Oyster farming is a tough business – but CEO Peter Stein’s determined grit as an oyster farmer served him well when the COVID-19 pandemic took everyone by surprise.
Peter has always been interested in aquaculture. When he found himself laid off from a job in the educational software industry, he decided to turn a difficult moment into an ecologically conscious and life-changing pivot: he started an oyster farm.
“‘Like many small businesses, I had to do everything on a very shoestring budget, and I had a lot to get done,” Peter recalls. “I was the secretary, I was the CFO, I was the chief marketing officer, I was the farmer, I was the delivery guy…”
Before long, Peeko Oysters was doing well – and projections showed 2020 was likely to be a banner year for the company.
Then, COVID-19 hit. Peter’s business skidded to an abrupt halt: “Our customers were gone in a flash. We went from doubling our sales to taking in nothing just like that. I remember saying I have got to figure out a way forward and quick.”
His solution? Switching to sell directly to customers – in other words, completely changing his business model on a dime.
From the planning and routing of deliveries to customer services and order management, Peter was able to handle it all using smartphone apps like Venmo and website integrations like Shopify and Google Forms. By networking with friends in the then-shuttered restaurant industry, Peter was able to tap into a market of hungry, quarantined bivalve aficionados through organic Facebook posts. He recently created a YouTube channel for Peeko and now produces weekly inspiration videos and guest content with chefs.
Thanks to these digital tools, Peter has hope. “When COVID first hit, it seemed like Armageddon for my business. In a previous age, it likely would have been. While I never thought an oyster farm would need so much technology to stay afloat, digital tools are what allowed us to adapt and survive. Now, we have hope for the future again.”