Making It: Akron’s Earthquaker Devices Shifts Production To Home Assembly
Editor’s note: This is part of a series exploring how Northeast Ohio entrepreneurs and small businesses have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and their plans for moving forward.
Earthquaker Devices is currently working on getting production back up and running with a small crew, but most staff remains working at home.
Maker: Julie Robbins, CEO and Jamie Stillman, President
Business: Earthquaker Devices is a hand-built, guitar effect pedal company in Akron
How have you personally been impacted by the pandemic?
Robbins: “Jamie and I were in Europe when the travel restrictions were announced. We were supposed to be there for another few days. We were in Belgium interviewing new distributors. And being away from our family at that time was wild. When we left all the advisories were, ‘wash your hands, no need to cancel travel,’ and things really got significantly more serious. We got in just in the nick of time before they were implementing more extreme precautions at the airports. So we were really, super lucky in that regard.”
Stillman: “The next place we were supposed to go was Norway, and pretty much the day we would have arrived in Norway they shut down all the ports. We probably would not have gotten out. We were lucky.”
How has your business changed since we last spoke in 2017?
Robbins: “Since we last spoke we purchased our building that we had been renting the previous few years. We also won the Small Business Administration 2019 Exporter of the Year Award, which is a national award that only one company gets. We’re always trying to do things better and taking care to make sure we’re contributing to the community we’re a part of.”
Stillman: “We’ve also released about four or five new pedals in that time period. One of them being the Plumes Overdrive, which has been our most successful release to date.”
How have you been staying creative?
Stillman: “I thought that I would play more guitar, you know, make more music, but I’ve just really taken the opportunity to get a lot of the ideas that have been in my head that I’ve been too busy to get out, down. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that most of them turned out to be good ideas. I think I’ve finished about seven new products that I would say I’m totally happy with. Personally, I’m getting as much, if not more, work done at home. To have all this uninterrupted time and have it all in our house, it’s really allowed me to finish a lot of ideas that I’ve had.”
Robbins: “I’m really trying to focus on being productive and being positive and not focusing on all of the problems that I can’t solve right now and just focusing on what I do have control over. I’ve also been doing paint-by-numbers, which I find incredibly calming. Very zen.”