US sports company loses millions during pandemic, founders ‘trust God’ and launch new thriving business

Christian couple Alex and Kelsey Carroll pivot their business to help prep churches, businesses reopen safely, May 2020 (PHOTO: The Christian Post/130 Agency)

Originally published in The Christian Post.

Among the many who have been affected by the global pandemic with COVID-19 are Alex and Kelsey Carroll, whose million-dollar sports business, Toss Up Events, went from millions of dollars in signed contracts to zero revenue in one day. The couple decided to trust God, switch gears and now have a business that is blessing companies all across the nation.

Toss Up Events had served Pepsi, The Dallas Cowboys, NASCAR and others with their extensive sporting events but after the World Health Organisation declared coronavirus a global pandemic, their business went from doing seven figures and 12 full-time employees to having millions in signed contracts gone.

They were forced to furlough everyone but instead of turning to the government for assistance for them and their employees across the country, they saw the need to create Stand Up Stations with safety equipment such as hand sanitiser for churches, buildings, offices and stadiums.

In just six weeks, the Carrolls began manufacturing customisable hand sanitiser stands, complete with dispensers and liquid hand sanitiser. They launched on May 1 and in just the first two weeks the new business sold over 500 Stand Up Stations to Dallas-Fort Worth businesses and began shipping out nationally. They’ve also been able to continue working with all of their employees in sales and operations roles without loans.

The following is an edited transcript of The Christian Post’s interview where both Alex and Kelsey Carroll talk about how they were able to switch gears and trust God in a time of such uncertainty.

The Christian Post: Can you share about what Toss Up Events was doing before the pandemic hit and what happened to your events as a result of the lockdown?

The Carrolls: Over the last three years, our company Toss Up Events has been building interactive experiences for fans outside stadiums and festivals: football tosses, giant cornhole, golf chipping, soccer games, things like that. We had developed a client list of well-known brands and pro-sports teams, including The Dallas Cowboys, Jeep, Pepsi, and the Golden State Warriors.

On March 11, 2020, we were set to have the most profitable weekend in our three-year history. We had teams out on the road for events in five different cities: big events like the Houston Rodeo, Big East Basketball at Madison Square Garden, and NASCAR at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.

March 11 was also the day the WHO declared coronavirus a global pandemic.

With the abrupt cancellation of pro-sports and public gatherings, we went from doing seven figures in business and employing 12 people full-time, to all of our clients’ events being cancelled and everything evaporating in one day. We were shocked and devastated.

CP: Many people have experienced job and revenue loss during this time period. What motivated you to redirect your loss into something that can be of help to both your livelihood and others?

The Carrolls: When you’re going through something really difficult, especially when it’s completely out of your control like this, it’s easy to question things, like “Why is this happening to me? How did I not see this coming?” We started moving forward by taking the focus off ourselves and figuring out a way to get our employees back, fast. That goal helped shift our perspective.

We thought, how could we provide a service that would be needed right now? What could we contribute? Not when pro-sports came back, but right now. Football toss games, while very fun, are not helpful during a global pandemic, so we had to think outside the box. We simply couldn’t afford to wait until the events were rescheduled.

We knew that hand sanitiser stations would be critical when events started up again, and we had the relationships with the vendors to build them. So at first, we started offering them to our Toss Up Events clients. Then we realised that all types of businesses and venues would need these. As you can imagine, the demand for sanitation equipment is high everywhere.

CP: Where should people put their hope in times like these where there are no definitive answers from anyone?

The Carrolls: Jonathan “JP” Pokluda, a pastor based in Waco, Texas, says, “If dependence is the goal, then weakness is an advantage”. The more we trust God, the more we realise how futile it is to try to do something without Him. Even though we believe that God has a plan for us, there’s no guarantee that the plan yields financial success or worldly comfort.

In fact, it’s in the deepest trials, when we’ve given all we can, that God’s plan is more fully revealed. Our eyes are fixed on Him alone, which enables us to become even more dependent on Him. We believe that taking our struggles to God in prayer and meditating on Scripture relieves fear and anxiety and gives us a peace that transcends all understanding.

CP: Your safety equipment of hand sanitiser will be a big help to church buildings, offices and stadiums all across the country as the nation begins to open up again. Are you preparing to continue providing your Stand Up Stations long term?

The Carrolls: We are working on building Stand Up Stations to become a long-term business. We think safety equipment like hand sanitiser stations will be a necessary fixture for venues, businesses, churches and retail for the foreseeable future.

As sanitiser stations become more commonplace, we wanted to manufacture something that would withstand the increase in usage. We are not trying to make the cheapest station on the market or compete with flimsy stands that just prop the dispenser up. We are building premium, heavy-duty stations that are more like semi-permanent structures that will last for years, not something that could easily get knocked over or become damaged.

To make things easy, we sell everything as a package. Every sanitiser station includes a heavy-duty stand with logo customisation, one dispenser, one water-absorbent mat, and one gallon of hospital-grade liquid sanitiser. That way, the customer doesn’t have to spend time trying to procure all of those elements separately.

CP: Has it been a challenge having to change gears from sporting events to providing hand sanitising stations?

The Carrolls: From an equipment standpoint, it has been a huge challenge to switch gears from Toss Up Events. Hand sanitiser was not on our, or anyone else’s, radar two months ago. We were, however, equipped with the right people to help us carry out this transformation. Planning and executing live events, like our team did for Toss Up, is really hard work. We knew our team was resilient enough to pivot with us and thrive in these uncharted waters.

To keep up with the demand, we’ve been able to employ more people than Toss Up Events ever did. It’s been so fun to build the business of Stand Up Stations, enabling us to bring our employees back, reengage our vendors, and even hire photographers, videographers and web designers who were impacted by the shutdown.

CP: Can you share what you believe God has taught you guys in all of this?

The Carrolls: In case there was any doubt, we received clear communication from God that we are not in control. He’s got this.

Repeat this to yourself: “I am not in control”.

When Toss Up Events was forced to pause, we quickly realised that the only thing we could control is how we responded. So we looked outward and went from there.

Our advice to people struggling to cope with the uncertainty of the future would be the following: Take the focus off yourself. Fill a need, even a small one. Start with what you have and what you know. Build on that. Serving others is an effective way to change your perspective and start moving forward.

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