StageKings: how can business pivot from the main stage to the home stage

The outbreak of Covid-19 has affected people around the world. There hasn’t been a single industry that hasn’t had to scale back its operations, or diversifying its production to weather the storm.

Here at Vonto, we are committed to providing insights to small businesses,that could be through our free analytics tools, or by bringing you inspirational stories of businesses that have found innovative ways of surviving and supporting their communities in these uncertain times.

Stagekings normally build live event venues, and have worked on huge events such as the commonwealth games and heaps of music festivals. We were able to catch up with Nick Martin and talk about some of the challenges they have faced, and what lessons they have learnt in the last few months.

When you realised that the entertainment industry would be shutting down, what was your methodology for finding a new direction for the business?

We were in Melbourne finishing the build for the Formula 1 Grand Prix stage for Miley Cyrus and Robbie Williams when the PM announced a ban on public gatherings over 500 people. Then Live Nation (the world’s largest live event promoters) called us to say that they had just cancelled nearly $2 billion worth of live event jobs globally – in one hit.

That’s when we realised this was going to take out the entire event and entertainment industry with immediate effect. Within about 48 hours we’d had every single job for the rest of the year cancelled – which was a huge amount of work. Within a week of that we’d been forced to lay off all our staff – around 12 full time – and had no work for the dozens of casual workers that rely on us for regular jobs.

But… we weren’t going to be beaten and our minds were going at a thousand miles an hour to work out how we could survive. StageKings has always been a business of creativity and thinking outside the box – we do that every single day when we design and build our huge unique structures and stages. So we already have a truly exceptional and talented core team in place that is very adaptable, very creative and all understand the build process of design and production, and importantly, how to get a lot done very quickly!

We threw some ideas around and thought that Work From Home desks might be something that would be needed in this environment. We had a CNC routing machine that could cut large volumes of wood, and plenty of carpenters on hand, so we just had to come up with a design quickly that wecould market. By the next morning our Head of Production Mick Jessop had designed and 3D printed what was to become the IsoKing desk. Since then we have processed nearly 3,500 orders in just over a month.

So I guess to answer your question on methodology, it was basically just to do what we always do, but with a heightened sense of panic and adrenaline!

StageKings IsoKing Desk
One of the products from the new IsoKing desk range

With so much unpredictability in the markets, what has helped most in keeping the company stable?

In terms of sales it’s these new IsoKing products and therefore confidence to keep people employed and the business operating. The response we have been getting from our new customers is that, apart from the product itself, they love two things: our customer service and the backstory of how we pivoted.

So those things add a sense of stability, because it means that you build reputation as a business, not just for a product. We are now receiving around 50-60 calls and 300-400 emails a day about the products, and it’s fascinating hearing how much the Australian public have got behind supporting local business at a time like this. They almost think that it’s their duty to do so, which has been really encouraging.

Our Managing Director Jeremy Fleming is a very ethical and fair person, so from the outset he also said that if we were going to gain from this opportunity, it was the right thing to do to also support as many other people in our industry as we could along the journey.

So apart from now going from 12 to 54 employees within a month (most of which are other event colleague swho were left without work), we’ve also been donating money from every sale to Support Act, which looks after people in our entertainment industry intimes of hardship. We’ve already donated nearly $25,000 to them in the first month, and expect to be donating $10-15k a month every month as we move forward. It’s awesome to feel like we are in a position to help our event ‘family’.

StageKings founders
The founders of StageKings, Tabitha and Jeremy Fleming with MickJessop, Head of Production

How can you see this crisis affecting the future of your industry and what are you doing to continue your success?

Smaller events will likely start to come back as we head towards the summer at the end of this year, but most of the event business we generate for StageKings is from the very largest stadium and events in the country, so that’s not to our advantage. Large gatherings of people in close proximity is unfortunately going to present the highest risk for spreading the disease. Unfortunately, we are not convinced that the event industry will return to its full glory until maybe Spring 2021.

So, we want to ride the wave that are on with IsoKing! We are actively looking to significantly grow and scale up with new products and better, faster service, and a move into nearby international markets over the coming months. We are releasing new products onto our website every week at the moment, and trying to diversify – not putting our eggs in one basket!

StageKings inventory
StageKings now have 20 products in their shop

We are truly humbled by the sheer amount of support, kindness and encouragement that the Australian public have shown us as a team and as a company in the past month. We talk about it every single day within our team, and it energises us to improve, grow and keep doing what we’re doing. Finally, we want to thank you and everyone associated with ​​ for helping us share our story. Thank you!

Pass me that hammer, I’m building a pivot!

There is so much to learn from the guys at StageKings.

Understanding the value of your staff is crucial, not only for your daily operations, but also in understanding the direction your business can grow. Using carpenters, who are used to building massive stage structures, to build desks for tiny apartments can only work if you understand and trust their skills.

Diversification is strength. Maybe you are really good at one thing, that’s just not going to cut it in the long run. Continually innovating your product inventory is not just about having more arrows in your quiver. Having multiple areas of expertise will mean you are more stable in the future.

Look after your family. Donating to those who need it, supporting local projects or groups and going the extra mile to make a difference is no longer a choice for the business world. StageKings are making sure to share the love with people in their industry; who make all our lives a bit brighter in darktimes.

Check out their products and support them ​here​.