GameChangers

On the Defense During a Pandemic

By Angel Harmon 
Last updated on January 27th, 2021 06:40 pm
Staci Wanichek hands out free hand sanitizer.

Imagine getting call after call from clients, throughout the country, cancelling their orders and pausing their accounts with you. That’s what hap­pened to Staci Wanichek, CEO, president, and national sales manager of Evergreen Labs, which specializes in cleaning products. The company is well-known for its Wine Away® red wine stain remover. When the pandemic took hold, Evergreen Labs saw its business grind to a halt. 

FEAR SETS IN 

“When the pandemic hit, all of my national accounts canceled their orders of flagship product, Wine Away® red wine stain remov­er for the remainder of the year,” explains Wanichek. “I remem­ber sitting at my desk and receiving the final email from one of my national accounts and I just sat there in silence staring at the blinking cursor. I was afraid.” 

Although business was slow, Wanichek continued going into the office, figuring it was a great time to clean and organ­ize. While there, she started receiving calls from customers asking if her company was pro­ducing hand sanitizer, because no one could find any. 

“One day, I received a call from a young man in New Jersey,” she says. “He was home tak­ing care of his mom, who had just finished chemotherapy for ovarian cancer, and he was desperate to find some. As I had him on the phone, I scoured the internet and could not find any, so I packaged up a bottle of hand sanitizer I had sitting on my desk and sent it to him.” 

It was this call that cemented Wanichek’s urgency to do some­thing and make a transition. 

THE PARTNER PIVOT 

Wanichek met with her sis­ter, Cassie Rothstrom, owner of Walla Walla Environmental, which manufactures environ­mental solutions for waste­water chemical treatments, equipment design and ser­vicing, and specialty additives and cleaners. 

These two WBEs recognized their opportunity to partner and produce DEFENSE Hand Sanitizer, and within weeks, they had retooled their pro­duction room, designed a logo, developed packaging, creat­ed a website, and launched a social media campaign. As businesses started to reopen, they teamed up with local companies in the area and supplied over 500 gallons of free hand sanitizer to help them safely reopen. 

“Delivering hand sanitizer to other companies and hearing their stories (and crying together) was some­thing I will never forget,” shares Wanichek. 

TRANSFORMING THE BUSINESS 

Now that DEFENSE Hand Sani­tizer has become a permanent part of Wanichek’s product line, she looks to continue and expand on her partnership with Walla Walla Environmen­tal by producing DEFENSE PRO, an Environmental Protec­tion Agency (EPA)-registered, chemical-free surface disin­fectant. The product is ready to use, contains no harsh chemicals or preservatives, and doesn’t leave any residue, and most importantly, the active ingredient meets EPA criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19. 

LESSONS LEARNED 

Wanichek also shares that even some of the best-laid plans can change in an instant, forcing us to adapt to what is going on around us—pivot in order to survive. 

“As Mr. Rogers would have said, ‘look for the helpers’ — it has been an honor to be able to help provide something that people need during this uncertain time, and I am so proud to say that we were helpers during this pan­demic.” 

For more information, visit www.defensehand­sanitizer.com.