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2020: Our Year in Review

2020 was a hell of a year, to say the least. We are thankful that our team has hunkered down, remained nimble, and persevered through this past year. Here is how it all went:

January: Pop-up, Lookbook Dropped

We started off the year by hosting a pop-up in Old City to commemorate the removal of the Solari Boards from 30th Street Station. The activation was our way of giving Philadelphians, young and old, a way to operate and learn about Split Flap displays. Despite Congressman Brendan Boyle and Philadelphians’ effort to preserve the historical board, Amtrak removed it in January 2019. During the two-day event, guests were able to operate one of our Split Flap displays to enjoy the nostalgic sound we used to hear at our local station.

Before January’s end, we released the Winter 2020 issue of the Split Flap Lookbook to showcase our projects from 2019.

February: Welcome Josh

As we moved into February, we welcomed our first full-time remote employee, Josh Corcoran, out of Pittsburgh, as Director of Business Development. Since joining the team, his home-office space has adopted the title “Oat Foundry West”. Read about him here. Midway through the month, we appeared in a BBC article titled “Solari boards: The disappearing sound of airports” about our development into building Split Flaps.

March: Implementing Miro, Building Face Shields, Innovating from Home

On March 11th, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and by March 19th, Pennsylvania was in a state-wide shutdown to limit the spread of the virus. We applied for a waiver to stay open and shifted our manufacturing line to focus on building reusable face shields.

As the team was working from home, we implemented Miro into our workspace for remote collaboration. This virtual think tank allows us to collaborate with every member of our team to present our ideas from home. By March 23rd, we were in the prototyping stage of our Oat Foundry Face Shields, and in early April, we were shipping Face Shields to local essential workers.

Reusable Face Shields Oat Foundry
Miro brainstorming

April: Virtual Happy Hour, Supplying Face Shields to Philadelphia’s Front Line

Everyone was adapting to work from home in their own way, but one thing remained constant – when can we have an event together? To make this happen, we organized our first virtual happy hour event on April 3rd. Everyone was still new to the isolation and uncertainty in our lives, so a virtual happy hour with friends, family, and employees was a great way to experience some social interaction once again. Josh provided us with song covers from Rusted Root and Mötley Crüe, while everyone in the zoom meeting subtly headbanged.

By mid-April, Face Shield demand increased and so did our production. We shipped 10,000 face shields to essential workers in the City of Philadelphia.

Oat Foundry Virtual Happy Hour

May: Pillow Fort collab, Lookbook Digital

Once May arrived, we got the hang of increasing our digital presence so we made our Winter Lookbook available online for the first time, you can check it out here. We received a call from our friends at La Colombe about drawing up blueprints for “How to Build a Pillow Fort.” The tools required ranged from two house plants to bed sheets and couch cushions. Some structures are still standing to this day.

June: BBQ, Dropping a Sick Beat

For the first time since March, we were able to come together as a team – at a distance – to enjoy a picnic at the shop with mouth-watering catering from Butter’s Soul Food and Yards Brewing Company. We also released Oat Foundry’s first “single” feat. a Split Flap on Spotify and Apple Music.

July: Giovanni Webinar, Recognized for Zero Waste

After 4 months of living in a pandemic, we decided to host a virtual webinar series called “Masters of Design Innovation” with some of the design industries finest. Our first episode started with Giovanni Zaccariello, the Vice President of Global Visual Experience at COACH. Giovanni provided us with insights on everything from his design strategies to adjusting to a “new” life after COVID. You can watch the full episode here.

In late July, the City of Philadelphia recognized us for joining the Philadelphia Zero Waste Partnership Program. We applied to the program earlier in February and have since focused on composting and replacing single-use materials with durable alternatives.

“We are committed to Zero Waste because one of Oat Foundry’s missions is to improve our environment and our community; to that end, Zero Waste augments our waste reduction strategies that feed our greater goal to sequester more carbon than we emit.” -John Halko, Director of Innovation

August: New Product Ideas

As August rolled around, so did some new product ideas ranging from a grill that chars your favorite team into your burger, a six-foot spatula, and even a grill with a conveyor belt but nothing stuck. These food-related brainstorm ideas eventually came back to life in October.

In mid-August, wrote about our Fast Box project for the Philadelphia Eagles saying “How does the mastermind of a Super Bowl-winning defense improve his process? Technology, of course.” Check it out here.

Oat Foundry Fast Box

September: Welcome Kristy

We kept producing face shields as the pandemic continued to spread through September. At the end of September, we welcomed our newest employee Kristy as Director of Sales. Read about Kristy here.

Reusable face shield_oat foundry_4

October: Launching Bratwurst

With October comes our annual Oatoberfest celebration; except this year, it came with a twist. Social distancing was still in effect, so we needed a way to enjoy our favorite holiday from a distance. In true Oat Foundry fashion, we brainstormed the most fun, extreme, and borderline dangerous options we could think of. We started drawing plans for a Bratwurst Launcher and soon had a stainless steel “not a missile” launcher in our hands so we could serve our beloved Brats from ~200ft away.

November: We Vote

November brought the presidential election and we wanted a way to encourage fellow Philadelphians to exercise their civic duty to get out and vote. We postulated that our Picture Flap Display would be a great change of scenery during the typical September, October, November slog. We wanted to do it in a beautiful way that also challenged Philadelphia’s artist community to help so we ran the We Vote Art Contest. We teamed up with The Committee of 70, La Colombe, and The Voter Project to promote the vote. We received numerous submissions and thousands of votes for the 25 selected designs. Here are the fan favorites:

We also decided to donate 12,000 Face Shields to Philadelphia-area poll workers.

December: 2020 Yule Log and Chris Ramsay

As the holiday season was quickly approaching, we thought of ways we can engage with the Oat Foundry community one last time before 2021. We launched our very own interactive Yule Log live stream with everything from a crackling fireplace to snow falling outside. We had to put an Oat Foundry spin on it so we included a live Split Flap above the fireplace that you can send your own custom messages to.

The live stream started on December 11th and ran through the end of the month. On December 18th, Chris Ramsay posted a video in his Unusual series featuring an Oat Foundry Split Flap and giving a shout out to Yule Log. In all, the Split Flap received over 4,500 messages throughout December.

2020 is a year we will remember for a very long time. From running our very first pop-up event, to manufacturing Face Shields, to promoting the vote through the Philadelphia art community; we learned a great deal about our team’s capabilities.

2020 is a year we will remember for a very long time. From running our very first pop-up event, to manufacturing Face Shields, to promoting the vote through the Philadelphia art community; we learned a great deal about our team’s capabilities.

Build Cool Stuff. Give a Damn. Grow Purposefully. Have Fun.