Greenfield couple being resourceful with archery business

  • Roseilyn Guzman, left, and Greenfield’s Kyle Bissell, pull out arrows from a target in this photo from 2017. Bissell, who owns Sattva Center for Archery Training in Florence, has shifted the business online due to the coronavirus pandemic. FILE PHOTO

  • Greenfield’s Kyle Bissell teaches archery technique in this file photo during a free event sponsored by the Dickinson Memorial Library in Northfield. Bissell, who owns Sattva Center for Archery Training in Florence, has shifted the business online due to the coronavirus pandemic. FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/22/2020 5:10:47 PM
Modified: 5/22/2020 5:10:33 PM

When the coronavirus pandemic halted life throughout Western Massachusetts in March, Greenfield residents Kyle and SerahRose Bissell didn’t waste time springing into action.

The owners of Sattva Center for Archery Training, formerly Amherst Archery Academy, were faced with the closure of their physical indoor training facility in Florence. Very quickly, their business model was forced to change.

“Sixty-percent of our business is classes, and group classes, we weren’t able to offer any of those,” said Kyle Bissell, himself a Level IV USA Archery coach and instructor. “So we chose to sell off our program-based equipment. We had a trailer full of used equipment that we travel with to camps, schools, one-off programs or PE classes that we augment at a school. Because none of that was being used without classes, we sold it off.”

Thus began life in a pandemic for Sattva. The company owns a 5,000-square foot space in Florence, where it also operates a retail shop and offers coaching certification for people all over the country, in addition to individual and group lessons. When the business was forced to temporarily close, the couple began working out of their home in Greenfield, offering online and virtual lessons and training, in addition to the online retail push. They were able to sell their entire line of used equipment.

“When faced with adversity in life, like this COVID-19 situation where businesses have to close, personally I rise to the occasion,” Bissell began. “I held this reality in my hand and said to myself, ‘What can we do to make sure the business thrives right now and that our athletes still have a community.’ We had to pivot quickly. We’re solution-oriented, those are the specific words we used when my wife (who is CFO) and I met about this. We came up with 55 different ideas on how the business could pivot to not only survive as a business but maintain that community.”

As residents throughout Western Massachusetts suddenly found themselves at home due to the pandemic, Sattva was able provide local people with archery equipment. Bissell said some 40 households in the Pioneer Valley were set up with archery targets and equipment in their backyard as a result, and the company was able to sell used targets, bows, arrows and other items online to help meet that demand.

“A lot of people were stuck at home and wanted to do something different,” he explained. “In a way, almost all those archers we outfitted were families or individuals who were interested before but only shot at our range. Now, because of COVID, it’s become an integrated part of their lifestyle. They can do it whenever they want.”

Bissell said he grew up shooting archery in his backyard in rural Massachusetts, without a lot of access to facilities or coaching.

“I used to wish a car would drive by and somebody would see me shooting and say, ‘We need to train this kid,’” he recalled. “That opportunity now exists here in Massachusetts.”

The coaching and instructing aspect of the business has gone well, he’s said, particularly for experienced archers. The challenges for beginners shooting virtually remains a bit of a mystery, he admitted.

“I’d say for athletes who are used to working with me, I won’t say there’s necessarily a loss in virtual sessions,” he explained. “They can send me videos of shooting and I can dictate over the video, draw lines, tell them I want their hips to be moving over here or there. I can still compare where you are at this shot cycle, so in a way, I think that’s really rich because athletes with online coaching now, they dive more deeply into their self-assessment.

“With beginners, I find it incredibly challenging and haven’t wrapped my mind around introducing archery to them quite yet in this format.”

The facility in Florence is open to members for private shooting time, as Bissell said they provided keyless access with individual reservations available between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m., seven days a week.

“I think keyless access is key, and it will allow us to have monthly memberships continue,” he said.

As for the future of the business, Bissell said his hope is to have things up and running again in relative short order.

“For our viability as a business, if we can find an outdoor space, we can open relatively soon again, which would be great,” he said. “But when we reopen it will probably be in phases like the state — limited class size, then slowly increasing those sizes. We are probably going to require people to buy or provide their own arm and finger guards.”

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