How Small Businesses Are Pivoting In The Coronavirus Pandemic

How Small Businesses Are Pivoting In The Coronavirus Pandemic
Many small businesses are closed to the public, and they're dedicating their skills and materials to providing medical supplies.

"I can start taking containers."

This Denver distillery was once serving cocktails. Now it's pivoting to make hand sanitizer. 

Austin Adamson, co-owner and distiller at Ballmer Peak Distillery, told Newsy: "What we do is we make ethanol. Ethanol is the alcohol that's in all our bottled products. So we have not only the equipment but the knowledge to make high-proof, very strong ethanol." 

High-proof ethanol, hydrogen peroxide, glycerol and distilled water is a recipe distiller Adamson obtained from the World Health Organization. As hand sanitizer, masks and personal protective equipment have become scarce in some places, small businesses — some of which have closed to the public — are looking for ways to help their communities. 

Adamson: "Small businesses everywhere are hurting right now. We are very fortunate to have the equipment and the knowledge to make something that is in demand and in limited quantities that also helps people."

Adamson is not making money from this venture. For now, people can get his hand sanitizer for free. And he plans to create large batches for the first responders and older people. 

Around the world and the country, large and small businesses have answered the call to help. A bra manufacturer in Japan lent its "support" by creating masks. Italian engineers 3D-printed respirator parts. In the U.S., fashion designer Christian Siriano, among others, is also creating masks.

And individuals are pitching in too. When fashion designer Jamie Roe lost her job, she wanted to help. She enlisted her mom and sister. 

Roe: "We found a few patterns online and then kind of ran with it. We reached out to our local hospitals to see if that was something that they were interested in having donations for. And they said yes. And so we just started making them."

Because of the need for more N95 masks, the CDC has loosened its guidance on protective gear. It says, "In settings where facemasks are not available, health care professionals might use homemade masks like a bandana or scarf to care for patients with COVID-19 as a last resort."

Dr. Lauren Streicher, clinical professor at Northwestern University Chicago: "As a physician, I don't want to get something out there that's going to be dangerous, because we know that these masks do not meet the very strict criteria and the strict standards that we normally use in the hospital. But what I quickly began to appreciate is that there is a shortage and that this shortage is going to be greater."

Streicher recommends saving N95 masks for health workers dealing directly with COVID-19 and cloth masks or an alternative for workers who are caring for non-COVID-19 patients. She also created a sewing pattern for anyone interested in making a mask — it takes about 10 minutes to make each one. No medical experience required.

Roe: "I'm not a trained health care professional. But I do know how to sew. So anything that I could do to help, I wanted to kind of step in and use some of my free time for good." 

And while small businesses and entrepreneurs feel the financial squeeze from this pandemic, they are ready to support the community. But they cannot do it alone.

Adamson: "Other small businesses need the help of the community. … Now more than ever is an important time to focus on supporting small businesses within your community and around the nation."

 Cat Sandoval, Newsy, Chicago.