Matt: We are living in some crazy times with this COVID-19 thing. How are you hanging in there personally?
Andy: It’s been quite a significant change, obviously. I do business development for DWL so I’m usually flying around the country and having meetings with clients or prospective clients. But for the past month I’ve been working from home. I’m fortunate that my wife is a stay-at-home mom and is able to take over much of the duties of being mom, teacher, cook, babysitter….pretty much everything to allow me to work at home with little disruption.
Matt: How has Daniels Wood Land been hit by these recent issues?
Andy: When the ‘shelter-in-place’ order was issued by Gov. Newsome, we were listed as a “non-essential business” and had to immediately cease operations and layoff 95% of our employees. We had just moved (Feb 2020) into our brand new headquarters and had a number of large contracts/projects in place we were working on. So the fact that everything literally stopped overnight was extremely stressful.
Matt: What are you doing to try and mitigate the impact?
Andy: We are now producing Non-Sterilized Protective Gowns for first responders (police, fire, EMS) and healthcare workers. The gowns offer a primary level of protection to help reduce exposure to the heroes putting their lives on the line to keep us all safe.
Matt: Who came up with the idea for the gowns you’re now making?
Andy: Ren Gomes (our Senior Project Manager) came up with the idea. He spoke with his neighbor who is a battalion chief for Paso Robles Fire Department and asked what we could produce in an effort to keep our business operating and help in the COVID-19 fight. He mentioned there was a shortage of protective gowns and, after obtaining a sample, Ren and the other managers at DWL, replicated several prototypes for review the very next day. They matched the sample and were extremely well received. It kind of took off from there.
Matt: It seems like quite a jump from tree houses and all of that, to gowns. How did you do that? I mean, did you already have the machinery or whatever you needed to do this new line of work?
Andy: Fortunately, the materials and equipment required to produce the gowns are fairly common. The most difficult part was clearing out the space, building the work stations, hiring the employees, and creating an efficiently operating assembly line.
Matt: On top of all of this, you guys recently moved into a new facility. Did that add to the drama of the pandemic?
Andy: This added a huge amount of stress as we spent millions of dollars to create this new headquarters. So, when we closed, not having any income was immediately worrisome. However, with the number of orders we have, we are utilizing every square inch of our new building and could never have pulled this off in our old location.
Matt: If the world and the economy went back to normal tomorrow, do you foresee continuing with this new line of product?
Andy: Not really. We are making plans now on how we transition back to our normal operations (tree houses, theming, props, and shooting galleries). It’s a bit trickier for us as the amusement industry is being hit especially hard during this pandemic, so pretty much all of our customers have stopped operating. But the core of DWL is based on fabricating these amusement types of projects and that’s where we want to get back to. We are keeping all of our items used in the production of these gowns so should the virus come back in the Fall, we will be able to ramp up gown production.
Matt: Any advice to other small to medium sized businesses out there?
Andy: This is a unique time in history, and finding a way to keep operating and help out our communities is important. ‘We are all in this together’ couldn’t be a truer statement.
Matt: Anything else you want to bring up and discuss?
Andy: Before COVID hit, DWL employed 54 people. With the ‘shelter-in-place’ order we had to lay all but 6 off. With producing these gowns, we’ve brought back nearly all of our laid off employees and hired dozens of others. Currently we have 130 people employed. So not only have we been able to keep our regular employees paid but are providing income for nearly 100 others.
We also have orders for over 1.25 million gowns and are shipping them to agencies/organizations all over the US.
We are producing over 40,000 gowns per day (running three production lines and three 8 hours shifts). So the new shop is currently open 24 hours a day.
Due to the production of these protective gowns we’ve been deemed an essential business and able to operate with all recommended CDC guidelines in place to ensure the health and safety of our employees.
If anyone wants information on purchasing our protective gowns they can email me at email@example.com.
Here’s the link to our facebook page as that gets updated more regularly.