Cutting her cloth to undress coronavirus
Katherine Fisher used to make custom covers for bike and car seats as part of her business Gotcha Covered Upholstery.
Now, after she obtained a microloan from the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation, she has switched to the production of protective gear for the Covid-19 crisis.
Ms Fisher said: “Thanks to the microloan, I was able to get the necessary equipment in place to do this.”
With the money she has ordered fabric, four sewing machines from Florida, one new and the others second hand, and other pieces of equipment.
Ms Fisher said: “I already have a workshop up and running at 54 North Street in Hamilton.
“It has been easy to make the switch. It is just a matter of getting the right tools and the right people in place.”
Ms Fisher added that she very grateful for the BEDX loan programme, set up to help businesses weather the pandemic.
She explained that her upholstery shop was in the economic empowerment zone and qualified.
Ms Fisher said: “My account manager at the BEDC is Donte Hunt. He has gone through hoops, to help me get it all sorted. I am very grateful.”
She said the first three months of the loan were interest free.
Ms Fisher added: “It is amortised over 42 months. The first few months are interest only with a payment of $25 a month. The balance is the amount I was loaned. It just helps me to get going.
“We have lost quite a few days of production, so our cashflow is really tight.”
Ms Fisher said she had already sold large orders of masks to Butterfield Bank, Ascendant, the parent firm of power company Belco, D&J Construction and others.
She added that bulk orders of masks and gowns for a growing list of dentists and doctors were also in production.
Ms Fisher said: “Some of them want washable gowns. They have even bought washing machines to install at their offices.”
The microloan came through last Thursday and she started production of samples for customers to look at the next day.
She said she had taken orders for 260 gowns so far and expected her first 1,000 yards of fabric to arrive soon — enough material to make about 520 gowns.
Ms Fisher said: “Now it is just a matter of getting communication out, which we did through Facebook and through the Bermuda Dental Association. We have orders coming in now.”
She had to close down the retail arm of her business, which sold outdoor furniture, rugs and pillows, at the end of March.
Ms Fisher said: “We were just losing too much money.”
She has moved her furniture stock to a warehouse and is trying to sell it off through her online store.
Ms Fisher admitted: “That was a crush.
She moved her store from Hamilton to Serpentine Road in Pembroke last August, because she expected more foot traffic and better parking.
Ms Fisher is uncertain what the future holds after the Covid-19 pandemic ended.
She said: “The truth is the first thousand masks and gowns will go and we'll see where it goes from there. It will get me through until our other revenue streams kick in.”
Ms Fisher said businesses had to think outside the box in a crisis. She added: “We can sit here and cry or we can make lemonade.”
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