Connecting with The Community: Managing Your Business through COVID-19

Connecting with The Community: Managing Your Business through COVID-19

The COVID-19 crisis has affected millions of small business owners across the world. We took time to talk with some of those continuing to make an impact in their communities and highlight how they are combating the crisis.

Read the responses from the six business owners below and we hope this helps you get to know some feature members of our community!

The business owners we talked to are:

Robin Levine

Owner at Express Employment Professionals
(216) 591-9125
If there's anything we can do to help companies, we're here to help. Our philosophy is we want to partner and help good people find good jobs with good companies.

Stuart Marks

Owner at Stuart's Promotional Products

Lisa Muskal

Owner at Regency Design + Build (
(216) 321-4444
After spending weeks in the home you love, you undoubtedly see things you would like to improve. Right now, is a great time to start planning those improvements because we are offering a $1000 signing bonus through the end of July!

Jay Fernandez

Owner at Minuteman Press
(440) 543-5547

David Ullmo

Owner at Four Corner Promotions

Chris Spear

Owner at Cobblestone Construction
If you are in the midst of a DIY project and get stuck – free phone consultations to bail you out! Also, as you are dreaming about what your home COULD be, now is a great time to start thinking and planning for that future!

Tell us a little about your business and who is your target audience?

Robin Levine, Owner at Express Employment Professionals

We are a staffing organization that does “evaluation to hire”. When our clients have a staffing need, they define in a pretty detailed job order what they’re looking for, and we will find appropriate candidates. Those candidates will typically work for them for a defined amount of time, and then assuming that the person does an acceptable job, the client will hire them as their own permanent employee. We also have some clients who are just looking for temporary help, and some who will payroll employees through us indefinitely, and some clients who want to direct hire.

Our territory is northeast corner of Cuyahoga County, what you might call the Warrensville Heights area.  About 80% of our business is light industrial, general labor, while the remaining 20% is administrative and professional placements.

Stuart Marks, Owner at Stuart’s Promotional Products 

For over eleven years, Stuart’s Promotional Products has been keeping the name of businesses out in front of their prospects and clients with quality promotional products and business gifts.

No one industry is a target. I help all types of people.

Lisa Muskal, Owner at Regency Design + Build

My husband Norm and I started Regency Developers in 1989 while living in Youngstown. We moved our business and our family to Cleveland in 1995 as our kids started school. During the transition to Cleveland we changed our name along with our focus to Regency Design + Build, better reflecting what our business had become. Norm had become a designer, and we focused on home remodeling with a special niche in Kitchens & Baths. Later we opened our showroom on S Taylor Rd! We now have over a thousand happy customers and have created over 500 new designs!

Our target market is Middle class America – people who are happy where they are – with their neighborhood and community! Not wanting to move, yet wanting to upgrade their space! Most of our clients are in the eastern suburbs, although interesting, larger projects have found us working as far away as Avon Lake

Jay Fernandez, Owner at Minuteman Press

Minuteman Press is a commercial printer that will print and put your brand/logo on almost anything to get your name out! We produce folders, plaques, banners, signs, labels and so much more.

Our typical clients are small business owners with 2-10 employees, although we also serve some larger clients like schools and hospitals. Professional offices such as lawyer offices and doctor offices are a particular sweet spot!

David Ullmo, Owner at Four Corner Promotions

Four Corner Promotions, while still open for business, is on a back burner while I concentrate on regaining my health and weathering the COVID-19 crisis. That said, while business has slowed down, I really haven’t! Right now my main focus is on the Great Ohio Health Hunt and, two great local organizations that make it easy to donate to help medical professionals help save lives. 

The Great Ohio Health Hunt is a project to encourage the community to come together and collect PPE’s/Face Masks for our essential workers. Every Tuesdays is a “Giving Tuesday”, brought to us by the efforts of the DuBois Family Foundation which is matching donations up to $10,000 to five local organizations for a total match of up to $50,000! If you wish to donate, you pick what county you’re from and it will list direct donation pages for Cleveland Clinic, University Hospital, MetroHealth, the Greater Cleveland Foundation Rapid Response Fund.

They make it easy for people to get involved and help, with pop up donation sites now in Kent, Ravenna, Cuyahoga Falls, and soon to be in Akron and many other local communities. Each location manned by volunteers so people can drop off prepaid gift cards, and it all goes directly to the health care heroes!

Chris Spear, Owner at Cobblestone Construction

Cobblestone Construction LLC is a construction/design/remodeling firm for the discerning homeowner in Cleveland’s east side suburbs. Major home renovation projects can be a significant source of stress for the home’s family. Cobblestone’s professional project management capabilities sets it apart in minimizing that stress with high quality, professional services executed to plan. 2020 is Cobblestone’s twentieth year delighting clients.

My best customers are suburban homeowners on the east side that appreciate quality materials and craftsmanship and have in mind a challenging upgrade to their home. 

What’s been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business and what are some actions you’ve taken to make a difference?

Robin Levine, Owner at Express Employment Professionals

The restaurant hotel business disappeared overnight, so that was a pretty heavy hit for us. Most of our manufacturers were considered essential, so we maintained a lot of our light industrial clients.

We’ve tried to do a good job of communicating to our clients, sharing with them subject matter expertise from our parent organization relative to the requirements of the government.  The technical information that if you’re a small mom and pop shop you might not have access to.  

Stuart Marks, Owner at Stuart’s Promotional Products 

Business pretty quickly dried up with the canceling of trade shows, expos and other events, but that created an opportunity for me to reach out to new potential distributors and investigate new marketing ideas.

I am reaching out to my customers, keeping in touch, connecting with suppliers.

Lisa Muskal, Owner at Regency Design + Build

In many ways we have been very lucky with the timing of COVID-19. We had planned to take a two-week vacation over Passover so we were finishing up a batch of jobs when the stay-at-home order hit. We have stayed in contact with all of our clients who had projects pending and will proceed when they are comfortable. So, the biggest impact is probably in the future as inquiries have dropped off significantly during the lockdown.

Norm and I are ‘Baby Boomers’, kind of caught between the tech hesitant older generation of our parents, and the tech savvy generation of our kids! We have learned new technologies to work with all generations and it has been great.

Jay Fernandez, Owner at Minuteman Press

So many of our clients had to shut down, and that caused our business severely cut back as well. We hope by the end of May or June that they will reopen and business will rebound.

We made some tweaks to our business and were able to pick up some more commercial business, producing lots of yard signs, banners and safety posters.

David Ullmo, Owner at Four Corner Promotions

Everybody right now just wants PPE. They want masks and hand sanitizer. Getting them is just a nightmare!  I’ve had an order with a factory that actually makes these items since March 13, and I can’t get any information. They’re open, they’re producing, but when my order is on the production schedule, nobody knows. Nobody is available to talk to you. 

I am helping a couple of friends and customers that need disposable masks or cloth masks and I’ll work with them and help them get what they need, but I don’t consider that ‘doing business’. It’s not promotional products as it was six months ago. People are not marketing, not promoting. That’s not where they’re at right now… Right now people are trying to put out fires, do what they need to do to get the doors open and legally, ethically, start their business back up.

Many are changing their business models. What promotions products are they going to need besides PPE and hand sanitizers? It will be stuff for takeout and delivery, whether it’s stickers or yard signs or banners and flags and display tents. We will be here to help them!

Chris Spear, Owner at Cobblestone Construction

Honestly, things have come to a complete standstill as most people are unsure of what the future holds and are reticent about having any additional people in their homes. Although construction is considered an essential business, most people are not seeing home renovation as essential at this time. That said, with everyone now at home staring at their four walls, a huge pent up demand may be building! 

We are taking this time to invest in our website and digital marketing efforts to adapt to this new era. Additionally, I am offering my services as DIY ‘consultant’ for my clients who want to do small projects around their home and need support (or encouragement) on how to do them! 

It’s been said that smart people learn from their mistakes, but the wise learn from the mistakes of others. What are some mistakes that you’ve made that could help others?

Robin Levine, Owner at Express Employment Professionals

I think, in hindsight, what I would have done or needed to do more is really hone in on the selling end of the business for myself as well as with my staff. To make sure that I’ve got the right players who are comfortable at selling, and make decisions sooner on if it’s a good fit or not with the folks that I’ve got in my organization. 

Stuart Marks, Owner at Stuart’s Promotional Products 

Always make good on your promises. Half the fun is starting and learning. When you are learning, you are going to make mistakes so keep moving forward and learn from it!

Lisa Muskal, Owner at Regency Design + Build

Entrepreneurs – especially husband and wife teams like us – make sure you have a Board and/or an advisor in place. The differences between home and business can get blurred, so you need that outside perspective to keep them separated and to help you face your business challenges. A Business advisor is the best investment you could ever make.

Jay Fernandez, Owner at Minuteman Press

One big thing I learned was the cost of not assessing risks well and having mitigation plans in place. Many will learn that lesson during this crisis! It is really important to have that ‘rainy day’ fund and cash reserve in your business.

David Ullmo, Owner at Four Corner Promotions

I am just trying to give back and be of help to any business or any association, as much as possible, and live my new abnormal life! I think that’s what we’re all doing.  So stay as positive as you can, and not watch the news!

Chris Spear, Owner at Cobblestone Construction

I guess I have been pretty smart then! I have learned from many mistakes through the years! Two key learnings: 1) get funding early – running a business that is under-capitalized is unnecessarily difficult, and 2) seek knowledge and build your skills – learn early how to work ON your business, not just IN your business. 

What is most inspiring to you today?

Robin Levine, Owner at Express Employment Professionals

I’ve been extremely inspired through this whole COVID thing at how people are willing to step up and help. They’re not waiting to be told what to do. How people are filling in gaps that have been left because we don’t have infrastructure to take care of things. That to me has been very inspiring!

Stuart Marks, Owner at Stuart’s Promotional Products 

My wife and I are okay, the kids are okay, friends are okay, what more can I ask for? I am having fun and enjoying my time in the world!

Lisa Muskal, Owner at Regency Design + Build

The simple things in life – I am a bird watcher – love to watch the migrations, see the beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

Jay Fernandez, Owner at Minuteman Press

People paying it forward! I had the guy in front of me in line at McDonalds buy my coffee!

Chris Spear, Owner at Cobblestone Construction


Podcasts! Construction is my career, but real estate is my passion. I have been listening to a series of Real Estate podcasts that have been incredibly educational and inspiring. They are like rocket fuel for my brain! 


Rick Phelps coaches business owners and their leadership teams to create and sustain cultures and systems with the goal of providing spectacular results.

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