Crafting a Way Forward: Business Lessons from the Pandemic

Don’t mess with an entrepreneur with an idea. West Chester’s Kristin and Seth Hofmann stuck with their newly formed event décor company through the pandemic.

What happens when you dream of launching your own events business – finally take that step – and then a pandemic hits that shuts down the country for a good 15 months? You improvise, that’s what. 

This is the story of husband and wife team Kristin and Seth Hofmann and how they came to own Poke Craft Co., a custom-crafting event company, in the middle of the pandemic. 

How did you end up in the events business on the cusp of a pandemic?

Kristin: The seed of an idea was planted back in 2015 when we were planning our own wedding. I have always been big into crafting as a hobby, so I was excited to make some of my big dream wedding décor ideas come to life.

Then disappointment set in when I realized I was traipsing to dozens of shops to find what I needed. I was in and out of craft shops and ordering samples from online shops. It took months to get everything together in one place.

I remember thinking, “I can’t believe there’s not a one-stop shop that sells all the different type of décor that someone would want in their wedding that can be customized at one time.” You know, like wood sign boards, table settings, place cards, center-pieces.

Seth: I told her, “You love doing that. Just start your own business!”

But we didn’t start really planning the idea for the business until a couple of years later. Kristin worked a fulltime job as an ultrasonographer.

Kristin:  Then we had our son, so I spent time focusing on motherhood. It wasn’t until the end of 2019 that we really pushed forward the business planning and had a soft launch party among friends and family.

“We realized we were going to be doomed if our only pipeline was coming from big events. We needed to pivot and find a way to thrive without events taking place.”

Seth Hofmann, co-owner Poke Craft, Co. 
Table scape design by Poke Craft Co’s Kristin Hofmann.

Wow, great timing. How did the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown affect your launch plans?

Seth: We had decided that 2020 was going to be our big launch year.  We created a marketing strategy with a business coach and were really excited to show the world what Poke Craft Co. was all about.  

Then, of course, group gatherings, parties, and weddings came to a screeching halt. No one was planning events. That meant there wasn’t going to be any opportunity for business for us at all.

Kristin: It was a big let-down. But, I had been using my spare time to make personalized gifts for friends, and occasionally people would pay me to make gifts for their friends, too. So, I decided to add an Etsy shop and offer my personalization services to the general public.

No, it wasn’t the original plan for Poke Craft Co., nor was it sustainable financially to do one-off products, but it was a pivot that kept me motivated and it kept traffic coming to our site and social media. 

When did things start to change for you?

Seth: At the beginning of 2021, our neighborhood had a little block party – socially distanced, of course – to boost our morale after being quarantined for so long.  We decided to make some customized wine glasses to sell that said “I 🖤Rustin Walk.” People loved them, and we sold everything that we brought.

But the best part was meeting a realtor in the neighborhood who loved the wine glasses and hired us to create a box of customized home décor gifts that he could gift to new homeowners when they close on a house.

Kristin: We hadn’t even considered that avenue of revenue. We’d been focused on weddings and parties, birthdays and corporate events, you know? But working with realtors was a brilliant new lead for us. Not only do they represent a new market, they meet people every day who are going through big life changes – like buying a house. People who might be getting married soon or having their first child. That’s a great opportunity to introduce us to more of our target clients.

“We learned that there were other ways our talents could be put to use, we just had to re-think our business model creatively.”

Seth Hofmann
Kristin and Seth Hofmann on the day that started this whole adventure.

What did you learn from the pandemic? 

Seth: We learned a lot about ourselves as individuals, as a couple, and as a business. We learned exactly how we handle stress, and that we had to put systems in place to keep our work flow organized much further in advance than we originally planned. We realized we were going to be doomed if our only pipeline was coming from big events. We needed to pivot and find a way to thrive without events taking place.  We learned that there were other ways our talents could be put to use, we just had to re-think our business model creatively.

What does business look like these days for Poke Craft Co.? Are you worried about this new wave of positive cases?

Seth:  Absolutely we are. We are definitely seeing events being postponed again or canceled, and it’s so disappointing after getting all our marketing efforts in place to rev up after quarantine was initially lifted.  We will just have to continue to monitor the situation like everyone else, and we may need to have a strategy meeting again. But the housing market is exceptional right now, so by getting our foot in the door with realtors who love our customizable gifts, we’re still optimistic that business can push forward slowly but steadily until events can be our main production again.

What a crazy time to launch a new venture. Thanks, Seth and Kristin for sharing your COVID-19 story and special thanks to Liz London for pulling this piece together.

Plus, these four West Chester restaurants launched during the pandemic, and against all odds, are still going strong today. Check them out.

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