By JD Wang, Founder, reRubber (Ontario and San Bernardino)
This isn't my first pandemic. I was working in China when SARS broke out. We built up inventory because I had a feeling we would be shut down, which we were. However, the whole rubber industry took a nosedive. So I had no sales. We laid off staff and cut salaries. I was taking in scrap tires because the supply side of the business is considered essential. But it’s a catch-22 because I can't continue taking in scrap tires when I can't sell the rubber.
So we pivoted - to save my company and staff. Many of them have been with me for over a decade, they’re like family. We looked at our strengths, weaknesses, and analyzed resources. We have a strong background in chemistry and material science, mixing, and formulation. We utilized it to manufacture hand sanitizers and to R&D surface disinfectants. The task forces, committees, and association boards I sit on all came together. We talked about our country's supply chain, where things are at, and how we respond as a community. I looked at what was needed. Now we're gearing up to bring back all of my labor. So we've pivoted pretty quickly.
As a local San Bernardino County manufacturer, my commitment is to get our sanitizers and disinfectants to first responders and essential industries in our region. I’m not packaging a consumer product. I’m fully focused on getting it to first responders and setting up my distribution channels for that.
We need a local system - as the pandemic has shown just how weak a global supply chain is. Our business model is based on protecting our local economy - a circular economy or a sustainable economy. One thing that has lifted my spirits is a call to action for all small businesses to collaborate, to share resources, to connect. Small businesses can pivot much better and address a local need faster than a large corporation.
This is a great opportunity to take a pause and serious deep analysis at what our local region needs and how we can play a part in fulfilling the supply chain. For example, I’m sourcing equipment and raw materials from small businesses in California, and they're helping me. While I’m a new customer, they're putting me on the shortlist.
Small business owners need to align - but we must reopen carefully and intentionally and not rely on foreign imports as heavily and see how we can leverage what our County and country is able to supply from a local perspective.
Key Takeaway: Small businesses pour everything back into their local economy. You're not helping a CEO or stockholders buy a vacation home, you're helping a local resident put their kids in camp or purchase goods from the local economy. Working together is the best way to help right now.