Aquascape, Inc. Founder and Owner, Greg Wittstock, wondered how his business could overcome the obstacles created by the Coronavirus pandemic. To continue training and inspiring his global network of pond and water feature contractors and their employees, Wittstock decided to have a faux backyard space built in his company’s 180,000 square foot warehouse located in St. Charles, Illinois.
Unable to host his company’s offseason Aquascape Academy Hands-On Training events, Wittstock knew he had to pivot quickly to keep the momentum going after a record-breaking year in sales. Online training tools, like the newly created Aquascape University that launched on January 1, continued the classroom-style education offered in past training events but lacked the hands-on build segments that made them a success. His new space in the warehouse, dubbed “The Sandbox Studio,” fills that void by allowing his local construction crew and the industry’s best Certified Aquascape Contractors to collaborate and build over-the-top water feature displays in a 39-by-60-foot truck bay filled with seven-and-a-half semi-trucks worth of soil and sand.
“I wanted to create a collaboration opportunity for Aquascape Construction and the best pond artists in the world while documenting all of it on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook so others can learn design and installation techniques and get inspired to begin Living the Aquascape Lifestyle®,” says Wittstock. “I knew it would be a daunting task to create a studio that looks like a real backyard in a warehouse setting. With the help of both Leader Builders and Shedsters, we constructed a house façade and a versatile shed around a sandpit and crafted our own blank canvas for extreme pond building.”
Every week from January through March, Wittstock brings in one of his top contractors, each an Aquascape Artist of The Year, and invites them to build a water feature display showcasing their advanced build techniques and artistry in one week. After capturing photos and video footage, his local Aquascape Construction crew demolishes the display to prepare for the next incoming artist. Video content from the elaborate builds is then uploaded to the TEAM Aquascape and Greg Wittstock, The Pond Guy YouTube channels to educate and inspire a global audience of contractors and homeowners.
Industry events, residential home improvement shows, and gardening events, like the Chicago Flower & Garden Show, look to be a thing of the past for Wittstock’s local construction crew. The Sandbox Studio replaces both valuable offseason training opportunities and exposure to homeowners by bringing the tradeshow exhibit to their warehouse and the home show attendees to YouTube.
“It’s a win-win. Our contractors can add to their portfolio of work during the offseason and experiment with new designs. Their work then reaches a sizeable viewership of homeowners looking to connect with nature in their own yard,” says Wittstock. “We also aim to inspire and educate other contractors through these videos so they can transition into the water feature installation business using the Aquascape 20 products / 20 steps construction methodology, as well as a variety of business development courses found in Aquascape University.”
Wittstock and his company are working through the adversity and challenges of the pandemic by doubling down on digital marketing initiatives. So far, the outcomes are creating new opportunities to expand their global reach while serving their existing contractor base under challenging circumstances.