These 4 Companies Are Trying To Solve the Biggest Reasons You Can't Go Home For the Holidays
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Holidays can be rough.

Each year they start earlier and earlier, with the constant barrage of requests to buy gifts for the people we love. Not surprisingly, we tend to get more stressed and overworked at the end of the year than any other time.

Every year we promise ourselves to do better, yet come January 1, we end up making the same resolutions. Adding to the problem is that as entrepreneurs, we’re so attuned to long work hours that when holidays come, we tend to ignore them and treat them like any other day. This can have serious detrimental health benefits.

In Japan, the term “karoshi” means “death by overwork.” Multiple deaths have been linked to karoshi, including 24-year-old Matsuri Takahashi, whose 105 hours of overtime in a single month at the Japanese ad agency, Dentsu, led her to leap from her company’s roof on Christmas Day in 2015. This led to the resignation of Dentsu’s CEO.

In the US, 16.4 percentof people work more than 49 hours or more a week, while 54 percent of people don’t take their paid vacation days. However, only 35 percent of Americans get vacation or holidays in the first place, which means if you’re not working, you’re not getting paid.

Combine that with another sobering statistic: The average credit card debt is $5,284 and one in 6 people have maxed out their credit cards at least once. People are less likely to spend money on themselves when in debt, further contributing to the cycle of working harder and longer hours.

So, when holidays come, many of us remain glued to our desks. How can we travel when we need to without breaking the bank and causing more stress?

Some companies have come up with intriguing solutions to the most common problems that keep us fromvisiting our loved ones.

1. Prices keep fluctuating

Hopper is a popular app that helps you to find the best prices and days to travel using their huge database of flight information. It sets up price alerts, and when the best price is achieved for your route, gives you the option to buy.

2. Can’t get away

Skiplagged is a site that lets you buy flights based on hidden-city routing. If you’re traveling last minute, you can often find great deals here, however you may not be able to check a bag.

Both Hopper and Skiplagged require you to purchase your tickets upfront. If you’ve maxed out your credit card or simply don’t have the money, there’s something for you as well.

3. Can’t find the cash

Enter Affirm, a financing company that has revolutionized the way people, especially Millennials, receive credit. Founded by Max Levchin, they take into account things other than your credit score to give you a temporary credit line to use specifically on sites like Expedia, CheapAir and Suiteness. Buying travel from a site that gives you Affirm as a payment option will give you an extended way to pay for it without having to add more to your credit card.

4. Need peace of mind

Once you’ve purchased your flight, you’ll want to make sure you get there. Freebird offers a unique solution for travelers who have already purchased their flight. For $19 each way, simply enter your flight information and if there are disruptions to your travel (delays, cancellations, etc), Freebird will rebook you on for no additional charge. You won’t have to worry about those hefty change fees, or sleeping in the airport when things go south.

After you’ve arrived, make sure you spend time actually relaxing and enjoying your time off. There will be plenty of work when you get back.

Nov 13, 2017
John Bork and Stephanie Lynn, standing six feet apart.
John Bork and Stephanie Lynn, standing six feet apart.

Editor’s Note:Although the officialSmall Business Weekhas been postponed, we at Inc. feel it’s always appropriate to recognize the teams and companies that serve the needs of their communities and help keep Main Street humming–and not just for one week!

Sweet Spot Skirts and WellHaven Pet Health are just down the street from one another in downtown Vancouver, Washington. Until recently, location was about all they had in common.

Sweet Spot makes and sells derrière-cloaking skirts in funky colors and patterns for female bikers and runners to wear over shorts and tights.But despite owninga 12-year-old Australian shepherd, founder Stephanie Lynnhad never heard of WellHaven, a $50 million company operating 41 veterinary hospitals that employ 450 people in five states.

WellHaven founderJohn Bork was similarly unfamiliar with his neighbor.”I had seen Sweet Spot but I never used it,” Bork says. “I didn’t really know what it was.”

From the awarding of government loans to the designation of “essential” status, coronavirus frequently has set Main Street businesses at odds with larger companies. But in places like Vancouver, where a very active chamber of commerce is an enthusiastic yenta for its members, large and middle-market companies have formed surprising partnerships with mom-and-pops to fight the pandemic.

For example, when Chandelier Bakery was unable to obtain flour to fulfill all requests for bread donations for frontline workers, United Grain Corporation, among the Pacific Northwest’s largest grain exporters, supplied the wheat. Ryonet, a $50 million supplier of equipment to screen-printing businesses, not only stepped up to manufacture masks and face shields itself but has also contracted with two of its small local customers, Brainless Tees and Opake Screen Printing, to decorate them.

And in Lynn’s case,the larger companyhelped completely turn her business around. Sweet Spot does between $350,000 and $600,000 in annual revenue, much of itat sporting events. On March 12, Lynn was selling at a pickleball tournament in College Station, Texas, while thecountrywas rapidly shutting down.

“I got on the plane in Austin, and by the time I changed planes in Phoenix enough events had canceled to take $50,000 off my plate,” she says.

The next day, she was sitting with her landlord, in tears because she would not be able to make rent. The following Monday she laid off her entire staff of six.

Can you make this?

Bork, meanwhile, had approached the chamber for help. Government and industry leaders had begun asking veterinarians to donate their PPE to health-care workers who attend tohumans. Bork wanted to find a local business that could replace his surgical-grade masks and caps with something that would protect animals during procedures. The chamber quickly reached out to Sweet Spot.

The next morning, four days after Sweet Spot’s closure, Bork and his chief medical officer, Bob Lester, were at Lynn’s doorstep with a model surgical mask and cap. Lynn called in one of her seamstresses and over the next two days created prototypes from the fabric used for her skirts.

With check in hand for just over $10,000 to cover 500 masks and 500 caps,Lynn brought back her whole staff. “She would text me when she had 60 or 100 made,” Bork says. “I would walk over and fill up my backpack, bring them back to the office, box them up, and off they would go.” Sweet Spot filled the entire order in just under three weeks.

Bork ordered another 500 masks and caps, which he distributed to other veterinary hospitals in Vancouver and neighboring Portland, Oregon. With each donation, he included Lynn’s contact information.A few of those practices placed their own orders. Word spread, and other groups–Vancouver public schools, an organization of home inspectors–reached out.

With skirt orders down 90 percent, Lynn launched Facewear Fashions to go after the consumer PPE market. Those masks, with names like Pinch Me Pink Floral and Doilies for Your Face, retail for $14. (Businesses, which receive volume discounts, still account for 50 percentof mask sales.) Lynn plans to cross-promote her product lines. Buy a skirt, get a free mask made from the same material. “I match mine all the time,” she says.

The collaboration with WellHaven continues. Bork made an offer to match any donations of masks to worthy causes by other Vancouver businesses. When the Vancouver Farmers Market reopens, Sweet Spot will have a place in WellHaven’s booth.

“Had WellHaven not come about, I don’t know where I would be,” Lynn says. “They saved me completely.”

May 18, 2020

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