The pandemic has taken a toll on local business.
However, three North Texas entrepreneurs took something difficult and turned it into #SomethingGood they hope will inspire others.
Michael Bird, David Cleaves and David Fisher had been running a live event company in Dallas for years, called Ten Eighty Media. They supplied and set up all the equipment and mechanics needed for major conventions, trade shows, quarterly company meetings, and conferences across the country. They even traveled to Europe.
“We’re like the secret giant industry that people don’t know anything about. It’s like the magic curtain that people sit behind that make all the stuff happen,” Bird said.
The three have decades of experience running cameras, audio, lighting and more for big-name clients. Business was going well until things started to change earlier this year.
“We usually hear this stuff first from our clients because they reserve these large venues a year or two in advance. They’re making travel plans for thousands of people so their ear is to the ground,” Bird said. “All of a sudden, things started postponing and we started hearing of cancellations. That doesn’t happen because a lot of these times these companies spend up to $1 million to reserve these places.”
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Then when the pandemic was declared in March, their work was stripped away overnight.
“In about 10 days after our last show, we canceled over $2 million worth of business off the books. We are just looking at each other like, 'what are we going to do?'” Bird said.
With families to feed, panic turned into brainstorming.
The three men had close contacts who worked in the hospital equipment industry, installing germ-killing ultraviolet lights in operating rooms.
“We had all of this film lighting and we thought, ‘I wonder if this style of fixture could host one of these medical-grade germicidal bulbs?”’ Bird said.
After doing some research, tests and consulting with hospitals – Bird said they were able to retrofit their own lighting equipment from their event business with UVC lights.
“We were blown away by the results. It couldn’t have been any better. Our lights are meant to evenly spread lights for cameras and shoots, and that’s exactly what you have to do with these bulbs,” Bird said. “You have to be able to spread this beam across surfaces and air get the correct dosage and kill things on a viral level.”
And with that, a new venture -- PureBeam -- was born from the ashes of what they lost this year.
Now the entrepreneurs are sterilizing everything from offices to schools, homes and even the wrestling gym at Texas Wesleyan. They’ve even secured work with high-end realtors who need homes sanitized before showings.
The UVC lights that PureBeam uses have been in hospitals for decades but the technology has become more widely available and in demand now, due to COVID-19.
They were even able to hire back many of their freelancers from their event business days who lost work.
“These are guys with families. Now for the first time ever, these people are able to get some sort of employment,” Bird said. “You spend a lot of time with them in this industry. They’re good people, kind people. And it’s painful to see people not only struggle emotionally, but monetarily.“
Bird said he wants other small businesses to know that not all hope is lost in 2020.
“We’re starting to see a little bit of a light at the end of the tunnel. You just really have to, as we jokingly say, embrace the grind. Just keep going,” he said. “And focus on progress. Don’t dwell on what has already happened. Just got to work on getting yourself out of it. Stay positive."
Bird said Ten Eighty Media is still operating but on a much smaller capacity than before. They now help companies manage the technology they need to conduct meetings and conferences virtually.