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July 28, 2020American Tent Life

Believe it or not, we did not cover “Handling a Global Pandemic as a Small Business Owner” in business school. In fact, it wasn’t even offered as an elective--though something tells me curriculum will change to include this in the future. As the news grew grim and the virus came closer and closer to home, we took it one day at a time here at American Tent HQ. At home, I did my best to find a middle ground in my mind, to balance impulses to stockpile supplies and hunker down with urges to go out and mingle in the world while we still could. I am sure most of you can relate, and I’m happy to report that, so far, the Ehrbar household has enough provisions but not so many that we look like the Costco on Fury Road. 

At the same time I was worrying for my family and loved ones, I had to think about what life could look like at American Tent in the midst of a global pandemic. I took leadership cues from business I admire: big players like Starbucks who put people over profit and are paying employees even when stores were closed; local restaurants here in Green Bay, like Copper State Brewing Company who kept the kitchen open to make meals for the area’s homeless shelter. Our business partners showed tremendous leadership as well, such as our digital agency who jumped in feet first with a 12-minute long video pep talk that they sent to clients. 

What best tent manufacturers do in crisis

This is new territory for all of us, and we’re all just finding our way and making the best decisions we can with the information we have. So far at American Tent, we’ve made a few changes:

  • Office employees are able to work from home--thanks, technology!
  • We’ve adjusted our sick days policy so shop workers can feel empowered to make decisions for the good of their health without having to worry about job or financial insecurity 
  • We’re hiring extra staff to accommodate absences and increases in demand
  • We are looking into more ways to support the healthcare system; we are working with partner businesses to prototype disposable masks and face shields to help keep one of our nation’s most under appreciated resources safe as they work on the front lines

The biggest change, however, is truly leaning into one of our core values: Family First. It’s times like these when you’re reminded what matters most. For us, that’s our families and our American Tent family. We have children home from school who need parents, so we’re encouraging those parents to create a schedule that works for them during this uncertain time. Take care of your kids, take care of your elderly parents, work when you can. Normal office hours no longer exist when there’s science and religion to teach the school agers while you’re also trying to keep the baby entertained. Is this post being written at midnight? You bet it is! People have always been able to innovate and problem solve. We’re seeing so many feats of creativity in this new world order from all corners of the business world; it’s an inspiration. 

Tents for sale - changes in tent manufacturing

It’s a blessing for me and my employees, amidst all of this, that American Tent continues to be busy. With so many small business being hit hard by the coronavirus, I can only be grateful that things are going okay for now. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but the past week has brought this:

  • An increased demand for drive-thru testing tents that we make
  • A (successful) scramble to find more high quality staff to make sure we are meeting production goals 
  • New hires from a variety of industries that have had to lay off employees 
  • Implementing new quality procedures and standards to keep staff healthy and reduce the risk of sickness 

We are moving forward where we can on a systems level as well. We’re fine tuning our new website, which includes going ahead with the next phase of development. This means more tools, resources, and features will soon appear. We will be ready when the market is. 

Tent manufacturer strategy during a crisis

These are uncertain times. We’re all doing our best to stay safe and stay healthy. These are our priorities. If we have this, then we truly do have everything we need, no matter what the future holds. 

Stay safe and take care,


Tony Ehrbar's headshot

Tony Ehrbar

Owner & CEO

Tony's entrepreneurial spirit is woven into the fabric of American Tent (an Inc 5000 company), shaped by his experience running a successful event venue & tent rental service. His recognition as the Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2019 is a testament to his impact & dedication to his community. As the Co-founder and CEO of Renegade Plastics, Tony is leading initiatives in the tent industry to integrate eco-friendly, recyclable materials. Contributing as a board member for the Advanced Textiles Association (ATA) & the Green Bay Area Public Schools Foundation and being featured by Entrepreneur, Oracle, & Modern Weddings, Tony plays a pivotal role in enhancing the growth and success of the textile industry.

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