Streaming through a pandemic, Creative Edge - Cape Girardeau, MO
- Published: Monday, Aug. 31, 2020
When you own a small business with a bulk of clients that are real estate brokers, you quickly realize that it’s hard to sell houses when no one is listing them and everyone is staying at home because of a pandemic.
Just ask Jason Wray and his staff at Creative Edge.
Wray founded Creative Edge in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, in 1999, largely as a real estate marketing agency. His primary goal was to build a company that helped businesses “create their edge in the marketplace.” The company now produces nearly 50 real estate TV shows across the country. Recently, Wray added a Creative Services division that works with other industries, including agriculture, health care, and manufacturing.
At the end of 2019, Creative Edge was considering new ways to help its clients expand their reach in the marketplace.
“With broadcast TV being somewhat on the decline, we naturally started thinking: what are some ways we can add more value to our TV-based clients?” said Austin Bollinger, vice president of Strategic Development at Creative Edge.
Their answer: streaming channels. Creative Edge set out to put their real estate brokers onto a new streaming platform in addition to broadcast TV.
“And then COVID happened,” said Bollinger.
In mid-March, Gov. Mike Parsons declared a state of emergency in Missouri in response to the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, becoming a worldwide pandemic. The Creative Edge team needed to try something new to offset some of the lost revenue. Before the month was out, Bollinger had contacted Jakob Pallesen at the Missouri Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Southeast Missouri State University for help with market research.
One of the safety protocols put into place to stop the spread of COVID-19 was limiting the size of groups. Gatherings of more than 10 people were discouraged, meaning large church services could not be held in person. Wray and Bollinger knew that many churches might be interested in setting up direct broadcasting for their members but would need help. Creative Edge needed Pallesen and the SBDC to help them identify churches they could reach out to.
A few days after consulting with Pallesen about market research, Bollinger got back in touch, along with Wray and Bill Cole, co-owner of Creative Edge. This time, the topic was relief: the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act; the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP); the Small Business Administration (SBA) Debt Relief program; and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program.
As soon as these programs started evolving, Pallesen immediately came to mind. “Jakob is such a help to me, and the SBDC is a valuable resource that brings comfort and confidence,” Bollinger said. “We had a couple of Zoom calls where he was trying to give us the most up-to-date info because there for a while it was changing daily, if not hourly.”
Pallesen walked through the PPP application process with the Creative Edge team, helping them understand the current situation and what the program was all about. “My goal was to make sure they understood the rules and the implications as we knew them at that point in time,” he said. He wanted to emphasize the newness of the program and that patience was needed and change was to be expected.
By mid-April, the money was in the bank — Creative Edge’s PPP loan had been deposited into their designated payroll account. The company had only laid off one part-time intern who was brought back, and they did not have to furlough staff.
Without having to worry about cash flow, Creative Edge was able to focus on the transition to streaming. They offered a free trial to churches through June 1. Over 30 churches across the country took advantage of the offer. Recently, real estate brokers have started returning to their broadcast TV shows. Nine have now started streaming channels in addition to broadcast.
While things were unpredictable for a few months, the Creative Edge team is now seeing things settle back down. In late-March, many of the company’s real estate partners said they were going to shut down their TV shows until August. After only four to six weeks, several of the larger clients called and resumed their shows, much earlier than they had anticipated. “The real estate market really didn’t seem to take that much of a hit,” Bollinger said.
It seems that as soon as people were free to leave their houses at will, many were ready to leave them for good. And that was a good thing for Creative Edge.
Writer: Victoria Knapp