For some businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a catastrophe; for alumnus Mark Breton, it has provided an opportunity to meet public demand, which helped double his business.
When Mark graduated from Thomas College with a degree in business administration, he knew that he loved numbers – and a challenge. After graduation, he capitalized on several opportunities to grow his career, earning titles of Accounting Manager, Controller, and Director of Finance and Operations.
One quiet day, Mark got a call to join an exciting new startup, an opportunity that would challenge him to be creative and allow him to wear a variety of hats. Mark soon assumed the role of Vice President of CedarWorks, Inc., a Rockport, ME, company specializing in constructing custom wooden playsets and children’s furniture.
When schools closed, families found themselves at home with lots of free time, Mark reflects. The demand for premium outdoor playsets skyrocketed. As other businesses were temporarily closing, he says CedarWorks experienced record sales, double that of the previous year. They also enjoyed an advantage over competitors who relied on lumber sourced from China, which they could no longer reliably get; CedarWorks secured its lumber exclusively from Maine and Canada, allowing the company to continue timely production.
“While many companies had to lay people off, we ramped up quickly, hiring temporary workers. Employees worked 60-hour weeks for eight or ten weeks,” Mark says. “We also had to address staff concerns about workplace safety. I initiated strict guidelines – masks and gloves became mandatory, and we staggered shifts between our production, assembly, and shipping operations to prevent crowding.”
“For me personally, it’s been a great experience during a challenging time,” Mark notes. “How many people can say they managed a business that doubled in size from one year to the next? The pandemic impacted every aspect of our business, not just sales. In my role, I manage sales, customer service, accounting and finance, human resources, manufacturing operations, and order fulfilment – which were all significantly impacted. This experience has tested my leadership skills daily, but the education that I received at Thomas College really laid the groundwork for my success.”
*This story was originally published in the Fall 2020 Thomas Magazine & Annual Report.