Michigan businesses have found a niche in COVID. His second act might prove more difficult.

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TentCraft begins the fall with fewer employees than usual, around 65. Fifteen summer interns have already left and 10 others remain on technical unemployment as sales and graphic design needs remain slim.

It’s unclear when traditional marketing events will rebound. Last week, the North American International Auto Show and the Mackinac Policy Conference announced dates for fall 2021, suggesting that large gatherings may not resume until so. Bulloch wonders if it will take until 2022 for concerts and major public events to resume.

Meanwhile, some “regular” operations returned to TentCraft in July as places like restaurants and schools added temporary capacity. From there, Bulloch’s strategy is to continue to seek out this business, in addition to conserving cash, refinancing or reducing debt if possible, and suspending hiring.

It also seeks to create new opportunities. Summer interns in engineering programs helped develop new product ideas, such as a pool cover and inflatables. This innovation will drive the company forward, Bulloch said.

“[We’ll] investing time, money and effort in some of our new products and ancillary items that we have been trying to get off the ground over the past few months,” he said.

Financially, the shift in gear at the start of the pandemic paid off. Revenue for the past three years has dropped to between $14 million and $16 million, Bulloch said. The company is expected to hit $16 million again in 2020, thanks to some large regional orders in the spring from the VA Medical System.

The Paycheck Protection Program – which allowed companies to apply for low-interest loans that could be canceled if they met employee retention goals – also played a role in keeping the business going. afloat, Bulloch said. His first request through a national bank did not result in the cut in funding, but a local bank secured hundreds of thousands of dollars for TentCraft in the second round.

Competition is back in the domestic market, as shipments from abroad are again possible. But tools like automation and lean manufacturing principles still give TentCraft an edge with custom products, he said.

Today, Bulloch looks at information about possible COVID-19 vaccines and doesn’t want to make any predictions. Still, he said he remained firm on his strategy: “Keep pushing on new things, hopefully we can start to get back to normal.”

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