Chae Manufacturing Pivots to Keep Essential Workers During the Pandemic

Chae Manufacturing

Chae Manufacturing

Industry Manufacturing
Location Walsenburg, Colorado
Customer since 2020
Employees 51-150
Zenefits solutions
Payroll, Onboarding, Time And Scheduling, Core HR, Compliance, Advisory Services, Benefits, Paid Time Off

Linda and Frank Maggio know how to pivot a business to meet the needs of the market.

Based on Linda’s research and development, they launched Chae Organics in 2005 around their kitchen table. Their first five employees joined them in their home to produce a line of 100%  Toxic Free personal care and home products including lotion, hand soap and conditioner. By the time they moved their production to a renovated former dance hall, they’d found a second act: as contract manufacturers. So when the pandemic hit, they were limber enough to switch their focus to their biggest market opportunity: manufacturing hand sanitizer. They quickly turned their 60-person contract manufacturing organization, Chae Manufacturing, into an “essential business,” keeping their team employed and their business growing.


In 2018, the contract manufacturing business was taking off. The company had multiple customers leveraging their organic goods expertise and production operations. Linda and Frank expanded to hire their first Administrative Assistant, Erika Archuleta, to help ensure their own operations kept on track while the co-founders focused on their customers. It worked. The company grew from 45 employees to 60 by 2020. Then they recognized a need for another new function, which they promoted Erika to lead: Human Resources. For a growing business in a very, very small town — Walsenburg, Colorado, has 2,900 residents — hiring staff to keep up with customer demand was going to be a challenge.

They also knew they needed to automate many of their manual HR processes, from new hire onboarding to time & attendance and payroll for their hourly workers. Little did they know then, in early 2020, how much bigger the HR challenge would become.


Chae Manufacturing initially selected Zenefits’ Growth Package with HR, Contingent Workforce tracking and Payroll to help ensure the operations of their people functions.  As the pandemic arrived, they quickly added HR Advisory Services to help their brand new HR Manager mitigate emerging issues in a fast, empathetic and compliant manner.

Paying it forward works both ways

The organization was able to make the adjustments to add hand sanitizer production in a matter of weeks.  And better yet, though they had some ebbs and flows in production and work due to backlogs in bottling components from their supply chain, Chae ultimately kept all of their employees, and they provided them with a new sense of purpose in an otherwise overwhelming time.

For example, one of Chae’s team members is also a volunteer at the local fire department. She suggested that one additional upside of being in the hand sanitizer business, would be to help local front line workers like the fire department by donating their products. The company quickly rallied to the idea, donating to the local fire department, sheriff department, as well as the state patrol.

Likewise, when the company began building business beyond what it’s fully-staffed team could do, the Vice President of Operations —who also happens to be the local high school football coach—was able to rally his team to come in and help out on the production line to help fill its customers’ needs. This is another way Chae met the challenges of the pandemic and used it as a catalyst to further unify the team and the community.

New Challenge: Becoming an Even Better Employer

While Chae managed the pandemic better than most businesses, it still felt the staffing challenges of the “great resignation” that included more than 8 million US workers leaving their jobs in the summer of 2021. Even with good success in unifying their team, the average age of Chae’s current workforce is 45. So they needed more ideas on what else they could do to appeal not only to their current staff, but to start finding new workers to help them support a business that they intend to double in the coming years.

So Erika leaned into Zenefits to help her meet the growing challenges to her people operations priorities in three ways.

Zenefits product platform
The all in one platform helps Erika connect, track and report on Chae’s people programs, including:

Documenting Change. New Policies and Procedures are stored in Zenefits for easy access to the latest versions in a fast-changing environment. Chae also keeps vaccination records, and documents about COVID testing (or refusal to test) on file to help ensure everyone’s comfort.

Hiring, furloughing and (re)onboarding. Even with nimble business change, and all of its own production processes aligned, Chae hit a few speed bumps during the pandemic when supplies like sanitizer bottle caps from a distributor in China, got waylaid. Without the caps and bottles, production came to a standstill. This meant Erika had to furlough up to half of their workers off and on, until the business could restart. Having Zenefits to help her track the status of all employees and restart them without re-entering all of their information, helped with her time and helped make the painful transitions easier

Payroll. Zenefits helps to ensure the right amount for a changing hourly workforce.

Time and Attendance. Allows Erika to easily track hours across the board, as gives employees the ability to track hours for their own records.

Business Intelligence. Makes it easy to access or create reports for executive staff upon request.

Ultimate Advisory
Especially for organizations with essential workers, the compliance requirements for workplace safety and health tracking expanded quickly  in 2020. Erika and Chae didn’t want to take any risks or miss a beat.  “Today, I take full advantage of Ultimate Advisory service,” said Erika.  “We don’t want to be guessing when it comes to taking care of our people, especially their pay during COVID leave. They answer our questions and give us links to important resources. The Advisory team’s insight and response time is great!”

Zenefits Community and Content
As an HR team of one, Erika also appreciated the ability to connect with or learn from other people operations leaders in Zenefits’ online customer community, ClubZen. Here, Erika gathered examples and insights to help her as she made some big changes to Chae’s employee programming, including:

”Stay” interviews to learn what keeps Chae’s people

Rolling out a new healthcare benefits package

Offering a 4-day workweek

Providing job protection and COVID work flexibility around self and family care needs

“We learned a lot from the Pandemic,” says Erika. “Transparency about what we know and what we don’t, documentation for what we need and expect, and open discussion about what everyone needs. The way we dealt with change brought everyone in our company closer.  I see a new level of care between people. Even through social distancing, this has made us more bonded as a family.”

Erika plans to continue to actively extend and market benefits of belonging to the Chae Manufacturing family. “I am trying to branch out in every way to get the people we need.” She shares the company’s advantages widely: from tours for local school children to engaging the recent boom of new residents.

“Our town has grown quickly since the pandemic, everyone is wanting to move from a big city to a small town. The interstate passes right over us. We used to joke that if you didn’t stop for gas, there was no real need to stop here. We’re working to change that.”

Indeed, this nimble business that moved from a dance hall on Sulphur Springs Ranch, has a new facility —a remodeled horse arena— to accommodate it’s next jump: doubling the business. Since the pandemic, Chae has not only built out its hand sanitizer production, but also personal care products ranging from Bee Pollen (pellet products) to CBD-infused offerings. Just like the horses that used to compete in their new manufacturing site, Chae Manufacturing has become a master of agility.