Stepping Up

How Leaders Are Rising to the Occasion

Throughout the Small Giants Community and beyond, leaders are doing what’s right when it matters most. These are their stories.


Drew Patrick

DREW PATRICK | Skidmore Studio

In between conference calls with clients and team members, Drew Patrick, CEO of Skidmore Studio, heads to a warehouse in Detroit to help with the picking and packing process for Michigan Fields. Michigan Fields, a harvest delivery service in Southeast Michigan, didn’t exist last month — it was brought to life in a matter of ten days by Drew, the team at Skidmore, and their network of clients and partners.

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The global pandemic has altered reality in many ways, but Drew and his employees focused on two key takeaways: their business was slowing down for the foreseeable future, and grocery delivery was in high demand. That second point might seem out of left field for a brand strategy and design studio, but in fact, the team had been developing a plan for a direct-to-consumer food business over the last year.

“The COVID-19 crisis prompted us to step back and think about how we are going to adapt to this new environment,” says Drew. “It’s part of our company vision to create our own client and develop a brand we can wholly control and learn from — we even have a business plan for it: a food delivery company. It got us thinking: is now the time to pull the trigger on this?”

They did pull the trigger, and they did it in a big way: within ten days of greenlighting the project, the very first Michigan Fields deliveries were on their way out the door to Detroit residents.

A Clear Company Vision

If successfully launching a business from scratch in ten days sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. The business plan for Michigan Fields was in the works long before the current crisis — Drew developed it in early 2019 as part of Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses program. He brought it back and shared it with his team, explaining how owning their own entity would give them a chance to build the ideal client. Ultimately, they decided to include owning their own brand (or two!) in their company vision.

“This was not an off-the-cuff response to the crisis,” says Drew. “The road was already paved for us to put this plan into action, and it was wholly-aligned with our company vision. It’s an opportunity for us to be one of the best clients we’ve ever had while providing sustainability to Skidmore at a critical time.”

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Skidmore’s strong foundation — a clear, communicated vision and a thoughtful business plan — is what helped them identify opportunity amid a crisis in the first place. Their vision helped them make choices that align with their long-term goals, and the business plan allowed them to launch Michigan Fields as a long-term, viable business.

“We want to be the powerhouse creative studio in Detroit and the best place for Detroit’s talent to thrive,” says Drew. “Michigan Fields gives us a way to demonstrate what can happen when our creative teams have complete control over the direction of the brand. This is a long-term play.”

Strong Partnerships

Drew is actively involved in the Small Giants Community, and Skidmore Studio’s culture is built on the six qualities of a Small Giants company. One of those traits is relationships: Small Giants cultivate meaningful relationships with customers, suppliers, and all stakeholders. Since Skidmore specializes in food and entertainment brands, they already had great relationships with many Michigan food and agriculture businesses. When they decided to launch Michigan Fields, Drew and his team reached out to those companies to see if they’d be interested in working together.

“We picked up the phone and started making calls,” says Drew. “We had people setting up wholesale accounts for a business that didn’t exist the day before. We’ve found that there’s a great embracing of entrepreneurial adventure when you have the right sentiment behind it.”

Before long, Skidmore became a client of several of their own clients. Trusted Michigan brands like Zingerman’s, Guernsey Farms Dairy, and Michigan Farm to Freezer signed on not only as vendors, but to provide expertise and resources as they worked to launch Michigan Fields in record time. On the Skidmore side, their team of creatives leveraged their expertise to build an e-commerce website, figure out the logistics, and build a brand for Michigan Fields.

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“Our top priority was to start safely delivering groceries to people’s homes, as quickly as possible,” says Drew. “Our partners and our team rallied around the idea of fulfilling a need for our community, and they showed up enthusiastically to get it done.”

Planning for the Future

With the new business in full swing, Michigan Fields is now officially a client of Skidmore Studio, giving its team the chance to do its best creative work and stay busy, even if other client work slows down.

“Michigan Fields and Skidmore are complementary businesses,” says Drew. “One plays a role in the sustainability of the other. In the short-term, it will provide an outlet for underutilized time for our team, which allows us to protect jobs. We’re going beyond what we normally provide to clients and investing more time into Michigan Fields.”

Grocery delivery was already projected to be a growth industry, but the pandemic has powered its hypergrowth. Drew projects that Michigan Fields could have higher revenue than Skidmore in 2020. Michigan Fields’ success offers Skidmore — and its team members  — a layer of protection as they endure a slowdown in new business. In the short and long term, the plan for the two businesses is simple: be nimble, allocate resources, and support one another.

“In a crisis situation, some businesses make it, some fold, and others position themselves stronger than they went into it,” says Drew. “This couldn’t have happened on a whim: we had the right plan, vision, and people to pull it off.”

What do these leaders have in common?

These leaders are part of Small Giants companies — companies that prioritize their purpose and culture and invest in their emerging leaders.

One way Small Giants companies invest in their next generation of leaders is by enrolling them in the Small Giants Leadership Academy. This robust one-year certification program consists of virtual learning sessions with expert leaders and coaches, an extensive resource library, on-the-ground meetups with your cohort, a leadership assessment, and your event ticket to two Small Giants gatherings.

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