Written by Nevia Lopez, Director of Talent & Culture and Heather Emerson, Founder at Prep To Your Door
The ﬁrst shift Prep To Your Door made was requiring face masks even though there was no State or Federal mandate. Heather was a medic in the United States Air Force, and knew medical protocols to prevent disease and germ transmission. Faiez bought cotton T-shirts for staff to wrap around their faces. The next step was to increase sanitation practices. Each staff was assigned an area to wipe down, like door handles, or faucets, with extra focus on frequently touched places. We checked temperatures every morning. We increased our delivery standards, including gloves changed at every stop, sanitizing the bags, and even wiping the steering wheels and radio buttons of the delivery vehicles.
We also had to create a COVID delivery driver protocol. Then Prep To Your Door moved into a new 4000 square foot facility during the middle of the pandemic. This was oddly comforting as we got to create a safe open space for our team, and no longer had to share a commercial kitchen with three other companies. In addition to the masks on shifts, the company purchased face shields, to cover moments when staff was unable to remain six feet apart. With the face shields came fogginess & claustrophobia challenges for some of our kitchen team, so we explored goggles.
It’s safe to say ﬁnding the right PPE for our team was deﬁnitely a journey. Our biggest win was providing short term disability coverage that will allow team members to be paid a salary should they receive a COVID positive test. This keeps our staff safe. The company included all staff in return back to work policy conversations, which includes a negative test after air travel, to ensure everyone feels safe during this unprecedented time.
At ﬁrst, it was navigating the many emotions our team faced and working together to create a safe space for us to express fears and concerns.
In addition to managing our team, the biggest challenge was making decisions without any guidance. For example, one of our team members tested positive for COVID. Due to our mask and face shield policy in place, we were fairly positive that it was not transmitted to others, but we had to be sure. We scheduled testing for everyone and waited for results. While no one else tested positive, we still wondered if we should shut down the business for 14 days to allow for quarantine. We didn’t want to be a part of the overﬂowing hospitals contributing to more deaths.
Instead of staying still and waiting for things to open back up, we decided to take a chance on growth: We launched Houston deliveries. We are still navigating the growing pains that come with a new market launch, but we are happy to be offering a reliable, organic, meal service to other Texans at a time when everything feels a little unpredictable.
Recognizing that we were able to provide our team a stable source of income during a pandemic was one of the most gratifying experiences for us. Our team grew closer because of this shared collective experience of being essential workers. In addition, we got to create and bring love into our new east side headquarters.
We also moved all of our meetings to a virtual format, which allowed for all members to be a part of them. COVID may have taken away our ability to congregate in close quarters, but it did not take away our ability to create a culture based on trust, compassion, and conscious communication. In addition, we started book clubs which covered topics like using nature inspired lessons for leaders of today, and business concepts like open-book management.
These many variables simply added another layer of purpose to our mission of delivering healthy food to people during a time where immunity was at the forefront of our concerns.
While we have much to learn, we are stronger because of the challenges we faced. We now have our own headquarters with the space we need to carry out all of our operations, fully developed departments, and an entire leadership team with salaried packages. We couldn’t have gotten through this pandemic without our team in place.
Having a team as dedicated to our mission as ours is, has allowed us to show up for the community in even bigger ways. Given the recent winter storm we had, we were able to boil & distribute over 800 gallons of clean water to Austinites affected by the water boil, raised over $20,000 to serve meals to Texans in need, delivered over 2,000 organic meals, distributed over 200 vegan sandwiches to Houstonians, and partnered with Johnson’s Backyard Garden to distribute over 100 CSA boxes of fresh produce to Houston.
The pandemic has increased our capacity to give back to the local community, and in alignment with our fellow UT saying , we truly believe that what starts here changes the world.
“We also had to create a COVID delivery driver protocol. Then Prep To Your Door moved into a new 4000 square foot facility during the middle of the pandemic. This was oddly comforting as we got to create a safe open space for our team, and no longer had to share a commercial kitchen with three other companies.”
“Instead of staying still and waiting for things to open back up, we decided to take a chance on growth: We launched Houston deliveries. We are still navigating the growing pains that come with a new market launch, but we are happy to be offering a reliable, organic, meal service to other Texans at a time when everything feels a little unpredictable.”