Blue Ash Business Spotlight: Abstract Displays overcomes COVID-19 challenges

(June 22, 2020 - Blue Ash)

Businesses in Blue Ash have taken extraordinarily creative steps to overcome the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. In this Blue Ash Economic Development Business Spotlight Series, find out what these businesses have accomplished, why Blue Ash is the place for entrepreneurs and businesses to thrive, and why business owners still see a bright future ahead.    

Carla EngQ & with Carla Eng, CEO of Abstract Displays, Inc. 

Abstract Displays, Inc.
6465 Creek Road
Cincinnati, OH  45242

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about Abstract Displays and why you located in Blue Ash?
A: My husband, Michael, and I founded Abstract Displays to fill a need for a company that truly cared about the client and their brand. We created award-winning exhibit designs for trade shows throughout the world. We’ve been located in Blue Ash since 2001. We selected Blue Ash for its strategic location, just north of downtown Cincinnati, yet a quick drive to Dayton and Columbus. We knew that Blue Ash would become a major growth corridor, with diversity of businesses, community, and culture

Q: How did the COVID-19 pandemic impact your business?
A: COVID-19 caused the live event industry globally, to come to an abrupt halt. Large gatherings were prohibited; convention centers became emergency care facilities. Many shows were cancelled, while others were postponed.  Even now, there is still uncertainty as to when shows will be allowed to resume. Without clients going to shows, there was no longer a need for exhibition materials or services that we would normally provide. It was a major shock to the system, but being entrepreneurs we knew we had to change our business model, creatively and quickly, in order to find a new normal for us and our clients. (continue reading below) 

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Q: What did you do? What adjustments did you have to make?
A: Many clients rely on a tradeshow to sell and launch new products and it is a pipeline for their future business. We needed to come up with a solution that created the same look, feel and vibe of the tradeshow floor, and we knew a Virtual Trade Show was not the answer. Most virtual trade shows don’t allow for interaction and lose the human element, it isn’t a replacement for a face-to-face event. So we pivoted our business to provide a solution for them. The dilemma was, “how could we give our clients the human interaction they need when shows are prohibited?” Our solution was a new program called VidExpo,! We turned our warehouse and showroom into a filming studio. We are creating a private tradeshow for our clients to take to their clients that allows for real human interactions, live demos and Q & A sessions. We utilize the clients existing exhibits or they can rent an exhibit that has their branding. We are partnering with a local video production team for videos and photography. Clients now have content to push out via social media or websites. The webcast is live which allows for interaction, chat rooms, polling and surveys, the client now has a live event! Our program also provides clients with data and metrics to measure the success of the event and provide leads for future events. One client had an attendance rate of 66% from the invitations that were sent out. On average, a webinar event that is static with no interaction and just a slide presentation you are looking at 46%. There is definitely something to be said about doing a live event!

Q: What’s next for your company? What do you think the future holds?
Like many companies in our industry, it is a day-to-day situation when it comes to convention center business.  We have convention centers opening, but then the trade show organizer decides to postpone or cancel because they can’t get people to travel. It is such a strange time. This is why we pivoted our business to adjust to the new “normal” starting at the end of March. We didn’t know what the future was going to hold, so we did what we do best, adjust and do it quickly. I know the future will look very different in our world. Ours is a $1.1 trillion dollar industry, with 6,640,000 jobs relying on live events, so it isn’t going anywhere. We need more advocacy for our industry in D.C.

Q: What advice would you give to other business owners facing COVID-19 related challenges? 
Don’t bury your head in the sand, assume it is going to get worse but plan for the worst case. Talk to your CPA and your corporate lawyer, and learn what others in your industry are doing. Reinvent yourself and find a way to make yourself and your company relevant to your customer. When this is all over, it will be the relationships that show you truly care about their business and what you can do to help THEM be successful in this very trying time.

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 Has your company had to create new products or services to meet your customers’ needs due to COVID-19? Email Economic Development Director Neil Hensley and your company could be featured in a future Business Spotlight.