Kiwi company reinvents itself to survive Covid-19 pandemic, and is now thriving

A Cambridge-based company has kept its business afloat amid Covid-19 by using good-old Kiwi ingenuity.

Fiasco has been producing equipment cases and other products for the event and touring sector in New Zealand since 2013 and the United States since 2017.

But when news of Covid-19 hit, the company’s whole world was flipped upside down. With the music and entertainment industry unable to continue in both countries due to virus restrictions, 90 per cent of Fiasco’s work dried up.

Fiasco had also been eyeing the close of one of its biggest business deals to date, but on March 7 that order was delayed because of Covid-19 and now remains up in the air.

It only took the company’s team 10 days from that date to put their innovation hats on and figure out a way to move forward.

That was when they came up with two product offerings - a screen to protect retailers or those working in face-to-face roles amid the pandemic, and a collapsable, ergonomically designed work from home desk.

Joe Bradford co-owns Fiasco with Matt Waterhouse. Mr Bradford says without this pivot, the company wouldn’t have survived the pandemic.

“We’ve managed to keep everyone employed and we’ve also been able to pull in some of our casual workers to work as well. In the short term we’ve achieved survival and we’ve actually flourished,” says Mr Bradford.

Both products are produced in New Zealand and in the US for their respective markets. Mr Bradford says sales in the US had been slow to start with, as restrictions have differed around the country, but the company has seen a good amount of growth on home soil, particularly for the desk.

“We’ve had several large household New Zealand names who have come and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got staff working from home now,’ and need our product.

“It’s been slower in the US than it has here. Their lockdown rules are quite different but some things are changing there as well and I expect things will pick up. Facebook and Google originally sent their staff to work from home for a month and have now extended that to 2021.”

Fiasco’s Screen Serve product has been used in businesses throughout the Covid-19 alert level system, including in one of the company’s local pharmacies, Sanders Pharmacy in Cambridge. 

Used to protect those working in essential industries, Mr Bradford says he doesn't think the screen product will be required after Level 1, and will probably be packed away.

That is the reality for Sanders Pharmacy owner Gemma Perry, who says they will be packing up some of their screens tonight. 

"We’re stoked, we’re taking our screens down tonight as they’re not required at Level 2 but they’ve done the job. We’ve got past the peak of transmission," says Ms Perry.

"It’s just given us total confidence in providing our essential service throughout the pandemic. Our customers have been amazing and could see we were taking the risk seriously as screen serve portrayed that we weren’t mucking around with Covid."

Fiasco’s focus will continue to focus on marketing the Work From Home desk, while also getting back into the music industry when things kick off again.

He believes the events industry will thrive again, but not for a while.

“We live and breathe touring and we think that people love going to events so we think it will come back. I expect it will be six to 24 months before it comes back to a level which might sustain us as a business,” says Mr Bradford.

“It will take time, our core customers are hurting badly...It’s inevitable the events industry will once again flourish but I don't think we’re going to get there in the next month or two.”

He says it will be the same story in the US.

“We have to grow into a new market and grow back into the market we were in.”

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Music Helps trustee Don McGlashan says it’s been really hard for everyone, from musos to venues. Source: Breakfast

In managing to keep afloat, Fiasco is also helping out others where it can. Mr Bradford says the company is donating $10 from every Work From Home Desk sold to Music Helps, a Kiwi charity that's assisting those in the music industry through the pandemic.