Distributor Barrel Maker (PPAI 782506, D1) in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, saw 95 percent of its business disappear in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. To keep itself moving and to support other companies in similar situations, the distributor launched its Saving Small Business Chicago program.

In a post on the distributor’s blog last month, Justin Moore, Barrel Maker’s director of operations, wrote, “Two weeks ago, I brought up the possible slowdown from the coronavirus in a management meeting, and it was an afterthought to me and the rest of the team. No one is glossing over the effects and hardships this is causing now. We are all asking, ‘How can we help?’ ‘How can we save ourselves?’ ‘How can we build community with the people who have contributed and nourished us throughout the years?’”

Barrel Maker created a virtual fundraising store, open to Chicago-area small businesses that wanted to participate. Local businesses chose the design of their custom t-shirts and Barrel Maker showcased them on its online store. Barrel Maker also worked with local businesses to establish their own online stores at no cost; the idea being that sale of branded merchandise would help these businesses support themselves as business slowed down.

The company established the Saving Small Business Chicago program with the goal of generating $25,000. As of mid-April, it had generated more than $61,000 in sales, supporting Barrel Maker and participating local businesses.