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With the sudden onset of COVID-19 across America, the impact throughout the entire Western industry has been substantial. From closed doors to cancelled events and exploded marketing plans, the crisis has had an effect in every far reaching corner. COWGIRL wanted to explore the impact by asking three simple questions to women who not only live, but work the Western way of life:
- What did you do to continue being productive in the face of COVID-19 shut downs?
- What is the most positive effect of your efforts to adapt to the restrictions?
- What is the most negative result these shut downs had on you?
“My life did not change a whole lot when the shutdown began. We were already on hiatus from filming Heartland, so I was not working outside the house anyway. As a rule, I don’t spend a lot of time in town or public places. I am most content on my ranch surrounded by my husband and animals, and luckily nothing had to change there! I am also very lucky to have a milk cow as well as laying hens, so we were able to get by for long periods of time without going on a grocery run. I admit I did bulk up on certain items—no not toilet paper, but canned goods, cereal, and such just so I didn’t have to go into town as often. It was also nice that our weather here started to get more ‘user friendly’ so we were in full spring-cleaning mode. I got a lot of things accomplished that had been on my ‘to do’ list for quite some time. I guess if I were to say anything, it would be not having the easy access to fresh produce. I love fresh fruit and veggies, and where I live that is only available on our farm in July and August (and in limited form), so that is one thing I typically would go into town a couple times a week for. I am learning to appreciate frozen ‘fresh’ fruit now, but it is just not the same!”
Founder, Art of The Cowgirl
“I took a deep breath and reflect on what was truly important to me. I took time to rest and focus on my health. I spent time cooking and practicing yoga. In doing that, I was able to feel even more inspired to share our Western lifestyle. I am grateful for the opportunity to be still and feel mentally and physically stronger as a result of focusing on my health. I feel the time we spent reaching out to artists and horsewomen planning our event is going to make 2021 even more special. I truly believe things happen as they should in perfect time. I do not look at things as negative. Every challenge is an opportunity to grow. The shut down gave me the opportunity to spend more time with family, cook, rest, and dream. It also gave me the opportunity to have more compassion and empathy for those not as fortunate to live in safe, rural settings like Montana.”
“I looked for ways to better myself while I was home. I don’t usually have time to focus on my physical well-being, so I took up cross-fit, was standing for a couple hours a day, and paying attention to my body. I also don’t usually get to offer my merchandise online because I am traveling so much and I run my business myself. I was able to put those up for purchase to people who may not have normally had the opportunity. I believe my body is in a better place than it has been in quite a few years and I am excited to continue working for more even as the world opens back up. My speaking engagements have stopped for now. I plan them to come back in the fall, but that has been a hard income change for right now.”
VP Marketing, Montana Silversmiths
“Montana Silversmiths adapted our operations and business model by applying our personnel, tools, and expertise to print, distribute, and share information on 3D printed masks. As the VP of Marketing for Montana Silversmiths, our company banded with our community and state. We adjusted our production and manufacturing, printing 3D Montana Masks, along with leveraging our relationships securing KN95 masks and N95 Masks for use by healthcare professionals, first responders, and critical industries in Stillwater Country and across the state of Montana and beyond. I learned a lesson. The most positive effect was to focus on what is really important: faith, family, friends, and our freedoms. It helped me look at everyday life, and what we take for granted, as being both precious and valued. Attending church, receiving hugs from my friends, going out to eat, watching rodeos, and participating in other milestone events. My lesson: take nothing for granted. Wearing masks and not seeing the smiles hidden behind. I believe that isolation in a fully functioning economy is not healthy for a thriving society. Watching rodeos and other events canceling, and how this affects not only the athletes, but fans, communities, and other support business is devastating to the Western lifestyle and to all people, whatever their passion and livelihood. God Bless us all.”
CEO, The Cowboy Channel
“As the saying goes…the show must go on! At The Cowboy Channel, we still had to make sure that we continued to produce great programming each night. We were right in the middle of RodeoHouston when the music stopped, but we never slowed down. We put together 40 Nights of NFR—which turned into 60 nights—bringing viewers the last 60 rounds from Las Vegas. And as the shelter in place orders continued, we added 40 Days of Texas Rodeo, never before seen in the United States coverage of past years’ Calgary Stampede, and continued to produce Western Sports Round-Up Monday-Friday to keep viewers and Western sports fans around the country up-to-date. Thankfully, media is considered an essential business. And with so many of the large rodeos cancelling this year, it gave us the opportunity to start building connections with many of the medium and small rodeos across the country. Even though our programming schedule has changed, this year’s summer and fall rodeo run will show the heart of rural America. For us, it was the revamping of our programming schedule. Yes, we got creative and were able to continue producing great programming, but nothing compares to live sports on television. Every one of us was looking forward to broadcasting many rodeos in their entirety for the first time live on national television–Calgary Stampede, Cheyenne Frontier Days, Pendleton Round-Up. Cancelling these top rodeos in our line-up for this year was heartbreaking, but we just look at it as now it gives us more time to all work together to create an even better show on television for next year.”
Amie & Jolie Sikes
Junk Gypsy Founders
“When the pandemic first hit, our primary objective was to make calculated, thoughtful, and productive decisions for the business. After ensuring our employees were taken care of financially, we doubled down on social media engagement. We got creative. We began doing weekly, sometimes daily lives on Instagram and Facebook. We had a virtual prom in which over 7k people joined us from across the globe! It was all about positive energy and providing people with an escape from what was happening in the real world. We began hosting virtual markets that provided an instant boost to revenue. We have been amazed and beyond grateful for the support! Because we had to pivot our business structure in order to survive during this time, we have discovered new and effective platforms for our business that we intend to continue even after the pandemic is behind us. The hustle is always fun; it’s an adrenaline-fueled energy that reminds you of the mojo you had when you first started your business. The pandemic relit a fire in us that has fueled our creativity our love for this business and our customers even more. The uncertainty in the world is not ignorable. It’s reality and no one knows what tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year will bring. Being small business owners, there is always some level of anxiety but there has certainly been heightened stress levels during this time. Shutting down the Wander Inn and the store was not ideal but what we felt we had to do to ensure the safety of our employees, our community, and our family.”
Lari Dee Guy
“My job never stops at the ranch. Although we couldn’t travel to rodeos or jackpots, I still had young horses to train and I got caught up on cleaning things up at home. I tried to make the best of the situation by staying productive and spending time with my family! We were asked to lessen travel, so I had to cancel a few schools I had scheduled out of respect and to do my part in obeying the rules and get this thing stopped. It gave me more time to catch up on things at home and the schools can always be rescheduled. I live on a ranch so it took a toll on our cattle and oil. I hate seeing what it did to our economy. But, I like to look at the positive and pray that in the future everything will be better than it was before.”
Jackie RandallCavender’s VP of Merchandise & Planning
“With hope and promise for tomorrow, our Cavender’s team continues to find ways to manage the ever-changing COVID-19 situation. Since we are deemed ‘essential’ workplace, our customers continued to seek us out for their urgent safety footwear, FR and workwear clothing, and other Western lifestyle apparel and boots. The confirmation that in challenging times, the entire Cavender’s team has an unwavering commitment to take care of each other, our customers, and the Cavender’s family. Our E-commerce and IT teams pulled together and executed ‘Buy online, Pick up in Store’ (curbside pickup) in record-breaking time with a systematic solution supporting our customers’ needs. Obviously, the reduction of sales was the most negative result we had. Revenue supports all of our initiatives for our associates, vendor partners, and community events. With the efforts of keeping our stores and offices open, it helped support our business operations.”
CEO, Hobby Horse, Inc.
“We tried to focus on building community and promoting positivity. We ran several fun social media contests that had people thinking creatively and hopefully laughing, too! We also did a video and blog post featuring woman-owned businesses in the industry. I believe that we rise by lifting up others. There really are so many amazing businesswomen, entrepreneurs, and boss babes in this industry! We have been able to build even stronger relationships with our vendors and industry partners. Although these are hard times, knowing you are not alone definitely helps, and these relationships will continue long after the effects of COVID-19 have passed. If we can all help each other through it, we will come out of it better off! Surviving sales coming to a crashing halt followed by three weeks of negative revenues was the most negative effect. To give you an idea of the degree of impact, April 2020 was actually 87% down compared to April 2019! Just figuring out how to juggle cash flow was quite a feat! Super grateful to our vendors and partners for being so understanding and patient with us.”
Audrey HallAuthor, Photographer, Visual Artist, Songwriter
“As COVID-19 continues on, I have shifted gears from commercial work with lots of travel and larger teams to creating in my studio, both new art and music. I set up a little recording corner to track songs that I’ve been writing during the pandemic, and have been making sculptural works. The photography projects I’m taking on now are more ‘portrait-centric’ one on one and outdoors only. I’m also working on a new book, but as luck would have it, it’s not a design book. The subject is something altogether new to me and involves a great amount of time alone, usually in remote places, to capture the images. The best part of the restrictions for me is the slow-down of my pace. It has given me some space to breathe and to explore more personal work. I’ve been taking Zoom workshops and reading a lot. Somehow, it all feels like a big exhale. On the flip side, there is a low level of constant, underlying anxiety that is subtle, but difficult. My emotions and reactions to stress prompts are definitely more raw and immediate. I’m quite sad about not being able to travel to see family. I’m finding that connecting with friends via Zoom or FaceTime isn’t the same as real, human-to-human quality time.”
“I’m reflecting on and redefining the word ‘productive.’ We tend to go, go, go, and this has challenged us, as a globe, to stop. I’m embracing unique time at home when I’m usually traveling and working. I’m listening, growing a garden, reading good books, educating myself on the depth of systemic racism, and hiking. Before I find a positive effect I have to say how grateful I am to have my health when so many people are suffering. One of the silver linings to this incredibly difficult time has been the opportunity to actually listen and ‘do’ less. The greatest creativity comes from being still and finding quiet. Being away from my favorite people has been challenging during this time. Every time I can’t hug a friend in need of one or go fly to visit my dad heightens the feeling of isolation, but I look forward to a day soon when we’re safe to do all the things we used to, and hopefully do them with a renewed sense of awareness.”
Pro Rodeo Barrel Racer
“I have really been focusing on my next generation of horses—trying to improve on my herd and getting my young horses more advanced. I’ve also been enjoying my first year of marriage at home which is very unusual for a ‘Pro Rodeo couple.’ Spending time at home and strengthening my marriage has been amazing for my personal life. It has also given me time to visit family and enjoy the process of building our home. Clearly the most negative impact has been financially. I’m really hoping for our opportunities to make money come back and we can have a sense of normalcy soon.”