Business During COVID-19:
Prairie Sky Breads
Sep 21, 2020
What is Prairie Sky Breads?
Prairie Sky Breads is a bakery and coffee shop founded by Travis Gerjets as he worked to preserve the legacy and traditions of his Nana’s delicious breads, rolls, and sweets. Growing up, Travis’ Nana taught him the methods and recipes of her breads. As she began to decline in age, however, Travis and his wife, Brandy, worked tirelessly to master her traditional recipes/techniques and share them with the Minot community at their local Farmer’s Market. As popularity grew for his Nana’s legendary recipes, the Gerjets welcomed another couple, Zach and Jazmine Schultz, in on this business venture and opened Prairie Sky Breads in 2019. With a focus on community events, music, art, and quality products, the bakery has quickly grown into a community favorite.
“Having a bakery was not a plan I had in mind. But, as we sold bread at the Minot Farmer’s Market over the years, the response from…our community…was remarkable. Their support showed me that the recipes I grew up with are as delicious today as they were back then. So, we started Prairie Sky Breads to continue to share those recipes with you for years to come.”
Prairie Sky Breads has had to evolve their business plan from the very start. The COVID-19 pandemic hit just over a month after their grand opening, forcing them to transform their dine-in business model to a predominately curbside “to-go” business. This sudden transition created many different challenges for Prairie Sky Breads as they worked to promote their new business, accommodate for online ordering, and figure out everything else along the way.
“We joke that Prairie Sky Breads had a grand opening and then a grand closing, but that’s kind of what happened. We had to literally flip the business into something we never intended to do and to do so in a matter of days. There’s a lot of components that go into something like that that people don’t really think about…and going online is a big learning curve. Fortunately, our supporters were very patient with us as we worked to develop a system for our new business model.”
A few months later, Prairie Sky Breads was able to reopen their doors and take on another new business model. From figuring out space and capacity and additional cleaning, to meeting the demands of their customers and serving them well, the Prairie Sky Breads team stayed creative and on their toes.
Prairie Sky Breads' Creative Solutions:
Prairie Sky Breads followed two “philosophies” in order to face the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown their way:
- Find a “phone hero” – whoever answers your phone is instrumental to your business surviving and should be the kind of person who wants to solve problems. Otherwise, you make it hard for people to support you.
- Prioritize empathy – the best way to drum up busines is empathy. By asking yourself, “what about COVID-19 is making life hard right now?”, you can recognize the ways in which your business can solve those problems and make people’s lives easier. Then, bluntly tell everyone how you can do so.
The community of Minot has gone out of their way to support Prairie Sky Breads. They have had many individuals who volunteered to help pick up some things that the business needed to continue operation. In addition, the Downtown Business Association rallied together to put up curbside fences for pickup and cardboard signs indicating where to park, making it easier for their supporters.
Advice for Other Small Business Owners:
“Surround yourself with good people who are motivated to help you figure out new systems and navigate challenges. COVID-19 left us with no other choice than to innovate and having people on your team who will help you do them is instrumental to your success.