Matt's Latest Update Letter on Hackberry, COVID, and the Family

In early March, COVID-19 turned from, “Should I pay attention to this?” to “OK!  You’ve got my attention.”  It also seemed like every business on the planet was sending out a response email.  Arizona had very little spread so far, so it seemed like people were using it as a marketing opportunity more than anything.  Then New York got scary.  A missionary friend was in Italy and was also reporting scary stuff there.  I decided it was time for me to write something, if for no other purpose than to let you guys know we’re OK and still going strong.  That email turned into a series of emails that we posted on the site.  In one of them, I offered to pray for people that were struggling, and the response was staggering.  There was a Saturday in April that I spent 6-8 hours, writing out the prayer requests, responding to the emails, and praying.  It was a blessing to be able to do that, but amazing to see what was happening within our world.  It was a window into people’s homes that made me excited to be able to be more than just a coffee company. 

For the last month, I’ve thought that I should send another update.  Arizona was in the news as an early state to have a surge in virus cases.  However, I haven’t been sure what to write that I haven’t written already.  As I outlined this email, I decided the purpose of this email is to do 3 things.  First, I want to give you an update on our business and how this had impacted us, as well as our plans for the next couple of months.  I’d also love to just update you on the Kellso family.  We’re an online family business, so we don’t have many opportunities to build relationships with our customers.  This is an outlet for that.  Lastly, I want to share with you how I’ve personally been redirecting my thought-life during this time.  I don’t care where you are, this is hard and we need to be focusing on the right things.  I redirected my own heart about a month ago and am doing a lot better.

When COVID lockdowns started, Hackberry sales grew at an unsustainable rate.  Customers were working from home and buying more online coffee than ever.  On the surface, I was excited and then reality hit.  Rapid crazy growth in a small business is terribly difficult to manage.  You generally do not have the staff to support it, you don’t have cash flow to keep inventory, you have normal processes that are built for x volume not a lot more.  We didn’t have enough counter-space and were making mistakes at unacceptable rates.  However, our employees are AMAZING!  They stepped up and made it work.  We hired where we could but mostly just sucked it up, kept our heads down, and made sure every order was sent in a timely manner.  It was exciting because I saw an opportunity for this company and wanted to capitalize on it.  If I had a choice, COVID wouldn’t be a thing, but since it is, I wanted to take an opportunity as an essential business to do it well.  Since the second half of May, things have dipped back down a bit and we’re doing great now.  We are at a level we can manage very well.  However, I cannot say the same for USPS or FedEx.  Earlier this week, I completed a shipping times analysis for May through July.  Both FedEx and USPS “promise” a 2-3 day delivery time.  Both are averaging closer to 4 days with about a day and a half of variability.  USPS is worse, but also quite a bit more expensive.  1.5% of USPS Priority (2-3 day) orders are running more than 9 days.  I’ve reached out to anyone there that will listen, but do not think I have much recourse.  We have an updated shipping policy, to give you the option to pick FedEx for $3 more.  If you want better delivery times, I recommend it but am not making any promises.  Package carriers are really struggling right now.

The Kellso household is probably not a lot different than many of your homes.  I asked Noah the other day if he was sad that there are only 4 more weeks left of spring break.  It’s just so weird that they left school for spring break and never went back.  Normally last week would be the first week of school.  Although we’ve never gotten used to Arizona’s early July start date, it is crazy how that day came and went.  We’ve been maneuvering the options available to us for the kids.  In our school district, they are starting online school next week and opening the schools (fingers crossed) in a couple of weeks.  We are very happy about this.  Online school was an option pre-COVID and we didn’t choose it then for a reason.  We believe it is in the best interest of our kids to be in school and are excited that we seem to be moving in that direction.  On the other hand, Jonathan will be starting his college career the same way he ended his high school days…online.  We officially hired Noah and in fact, are training him on roasting this week.  He’s excited because he will be using the money to save up for a school trip to Europe during next year’s spring break (assuming things are close to normal by then).  With temperatures exceeding 117 this week, the pool is literally too hot to use (I’m not joking).  So much is closed down, we’ve had a hard time finding ways to take advantage of the kids being home.  We’ve played lots of Quiplash & Fibbish, so we’ve enjoyed some laughter as a family.  I truly treasure those times.  Jenna took the kids to a northern Arizona town on Sunday to escape the heat.  Turns out the hiking trails are all closed because of COVID.  You will never be able to explain the value of that one to me in a way I’ll understand.  However, bowling alleys are open (with masks and lots of social distancing and sanitizing practices).  We’ve never been a “bowling family”, but it is air-conditioned and there is actual movement involved, so we’re all in!  I hope you all are able to find outlets to be able to exercise and grow your bonds as families.

I mentioned this earlier, but when COVID lockdowns started, I think we all expected it to only last a few weeks, maybe a month.  April ended and things started to open, and a couple of more weeks seemed reasonable.  We’re now into August and I really don’t see an end in sight.  I did some math while Arizona was spiking.  If the month of June, the month that had so much surge in cases we made international news, was the average rate of spread in the city of Phoenix it will take 4.5 years to reach herd immunity.  So, herd immunity isn’t the answer.  I learned very quickly, I needed to stop putting my hope on this thing going away and I needed to be content with exactly where we are.  I decided to go to the book of James to correct my very wrong perspective on this situation.  James 1:9-11 teaches us that we shouldn’t be motivated by things of this world because they all pass away.  When life gets hard, as a Christian I have to remember that comfort in this world isn’t the aim.  In fact, it isn’t even promised.  It is a grace that I truly do not deserve.  That has been helpful for me to keep perspective during this trial.  I hate the phrase “new normal” because I am not ready for this to be normal.  However, I need to recognize that in the history of the human race, the comforts we all had before COVID were not normal.  I need to be content where God has me today.  I need to treat this circumstance like mile 1 of a marathon, not mile 26.

It has been a while since I sent one of these emails, so I feel like I don’t know what is happening with all of you.  Feel free to write me back I love hearing your stories.  And once again, I’m happy to pray for you as you need. 

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