Committed to their purpose, they retooled their operations to address the disruptions. We spoke with Matter and Morris to find out how they’ve adjusted.
Kelly Matter is the president and CEO of Avivo, a Minnesota nonprofit that provides job training, employment, substance use treatment, mental health services and housing support. During the pandemic, Avivo began using telehealth and hybrid learning environments.
Trevor Morris is the CEO of FreshByte, which builds software for wholesale food distributors. The pandemic has forced many of FreshByte’s wholesale customers to change their business models. FreshByte revamped to help its customers meet new demands.
Matter: The most immediate issue was PPE. We still do our treatment programs and our housing and homeless outreach in person. Our staff needed PPE to deliver those services.
Morris: When all of the schools, arenas, and restaurants closed, there was no business for our customers. Many went from being wholesale distributors to looking for a retail application. They wanted to sell to end-users, which is not something they had done. They came to us and said, “We need your help.” We had to come up with retail solutions they could use to sell to end-user customers.
Matter: We used social media and had wonderful volunteers in the community that started making masks. Thousands of masks were donated to us. Then, we got a special order of masks from the National Council for Behavioral Health. We were also very fortunate — at the end of 2019, we were moving to an Office 365 laptop platform for employees. We deployed about 200 laptops in the second week in March, which helped us quickly move to a telehealth model for our community-based mental health services, diagnostic assessments, and employment training programs. We continued services without a lag.
Morris: We interfaced with Shopify, which is a third-party shopping cart. Now, our customers can have a website where Joe Public can place an order that will seamlessly go into our software.
Matter: We will continue to provide a hybrid model of in-person programming and teleservices. Before this, we were doing some telehealth for people in rural areas, but most of our services were delivered in person, including our school. Our students do learn best in person, which is why we now use a hybrid model. We revamped all of our classrooms with Plexiglass shields between students, and we reduced students per class by 50 percent. We also now require masks. Because of all these changes, we’re getting a lot of referrals.
Morris: It might be beneficial — we’ve opened up a whole different line of business. In the past, clients have asked if we have a retail application. Our answer was typically, “Not really.” Now, we can say, “Yes.” For us to stay relevant, we had to adjust to our customers’ adjustments. Necessity bred change.