"The fair man always wins"
We are in week seven of lockdown, and I'll be honest. I'm reticent to share success stories in a time of such uncertainty.
There is no singular experience of lockdown for businesses or individuals in this strange time. There is no blueprint for success, no two journeys the same. While some businesses are just hitting their stride in week 7, others have finally hit a wall. All valid experiences.
But the Flying Elephant story is an uplifting account of how a business that had all the odds against it managed to succeed by stopping, taking a breath, and looking at every tool they had at their disposal. It's all anyone can do right now.
Speaking about their newest project, Sanitisation Solutions, director Michael Keelan said: "I think the reason it's working for us is because we're not here to try and make a quick buck out of a crisis. We want to create products that are of value to people and where nobody gets ripped off. The fair man always wins"
The Dublin-based events company was established by Keelan and Max Fox in 2014 and until recently, specialised in creating and installing stages and sets for shows, concerts and other events. Products range from bespoke exhibition stands to displays to pop-up fit-outs for festivals, exhibitions and more.
When restrictions were introduced in March, their business, which was hinged on events and gatherings, was understandably one of the first to be impacted. They had sixty job cancellations in the space of three days.
What did they do? They paused and looked at what they had rather than what they'd lost.
They had a designer, Edwin Jebb, with a masters in architecture. A group of people with the will to make it work. And a whole heap of timber (purchased for a now cancelled job).
Then, they looked at what people needed. There wasn't lot of market research required to ascertain that people were going to be working from home for a significant period, and that many would need desks to do so. They would need to be nimble, for people in small spaces without offices, easily transportable, and easily assembled.
So Edwin designed a desk for a friend with some of the plywood in a practical flat-pack design, and an idea was born.
In a matter of weeks, the guys had sold over 1,000 units and had branched out to create standing desks and kiddie versions too.
And they're continuing to expand their repertoire in an ongoing mission to offer solutions to new business challenges problems.
Now, a full suite of sanitation solutions for businesses using locally sourced materials, including a range of hand sanitiser units and perspex screen solutions as well as custom solutions, is available for purchase with contactless delivery.
These new creations were designed with shop counters, receptions and offices, work vans, coffee shops, retail outlets, supermarkets all in mind as they navigate new and strange territory.
Free-standing sanitation points:
Corner Sanitisation Points:
And counter-top perspex screens:
As the lads say, "problem-solving is in our DNA".
Michael told me: 'With the sanitisation solutions, we saw a problem, and we wanted to solve it. There was nothing like it in the market for the price that we can offer.
'Thankfully, when we reached out to some of our clients yesterday there was a huge reaction to it. They're getting what they need, and we're getting a little turnover. It works for everyone.'
And the future for Flying Elephant? 'We just don't know when business will return to normal so we're trying to keep as busy as possible and keep creating products that people need. That's all we can do" .
When it comes to advice for other small businesses attempting a pivot? Michael simply says 'never give up'.