COVID Creativity - Wicked Flannel
Business: Wicked Flannel
Owners: Molly and Ben McCoy
SBDC Advisor: Ed Miles
The story of Wicked Flannel and its ability to survive the pandemic, reshape its business plan, and emerge in a better position to succeed is not only the story of owners who overcame long odds, but of a town that believed in them and showed their full support.
Wicked Flannel owners Molly and Ben McCoy were driving home from a motorcycle tour of Newfoundland when they were struck head-on by a car. Molly, whose helmet cracked in half from the impact, was put into a medically induced coma. Ben eventually lost part of his right leg.
From their tragedy emerged a special bond with Hampton—the town where Molly grew up and where Ben spent many of his days—that is nothing less than inspiring. The story of Wicked Flannel, a two-year-old company that sells quality, affordable comfort wear and accessories, also serves as a great model of how businesses and communities grow together.
“Communities that support their local businesses are essential to the success of both,” says Ed Miles, the NH Small Business Development Center (SBDC) advisor to the McCoys.
“We were just two people running a business and we weren’t sure we were doing it right,” Molly says.
They are not alone.
According to results from the 2020 Business Resiliency Survey, conducted on behalf of the SBDC by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, fewer than one in five respondents had the proper planning to get through the economic stress caused by the pandemic and be in a position to bounce back. Of the 1,549 participants from 172 towns and cities, 73 percent said there is a clear need for resiliency planning in the future.
The McCoys were fortunate enough to be connected with SBDC by John Nyhan, president of the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce.
Nyhan knew the pandemic was forcing the McCoys to question their decision to keep their downtown storefront open. Like many others in Hampton, he also knew of their resiliency and determination to overcome the kind of adversity that changes lives.
When Molly and Ben were in a Canadian hospital after their horrific accident five years ago, they were having trouble being transferred to a hospital closer to home because of a health insurance issue. The Hampton community came together to raise more than $40,000 to fly them both to a Boston hospital and help with living expenses.
During their long recovery, the McCoys, now 26, began reconstructing flannel shirts that had been used as samples. At first, they gave the shirts away to family and friends. Eventually, they began selling the shirts. Wicked Flannel was born.
They rented a storefront in downtown Hampton and now partner with U.S.-based companies that manufacture flannel clothing. They also sell local craftspeople's products and are beginning to private label their own line of branded gifts.
“We wanted to find a way to give back to the town and we saw this as our opportunity,” Molly says.
While the store was closed in the early stages of the pandemic in regulation with state mandates, Molly began designing face masks that she would give away to people she knew. As the word of her designs spread, the demand increased. Molly ended up giving away almost 5,000 masks.
“We didn’t market them because we didn’t want to take advantage of the situation,” Molly says. “I wanted people to have access to them. And we would get donations that allowed us to make more.”
The couple also began working on building their online presence. Working with Ed, they were also able to manage their supply chain better and refine their strategy to make sure they had the products they needed when they needed them.
“First and foremost, he was able to give us an expert’s view,” Molly says. “Where to go for help. How to access cash flow. He was so instrumental in that process.”
The SBDC, which provides expert advisors to small businesses free of charge, helped their clients increase sales by $9.3 million in 2020.
Now that the store is back open, Molly says she and Ben are more committed to keeping their storefront and helping raise downtown Hampton's profile.
“We want to help revitalize downtown,” Molly says. “We can’t imagine leaving the town that showed us so much support.”
This client story is part of NH SBDC's ongoing collection of COVID Creativity stories about businesses surviving and thriving during COVID-19.