By Christina Bossinakis
Much of the early part of the 2020 racing season has been uprooted, courtesy of the coronavirus pandemic, forcing many businesses into states of unexpected struggle and uncertainty.
As a result, the flagging economy, coupled with the shutdown of racing at many tracks around the nation, left an indelible mark on many small equine-related businesses, many of whom have been shuttered or saw their trade fall off dramatically over the past months. With racing slowly resuming, albeit spectator-less, many businesses attempt to regain some traction as the industry ebbs toward a sense of normalcy. The TDN reaches out to small businesses in the racing industry and asks how the pandemic has affected their business and what are their plans to help expedite recovery.
COMPANY: THOROUGHBRED THREADS LLC
PRINCIPAL/OWNER: EVAN CIANNELLO
What prompted you to launch Thoroughbred Threads?
EC: After spending a lot of time at the racetrack, I noticed that mostly everyone wears a hat to proudly display their silks, farm or big horse. I also noticed there was a lot of room for improvement as far as the quality of these hats, so I started Thoroughbred Threads to offer an upgrade. Thoroughbred Threads offers high quality branded apparel and other promotional products catered to the Thoroughbred industry.
Can you tell us a little about your business model?
EC: I'm a big fan of giving back to the industry so we donate a percentage of proceeds from every sale to Thoroughbred aftercare. After an encouraging first full year in business in 2018, our sales grew by over 150% in 2019 so there was a lot of optimism going into 2020. And then Covid-19 hit.
How did you deal with the coronavirus pandemic early on?
EC: Like other companies during the shutdown, I began making more calls and sending more e-mails just to stay top-of-mind for when the time did come when my customers were ready to start placing orders again.
Previously, our website had been used as a landing page for prospective customers to see what we're about as our orders are very detail-oriented and so we traditionally hadn't handled a lot of e-commerce, but we have recently been accommodating a few clients who wanted us to set up an online store to sell their branded products to their own clientele. It's something new for us, but we're always happy to learn new things and help make life easier for our clients.
People are usually stocking up on polo shirts and lightweight hats and vests to wear on the backside or golf course in the spring time, but now they're looking for branded face masks and hand sanitizer. I'm very grateful for the manufacturers who are able to adapt in this sort of environment to meet this new demand.
How did the economic uncertainty impact your business?
EC: I knew sales would suffer during the early days of the pandemic when auctions and other events were canceled and many racetracks shut down overnight. You know it's pretty serious when Churchill Downs is willing to postpone the Kentucky Derby! With so much uncertainty on the calendar, it put ordering on hold as marketing departments had little to promote. For the others who were still operating, many had to make drastic cuts to their marketing budgets. Thankfully, now that more race meets are resuming and sales companies are announcing new sales dates, the phones have started ringing which is a very welcome sound.
Do you have advice to other small business owners on how to weather future storms?
EC: I am blessed to have had a few other sources of income which helped to weather the storm as I also co-manage a few racing/pinhooking partnerships and I'm also a sales rep for U.S. Compounding Veterinary Pharmacy. I know many other small businesses aren't as fortunate and my heart really does go out to them. Now that the stock market has bounced back in a huge way, hopefully there are a lot of people out there who are eager to get out and spend some money (especially on some horses or some nice swag for their barn)!
For more information on Thoroughbred Threads, visit https://thoroughbred-threads.com/