It’s only been three weeks since Mona Lam-Deslippe turned on the news, to realize the overwhelming need for personal protective equipment. Every moment since then, she’s been running to address it for the sake of essential service workers, who to this day, remain on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lam-Deslippe, who leads London-based software development firm MLD Solutions, was faced with a problem outside of her own industry, but a solution that could be found within reach of her professional network.
Turning to the team at local fashion design manufacturer Carmina de Young, known for their commitment to Canadian-made clothing and sustainable fashions, she put out a bold ask about pivoting to start producing gowns and masks.
Joining forces with Carmina Young and business advisor Lina Bowden, the partnership soon realized that they had just stepped into uncharted territory, where research, decision making and production all needed to be accelerated to meet an urgent demand.
Though seasoned in the business of clothing production, not even Carmina de Young’s global presence was immune to the disruptions in their supply chains resulting from COVID-19. Cancelled orders, material scarcity and conservative consumer spending surfaced quickly, and the eventual closure of non-essential businesses left their operations halted.
With a new mission underway, Carmina de Young could bring some financial security back to their small team, made up of many skilled newcomers, while contributing to a worthy mission.
There’s a lot that happens on the production side to ensure that the right garment will be manufactured. From sanitary control to adequate protection-grade materials, it takes a collaborative approach to work a solution that suits the very particular needs of those who risk exposure, while being able to source the right components that will make manufacturing a reality.
“When we started this, it was very difficult to know what we needed to do, and who we needed to contact,” according to Lam-Deslippe. “So, we started reaching out to our partners.”
Tapping into an entrepreneurship-focused ecosystem, organizations like TechAlliance, OCE, Pillar Nonprofit Network, London Economic Development Corporation, and Goodwill Industries, were called upon to assist.
“Our initial breakthrough came from a connection to Anna Foat (TechAlliance Board of Directors), which connected us to London Middlesex Primary Care Alliance. They took our samples, gave us feedback, and told us what would be required for use by primary care and nurses. From there, we could determine pricing to suit their needs,” says Lam-Deslippe.
“Recognizing the need to fill an urgent gap, means understanding that it takes a village to cultivate innovative solutions. Whatever any of us can do to leverage our own competencies and connections in support of Canadian innovation that benefits our communities — that’s the right move,” says Christina Fox, TechAlliance CEO.
Lina Bowden says that repurposing their operations actually opened up the conversation about greener initiatives in our healthcare system. “In the hospital, isolation gowns are disposable. This is a moment where a washable gown — of 50 times — can address a need outside of this situation alone.” Not only are they proposing a reusable solution, but the masks are also made from waste material leftover from the production of their gowns.
In collision with the technical chops of Lam-Deslippe’s team at MLD Solutions, the partnership was able to utilize some of the technology from another one of the firm’s digital products. Mozaik.Global has quietly, yet consistently, been working to launch comprehensive information pages, forms to gather customer and donor information, and an accompanying landing page where all of these assets live. Donors can connect to organizations in need of these garments through an online form, and organizations may put themselves on a list to receive donations.
This new venture has accelerated the pace that her technical team can design, test and launch new properties, all while adapting to a new landscape for conducting business.
More than anything, this initiative is about ensuring that protection is available for those who are risking their health to keep the public protected from this outbreak. Lam-Deslippe also adds that it’s about paying gratitude for the many sacrifices they make along the way. Enclosed in every order, courtesy of the Nathan T. Deslippe Memorial Fund, will be a package including an inspirational quote to spread hope through an uncertain time.
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