Running an online business … when the power goes out – Marketplace

Around 400,000 Texans are still without power as of Thursday afternoon amid freezing temperatures. For Texas businesses, the winter storm and ensuing power outages are another obstacle on top of the pandemic.

“Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal talked with Jess Evans, the co-founder of Get It Gals, an Austin company that hosts trivia and game events. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Kai Ryssdal: Hey Jess, Kai Ryssdal in Los Angeles. How are you?

Jess Evans: Kai! How’s it going?

Ryssdal: I’m good, I’m good. How are you? You sound very, very chipper for a woman who’s got to be freezing and probably sitting in the dark and worried about her business.

Evans: It is so cold. I am so worried about the business. But we’ve started to get a little bit of good news today. And so we’ll take the good news where we can get it.

Ryssdal: Fair enough. Well, tell me first of all, in all seriousness, how you doing? I mean, are you in an apartment that’s 50 degrees on the inside, or what’s the deal?

Evans: You know, our condo we had to leave. We lost power Sunday night. It got down into the 30s. They cut the water because mains were starting to break, pipes were busting. So we were lucky enough to have a neighbor that had a Jeep. He was willing to drive us to some family who luckily they’ve still got heat. The water is, you know, just kind of at a drip. And it’s a boil notice now, but heat is kind of the No. 1 thing that’s keeping us going.

Ryssdal: Yeah, I bet. So let’s talk about the business and keeping things going. First of all, how’s it going with Get It Gals?

Evans: You know, it was such a passion project from the start. And when the pandemic really hit Texas, we were really worried that there’s no way we can pivot a live in-person events company to exist in the virtual space. But we were able to do it then. I don’t quite know how to pivot and be as resilient this go-round. But we’re just hoping that you know, folks can stay safe, and that even if we’re out of commission for just a couple of weeks that we can get things back on track once folks are able to just kind of release a little bit of that stress that they’re holding on to right now.

Ryssdal: Just to back up a little bit, how did you engineer that transition from a dynamic live events, go to a bar or a club or whatever and have some fun to virtual when not long into this thing, everybody was like, “Ugh if I have to do another Zoom, I’m gonna jump out a window,” you know?

Evans: Yeah, well, since we were doing trivia and what we call muzingo, our music bingo game, rather than folks being super focused on maybe a shared screen where somebody is going through a slide deck, instead, it was all about, OK, you’ve got either your trivia screen up or your bingo card pulled up, so that it kind of pulls the focus out of the Zoom, but still allows for a little bit of a sense of normalcy. And the best part about it is on Zoom, folks are able to unmute whenever they’re feeling like a little trash talk for the folks that are also on the call with them.

Ryssdal: OK, so let’s talk better days to come. Obviously, it’s gonna warm up in Texas at some point and things will start working and you’ll have electricity and Wi-Fi and your virtual business will get back on track. What are you guessing? What are you hoping is going to be something close to normal? When are you going to get there do you think, and you’ll be able to go out and do this stuff?

Evans: Great question. One thing that this last year has taught us is to be really willing to pivot and to be OK with having to throw well-made plans in the trash. We’ve got a plan for returning. And until then, it’s just kind of a waiting game of when can we feel really confident that we can put on a safe and solid event. You know, we need a strong internet connection for that at the very least, so right now that’d be the No. 1 priority here in Texas.

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