Jacob Eslinger, Luke Livingston and Whit Richardson ave teamed up to start Brickyard Collective, a consulting firm aimed at helping businesses with communications, sales and marketing and business strategy. Courtesy / Wohler & Co.

PORTLAND — Jacob Eslinger, Luke Livingston and Whit Richardson didn’t intend to start their business consulting firm, Brickyard Collective, just as the coronavirus pandemic was hitting southern Maine. That’s just the way it worked out.

Brickyard Collective’s logo includes a nod to the Lego brick.Courtesy / Brickyard Collective

“The first day COVID-19 (in the area) seemed like the first day we were open for business,” Livingston said.

While meeting clients in person has not been possible, Livingston said he has been able to connect with people through phone calls and video chats, and he remains optimistic about his and his co-founders’ new business venture.

“It definitely has not taken the wind out of our sails,” said Livingston, who co-founded Baxter Brewing Company in 2010.

Brickyard Collective, which will move into an office space in downtown Portland soon, aims to help businesses of all sizes with their communication, sales and marketing, and business strategy needs. The firm can also help “put the pieces together to allow a business to offer a new product or technology or pivot to a new market,” Richardson said.

“The idea of being able to offer clients a complete complement of services seemed like a great option and that is what makes it so exciting for me,” said Richardson, a former journalist and corporate communication specialist.

Many businesses today, Eslinger said, are unsure what the future will hold when, or if, they reopen once the coronavirus pandemic subsides and they could be looking for some help from a firm like Brickyard Collective to help chart that course.

“This is most certainly a difficult time to own and operate a business of any size,” said Casey Gilbert, executive director of Portland Downtown. “There are many challenges that still lie ahead. Some business owners are simply trying to figure out how to stay afloat.”

Still, Gilbert said, “there are also plentiful opportunities for creativity, marketplace disruption and out-of-the box thinking. I certainly wouldn’t discourage anyone from being entrepreneurial, but I would advise a cautious and thoughtful approach that is rooted in data and provides for plenty of pivots and what-if scenarios.”

Eslinger, who has three decades of experience working in the hospitality and restaurant fields, said the background each co-founder brings to Brickyard Collective will buoy them in that regard.

“We can touch upon a lot of different facets of business,” he said. “We can pretty much help anyone looking for help based on our skill sets.”

Brickyard Collective is working with three clients now, but expects more to sign on in the next few weeks.

“One of the challenges local, independent businesses face is that they are often on their own – they don’t get the marketing support that comes with being part of a chain or franchise, and small business owners have to ‘wear all the hats,'” said Mary Alice Scott, director of Portland Buy Local. “Local businesses will need support from every angle in order to make it through to the other side of this crisis, and the combined expertise from these founders could be really valuable.”

The firm, Richardson said, does not intend to be “drop-in consultants” that produce business plans, but a group that can work closely with entrepreneurs and business owners to address their company’s needs.

“We are trying to bring a little fun to the world of consulting, which sometimes can be a dirty word. We want people to enjoy working with us,” Livingston said.

Right now Brickyard Collective is just Eslinger, Livingston and Richardson, but all three hope to eventually hire more employees and provide more service.

“We don’t expect the firm will remain just the three of us,” Livingston said.

Comments are not available on this story.