May 22 2020 • by Deirdre Jannerelli • Business
The COVID-19 pandemic has not been easy on anyone, least of all, small businesses. But many small businesses in the SouthCoast area have managed to pivot in order to successfully navigate this “new normal”. One such business is Mallard Printing, an all-in-one “design/print/mail” company providing graphic design services, digital and offset printing, embroidery, bindery, mailing services, warehousing, fulfillment, and promotional products. Founded in 1998 by co-owners Robert Lunquest and Jeffrey Marques, Mallard Printing has become well-known in the Fall River area, serving a wide-range of clients throughout the SouthCoast and beyond.
Around the beginning of March, Mallard first began feeling an impact from COVID-19. Co-owner Jeff Marques explains, “We started to notice that events were being canceled. We have a big golf event that we do every year. We had already starting designing a book for it, and were halfway through with all of the table toppers for the event. Then, I got the call that they were canceling it. We also do fulfillment for a national coffee chain. We ship orders out monthly for their specials. All of a sudden, they canceled their promotions. That’s when we knew that the virus was getting serious.”
Like many other small businesses facing a sharp decline in sales, COVID-19 led to layoffs at Mallard as the business regrouped, reassessed, and looked at financing options. Luckily, the Paycheck Protection Program was a lifeline for the company. “[BankFive Commercial Lender] Will Mendonca has been phenomenal with our banking. It’s been a great relationship,” Jeff says. “When we applied for the PPP loan, Will was in contact with us every step of the way. Getting that funding is what saved our business. Without that funding, I couldn’t be doing what I’m doing now.”
Even after getting approved for the PPP loan, and having the necessary cash flow to hire their employees back and pay the leasing on their machines, Mallard still faced uncertainty and below-average order volume. While some business owners might start to panic in such a situation, Jeff and his business partner Bob have remained committed to steering Mallard through these troubled times. And, they’ve gotten creative with doing so.
Jeff was able to notice an opportunity when he fielded a phone call from a prospective customer looking for fulfillment services for his disposable mask business. After the customer came on board, Jeff asked to purchase some of the masks. This quick-thinking allowed Mallard to work with local businesses in the SouthCoast area, who by that time, were in desperate need of masks. “It’s not like we’re making any big margin on them, but it’s at least keeping our employees busy filling orders and shipping packages every week,” Jeff says.
Mallard was able to keep up the momentum by redesigning an extender that makes the masks more comfortable to wear, especially for healthcare workers who wear them for long periods of time. “We gave it a shot and it worked,” says Jeff. “So, we decided to donate them to essential workers in the community.” After getting the word out via social media, Mallard ended up providing more than 8,000 mask extenders in a single week. Jeff and his team were thrilled to be able to help the community by donating the mask extenders, but the material needed to make them was not cheap. As a result, another great idea was born. Jeff reached out to BankFive and Spindle City Auto Glass about sponsoring the extenders, and both businesses were interested. With the financial backing, the mask extenders have really taken off, along with the masks. “We’ve donated the mask extenders to Southcoast Hospital and St. Anne’s Hospital,” says Jeff. “We’ve donated kids’ masks to the police department in Somerset, and mask extenders to the fire department. We’ve given them out everywhere we can.”
Not only have the donations of masks and extenders been valuable to the community, but they’ve been beneficial for Mallard as well. “This was just a little gesture, but it’s done a lot for our company,” Jeff says. The masks and extenders have helped to increase Mallard’s visibility during the pandemic, and have resulted in sales from many area businesses. Mallard is now receiving orders for things like signs and posters that businesses will use to communicate mask requirements, and floor mats and floor markers to help businesses with social distancing.
Even with so much uncertainty in the air these days, Mallard remains steadfast in their commitment to their customers and community partners. They recently delivered “Mallard Cares” packages to their clientele in an effort to remind them that they’re not alone in these unprecedented times. These care packages contained essential items like masks, hand sanitizer, and mask extenders, as well as some additional items like chocolate and writing pads. They also included discount cards for Mallard’s non-profit customers, since the pandemic has hit many non-profits particularly hard. “I always consider my customers my friends,” says Jeff. “If they ever have a question, they have my cellphone number, and my sales reps are the same way. We’re all going through these tough times, and Mallard is here to support any business in any shape or form, with whatever they need.”
Mallard’s ability to quickly adapt to a changing landscape has been critical to their success, as has the company’s honest and timely communication with its employees. Even with all of Mallard’s triumphs throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Jeff is quick to point out that the battle is far from over. “It’s going to be a tough next few months to get through, but we’ll survive. We’re starting to be a little busier, but we’re not where we were before. No one knows what tomorrow’s going to bring, but I at least know that right now we’re doing the right thing and we’re on the right path. My business partner Bob and I always say that we have 23 employees that depend on us being open, and we’ll fight and keep fighting.”
BankFive recognizes the hard work, quick-thinking, and community-minded focus that Mallard Printing has displayed since the COVID-19 pandemic began. We are proud to call them a BankFive business customer, and we look forward to helping other small businesses navigate these difficult times as well.