer flavors, folks had to travel to Prince George’s, Calvert, or St. Mary’s to discover new varieties of beer and hard seltzers.

In 2017, home brewer Davie Feaster founded Patuxent Brewing Company. The company began selling beer at a farmer’s market in La Plata and later opened a small three-barrel nano-brewery in Waldorf. In late 2019 and early 2020, the business was set to launch its first large run of beer for distribution before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, causing shutdowns.

“So, we were sitting there with no one to bring into the taproom and all this beer, and we don’t know what to do,” said Gene Lott, co-owner, taproom, and distribution manager.

Pivoting from original plans, they decided to start selling their beer online through their website. Patrons could either come to the taproom to pick up their order, or the staff would deliver it to their home. “It was pretty amazing because it allowed us to sell our beer to the public, and the public could see where we were located even though they could not come into the tap room during that time,” he said.

When patrons would show up, they would take pictures and post them to their social media channels which helped spread the word about how the brewery was selling its beer. “That generally kept us afloat during those pivotal COVID times,” he said. “We had to keep the lights on.”

While not a part of their original plans, Patuxent Brewing has continued to sell their beer online, but now they reserve that system only for special beer runs, and larger batches. Some of their most popular handmade beers are 301 pale ale, hard seltzers, and an oops series, featuring experimental ingredients.

When spaces were allowed to reopen, many residents were still apprehensive about being indoors, so the brewing company decided to open an outdoor Biergarten. Located inside an industrial park, the staff talked with neighbors who were closed on the weekends to get permission to have the gatherings in the parking lot.

They took empty kegs and blocked off the parking lot area with chairs and tables inside so folks could spread out, have fresh air, and feel safer.

Since the brewery does not serve food, they encouraged guests to bring their own and pair it with the beer offerings. Cornhole games were also added so folks could have a fun time.

“We never had that in our plans to actually be outside,” Lott said. “Because of COVID, we did that, and now we are still doing it. Weather depending, we will still open outside, and open our garage doors. It is just one of the things people like about us.”

Patuxent is the only 100 percent minority-owned brewing company in the state that has a taproom. Lott notes the group is not made up of businesspeople, just beer enthusiasts. “COVID made us pivot our whole business model and made us do things earlier than what we wanted to do, but at the end of the day it was actually for the better,” he said.

L & G Exclusive Cleaning Services Inc. is a janitorial company based in Laurel. (submitted photo)

L & G Exclusive Cleaning Services Inc. is a janitorial company based in Laurel. (submitted photo)

L & G Exclusive Cleaning Services Inc.

L & G Exclusive Cleaning Services Inc. was already an in-demand janitorial company based in Laurel, but the COVID-19 pandemic saw them pivot to offer services to get rid of the virus. The woman-owned company thrives on its commitment to consistency, dedication, and communication in the industry. Services include construction, commercial cleaning, restaurant hood cleaning, snow removal, floor restoration, and property management.

Their high-touch area cleaning service, which they continue to offer, focuses on cleaning areas in businesses, churches, schools, and other business clients that are frequently used, such as desks, doors, and bathrooms. They also offer disinfectant spray fogging which douses entire areas, and another team comes behind them to wipe everything down.

Frances Cartwright, President & CEO, has three decades of experience in the cleaning field and started learning the business at 14 years old.

They have been using the Green Seal standard since 2008 and using energy-efficient products that help businesses support environmental sustainability.

This diligence helped L & G Exclusive Cleaning Services survive and thrive during the pandemic. “We are successful because we pay attention to detail and go above and beyond what our customers want, and that helps us to be more sustainable. We provide services for everything COVID related and offer high-touch cleaning rather than just providing janitorial services,” said Cartwright.

“Focusing on COVID cleaning has definitely increased our profits … and go beyond the typical standard scope of work. This is where most of our profit has come from because there is practically no profit in regular janitorial work.”

They recently landed a contract with the Department of Human Services for high-touch cleaning services and picked up other work because every company has had to revamp its operations as workers have started returning to the office since the start of the pandemic.

Other services which have allowed them to grow include specialties such as dusting in areas that are more than 12 feet off the ground, and window care which Cartwright explained improves the quality of air for indoor spaces.

Although they are a small company, L & G Exclusive Cleaning Services has been able to keep up with the demand by subcontracting, and profits have grown by 20 percent. “COVID allowed me to take the time to sit back, think and analyze the business. Now we are really doing okay.”

Minority Business/Expanding Opportunities cover

Expanding Opportunities

This article is featured in the 2022 edition of The Daily Record’s Expanding Opportunities Resource Guide for Small, Minority and Women Businesses that was published on Sept. 23. Published in conjunction with the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs, Expanding Opportunities explores diversity, entrepreneurship and innovation in Maryland’s small business community. Read more from Expanding Opportunities or read the digital edition.

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