Coping with COVID
SC Biz News is speaking with small businesses and community leaders about the impact of the new coronavirus on business and industry, and how this is changing how they operate.
Contact Andy Owens, email@example.com, with any questions or ideas.
When news of COVID-19 first broke, Katherine McDonald said she underestimated its implications. But as her bridal boutique, LulaKate, closed and citizens were called on to stay at home, she realized the scope of the virus was bigger than she had thought.
McDonald understood that there was a shortage of personal protective equipment for health care workers. Wanting to make an immediate impact to help the community, McDonald and a team of her employees and volunteers shifted their focus from LulaKate operations to producing face masks for first responders.
“We pivoted our whole entire team to work on this — not like we have anything else to work on,” McDonald said. “But it helps people have something to do while we’re all quarantined, and we’re helping the community and getting people involved.”
McDonald said the team of 12 seamstresses has been hand-cutting masks from bridal garment bags provided by their own stores and from community donations. The fabric is a tight, woven cotton that allows for breathing, McDonald said.
Additional materials like elastic and filters are purchased using funds raised on McDonald’s GoFundMe page. The masks are sewn by members of her team or on her commercial sewing machine.
Each mask takes about 10 to 15 minutes to sew. McDonald said her goal is to make 5,000 masks.
“These are all strictly for donation to hospitals and nurses and doctors,” McDonald said. “There is no cost for these because we want to help the community as much as we can, as fast as we can.”
McDonald said she expects the first batch to be sent out sometime in the middle of next week.
McDonald said that although she is focused on making the masks as long as there is a need, she also is still concerned for the future of her business. When she isn’t at her sewing machine, she is applying for business loans and thinking about life after the virus.
“It’s definitely a huge concern, because people won’t be buying wedding dresses for a while,” McDonald said. “Even if the virus is gone, it’s going to take a few months to get back on our feet and to get our pipeline of sales up and running.”
However, McDonald said she tries to remain positive and concentrate her efforts on helping health care workers. She has plans to find a local partner to help sponsor the project, as well as later on launching a line of fashion masks to be sold to stores.