Businesses of all sizes pivot to battle the pandemic — and to stay afloat

Despite ambiguous federal policies, several big American businesses began adapting their production facilities to address medical supplies shortages… and small businesses are doing their part, too.

March 24, 2020

Just over 3 weeks ago, the World Health Organization warned that global medical supplies (like masks, hand sanitizer, and ventilators) weren’t sufficient to meet the needs of the coronavirus crisis — and recommended a 40% increase in production.

But whose responsibility is it to make those extra supplies?

In the US, there’s a lot of confusion about the answer to that question.

The federal government has the power to force private companies to make supplies using the Defense Production Act

But the White House and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have issued contradictory statements about whether (and to what degree) the DPA will go into effect, leaving businesses with no specific guidance about what to produce even as virus-related deaths mount

Some companies have decided to shift production anyway

Taking a cue from European businesses like French luxury giant LVMH (which is shifting production from perfume to hand sanitizer), several big US business have begun to produce medical supplies: 

  • Tito’s Vodka, Anheuser Busch, Dogfish Head, and other beverage businesses are using their vodka- and beer-making equipment to brew up hand sanitizer.
  • Ford is repurposing its auto-making infrastructure to produce ventilators and medical face shields.
  • Hanes is adapting textile infrastructure that normally cranks out cotton undies to manufacture 1.5m masks a week.
  • Lyft is using its massive fleet of ride-share vehicles to deliver medical supplies.

And small businesses are pivoting, too

They’re adapting to help their communities — and to stay alive in a challenging economy.

Here’s how a few of them have pivoted:

  • The swimwear startup called Summersalt is using its customer-service channels to provide emotional support.
  • A Seattle bakery called Piroshky Piroshky launched a local restaurant delivery platform called Catch22Delivery.
  • Hedley and Bennett, which normally makes premium chef aprons, started stitching fabric face masks. 
  • An Oregon strip club called the Lucky Devil Lounge (that’s shut down due to social distancing) launched a food delivery service called… Boober Eats.

Have you seen other small businesses adapt in interesting or inspiring ways? Share them with us here. We’ll update our list as we go.

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