This Ypsi Township Company Survived COVID-19 By Selling 45,000 Acrylic Germ Shields
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Michigan in March 2020, Ross Gordon, co-founder of BankSupplies, Inc., found himself in an unenviable position. Sales were down 60% and he had started to wonder how long his business could stay afloat. Fortunately, a successful business linchpin – centered around the core values of collaboration and flexibility of one’s business – means that BankSupplies is not only still alive, but in fact thriving.
The pandemic struck just after BankSupplies moved from Belleville to Washtenaw County Business Park in Ypsilanti Township, making an already vulnerable time even more difficult. BankSupplies supplies around 30,000 different products ranging from cash drawers and envelopes to furniture, banks, casinos, credit unions, restaurants and many other businesses where money processing takes place through the country.
“When these places closed across the state and across the country, things started to get a little scary for us,” Gordon says. “From a business owner’s perspective, you start to consider how many months, weeks, and days you can survive.”
When some BankSupplies customers asked if the company could provide clear acrylic barriers that would protect their employees when their business reopened, Gordon saw an opportunity to do good.
“We could have just refused and pouted until the pandemic was over,” Gordon says. “But our company has always valued collaboration, so we worked with our customers to give them what they needed to feel safe.”
BankSupplies staff came up with three different models and the company’s plastics maker made them. When Gordon saw the shields, his first impression was that they were “cute”. At the time, he believed that his business was doing good for the world and that any income could help him.
“I thought we would sell about 500. Instead, we sold 45,000 in four months,” Gordon says. “The phones were ringing, the email traffic was exploding, the website was processing orders and all of a sudden we found ourselves trying to survive this new demand.”
The dedication and flexibility of BankSupplies staff has been essential to this success. In addition to their regular job, they embarked on the new business. Gordon himself has led by example. He explains that the business had to grow from working with a plastic manufacturer to six. Knowing he couldn’t rely on trucking during COVID-19, Gordon bought a trailer and drove all over the Midwest to collect shields from these new suppliers.
Then he had to hire 15 people to help him with the packaging. It was difficult to find people willing to work during the first wave of the pandemic, but Gordon says additional help was crucial.
“We had to quickly figure out how to safely pack the shields so that they could survive the expedition,” he says. “It’s one thing to figure out how to pack a thing, but it’s another thing to know how to pack 45,000 of that thing over a four month period.”
Now that much of the uncertainty is behind him, Gordon says he’s proud to have been able to keep his longtime staff and hire more.
“The challenges were huge, but we continued to reverse them,” he says. “It has shown us that with continued teamwork, respect and trust, we can continue to build what is already a strong company.”
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Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. It can be reached at [email protected].
Photos courtesy of Ross Gordon.