What the heck happened?
Monday March 9th was our last "normal" day. Dave had just arrived home from the IL Horse Fair late last night, on Sunday. I was driving home from the Kansas Horse Fair Monday, and we had a great conversation about our shows that weekend. We were both successful and feeling really grateful for our amazing staff and loyal customers!
It was the first time we had two major horse fairs on the same weekend. We made the decision months earlier to split up, which created challenges for us we've never experienced before. Having to split our computer systems, staff two major stores, make sure everything got separated into the right trucks so everybody had what they needed to set up and sell from a perfect store. The weekend went off without a hitch, and we both had successful shows. But as I drove home mile after mile, you could tell that attitudes were changing about Corona-virus. It was becoming more real and present danger very fast.
Over then next few days, the UW would cancel all school and UW extension activities over 10 people. That cancelled all our smaller 4-H tack swaps. Then the big events in other parts of the country started cancelling. Houston Rodeo, Land Rover, Road to the Horse, and we could tell our horse fair season was probably going to be disrupted. Then OUR big shows fell. Hoosier (IN), Iowa, Minnesota and Midwest. With every announcement we learned that our fiscal year was going to be smaller and smaller. Yet, all the inventory was already bought- sitting in the building because we were already on the road and had completed our first two shows. The news got more desperate as the days went on, and the financial side of this sure felt like we might not be in business much longer.
How do I lay off my staff? Can we afford to stay open? What are we going to do with all this stuff? How do you reach customers if you can't be with them? How long can this last? Will my vendors survive? Talk about challenges! Every day has been a new horrible set of challenges with no comfortable answers. No more normal days.
We rent a warehouse to help organize and store all our horse fair deals. Our lease is up at the end of April, and the construction company that owns it will need that space for their summer jobs. So we have to move all this stuff! With Wisconsin's eventual lock down, and the Safer-At-Home order firmly in place we figured the best way to sell this inventory is online. So I worked DAY AND NIGHT for five days, trying to add every Midwest deal to our website. We made videos to show your the items, as if we were with you at a horse fair booth.
After launching the online horse fair, the orders started pouring in and again we felt grateful for our customers and staff. Then the website crashed- 10 hours into the promotion. Every store in the US was rushing to get their stores shored-up online, and more customers than ever were using those sites. The website company we had worked with for 7 years was struggling to keep their hosted websites stable. For us, that meant you could watch the videos and browse our store, but you couldn't check out. So sales cut off abruptly, and we stayed down for an entire week.
During that week I've been working very hard to recreate our website on a different platform, Shopify. I know when we launch this new site, there will still be a lot of work to be completed. I'm still learning about how to build pages, and work with the themes. I've never built a site before- so attacking this with little sleep, steep financial pressures, the husband looking over my shoulder asking "is it done yet" every hour.. was quite a challenge. I have a lot to learn. Yet, for my first stab at this with the goal of simply getting it functional I think we can call it mission accomplished. I welcome your feedback if you find a problem. It will take me some time to find all the issues, and learn how to debug those things. But with a coffee in one hand and a cookie in the other we made it to the finish line. That's what my normal feels like now. Skidding to a stop thinking "DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT!"
I hope your days are becoming a little more routine and dare I say NORMAL? As we adjust to the new world, I hope you can take a little time to browse some of our videos and enjoy a little slice of the Horse Fair. I know it's not the same, but for now it's going to have to be our new normal. Watch for us to set up some shopping events in your area when this pandemic breaks. We hope to see you in person, HEALTHY very VERY soon! -Michelle
- Michelle Endries