As a small business owner, overcoming hardships like power outages or hurricanes is part of the territory, but navigating Copycat through a global pandemic was completely unimaginable.
Reflecting back on the past 18 months, I am immensely proud of my team and the work Copycat Print Shop did to assist our community through COVID-19.
February of 2020 was an exciting time for us; we were all giddy (and perhaps a little stressed) with excitement over our move to Kerr Ave. The renovation of our new location was not without its challenges and though no one’s fault, there had been multiple delays in getting the building complete and ready. Our new space would be more suited for the day to day needs of our work (plus much better parking for you, our clientele) and we couldn’t wait. Then in March of 2020, a storm turned everything upside down. As a native Wilmingtonian, I’ve persevered through many storms and hurricanes, but this was different. So how did we get through it?
A business is solely four walls. What makes it Copycat Print Shop is our staff and values, one of which is to care about our employees. My first priority was making sure the health and safety of our Copycat team was taken care of. Unlike other companies, we were unable to fully work from home; however, because of the amount of work we do with the construction industry, we were considered an essential business and were able to stay open. Temperature checks were mandatory upon entering the building, masks were required while inside, we provided curbside service for limited exposure, made deliveries to our customers working from home or unable to drive to our location and we maintained strict protocols for wiping down heavily used areas.
It was our good fortune to receive a grant from New Hanover County to be used specifically for PPE items, particularly because business slowed down as companies made the necessary modifications. We used this unexpected windfall to purchase air purifiers, hand sanitizer stations, plexiglass dividers for workstations and our front counter, additional masks, thermometers, and anything else recommended for the prevention of the spread of COVID.
As masks were becoming the new fashion statement, we thought what better way to help one of our local nonprofits (The Good Shepard Center) than by selling handmade masks and donating 100% of the profits to them. We care about our community; myself and my staff don’t just work in New Hanover County, we live here, and value giving back when we can.
On March 12, 2020, we had a new piece of equipment (exclusive to Copycat between SC & Virginia borders east of I-95) installed. Obviously, we weren’t able to share its many attributes with the general public because stay-at-home orders went into effect on March 13 at 5 pm. Because this printer can produce banners faster than any other machine of its kind on the market, we produce and donated approximately two dozen 36”x48” banners to local organizations & businesses. They were created as a thank you to our first responders, medical personnel, and essential workers. Some locations that received these free banners included NHRMC, Cameron Art Museum, and Coastal Horizons.
As vaccines became more available, we asked our team who did and who did not want to get vaccinated. It was unanimous – everyone wanted to be vaccinated, so we helped everyone get appointments and gave them time off from work to get their shots. Fully vaccinated meant no masks indoors after the appropriate wait times – what a delight it was when we could all see one another’s faces again!
Then finally sometime in May (I’ll be honest, timeframes are kind of a blur now), we felt comfortable enough to open our doors to the public as long as those coming in were fully vaccinated. Considering that we had only been open for two weeks in our new location prior to the state shutdown, many of our customers were able to see our renovations for the first time.
So……when you first started reading this, you may have thought “oh my, another piece on COVID-19” and I understand that thought process. I too have found myself thinking similar thoughts, but I write this to applaud all our fellow businesses, organizations, and nonprofits that are getting through this.
There’s no handbook on how to overcome a global pandemic as a business owner (trust me – I looked), and yet we are doing it! And, as the Delta variant emerges in our community, I know that we can continue to do it. Staying positive, staying strong, and staying healthy have been paramount. We extend our deepest condolences to those who have suffered or perished and we congratulate everyone who has successfully guided their teams through this storm.