As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Kim Hawkins.
Kim Hawkins is the President of EventsWholesale.com, an online discount event and wedding planning supply company in business. We sell wedding centerpieces, tablecloths, vases, candles, event props, and more.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I started my company back in 2006 when I had a full-time job, so that I could work from home and start a family. I originally started selling items on eBay, and my goal was to get enough part time income coming in to quit my day job so that I could stay home with my children. I started from scratch and invested very little money under a hundred dollars in fact) to get started, and then I would just reinvest the profit off of what I sold. Very quickly the business grew into more than a full time job. Within two years, my husband was able to quit his day job to help with the business. Business has grown through the years. Today, we have seven employees and we are still growing.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Well, I can think of a mistake, but it’s not really funny. Our biggest mistake was with our first employee who worked for us for several years. We trained her on everything having to do with running an e-commerce business, and gave her supplier and customer information without a second thought. She had complete knowledge of confidential business practices as well as all of our advertising keyword information. Little did we know that one day she would go out on her own and start a competing online business! Moving forward, we always have all of our employees sign a non-compete/non-disclosure agreement to protect our business and prevent this from happening again.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
There is an excellent book on product sourcing that has really helped me throughout the years: “What to Sell on eBay and Where to Get It” by Chris Malta and Lisa Suttora. Whenever I get in a rut trying to find new products, I pull this book out for inspiration.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
My inspiration was reading about someone who started a wedding favors business from her basement. She investing only a couple of hundred dollars in products and a website, and ended up with a multi-million dollar company. This story inspired me to start my own business, because I saw that given the right products and strategy, anyone (even the average person) can build a successful business even without a lot of start up capital.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Do unto others as you would have them do to you.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
The biggest challenge for our family was quarantining at home. Although we enjoy being together, we also like to get out of the house and see friends. We tried to plan as many fun activities at home as possible, and also get out on nature walks, swimming, bike riding, etc. to break up some of the monotony!
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
As the majority of events in the US are being cancelled right now, we have seen a temporary 95% drop in sales. While we can’t do anything about events being cancelled, what I can do is stay on top of what the government is doing to help small businesses who have been hurt by COVID-19. We are applying for SBA Economic Loss of Income loans and looking into the Cares Act / Payment Protection Program to ensure that our employees have jobs until business is able to recover. I am also preparing for when events start happening again by looking into customer financing options and improving our product offering.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the corona virus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Anyone can feel anxious listening to the news on a continual basis. I try to check the news once a day so I am informed, but I don’t dwell on it. I don’t even listen to the news on television. I just do a quick check on my computer. I also like to look for good news, and not just dwell on the bad.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
We are entering what normally is our busy season. Unfortunately, with events across the US being cancelled, our sales have slowed. However, a few customers are still planning future events and weddings. I expect this to affect us for at least the next 2–3 months, but likely take a year to fully recover. We are taking this downtime as an opportunity to update our products and add new products for the future. Hopefully, life will resume as normal soon, and our customers will be planning “coming out of quarantine” parties in the near future!
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
I hope the change is minimal and temporary. I do think that PPE equipment and increased sanitation will be needed for large events for a while though.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
We import many of our products, and the corona virus has slowed and even halted production of some items that we sell. We are placing large orders to stock up on all of our best sellers and have even had to locate new suppliers.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
I would encourage other business owners to focus on the things that you can do to make business better during the pandemic and after the pandemic is over, rather than focusing on what is out of your control.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” This is very relevant right now, since a lot of issues are out of our hands. As a business owner, I have no control over the pandemic.
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