A lot can happen in 10 days — just ask Scottsdale native Jessica Wenger McPhaul, founder and owner of Naked Rebellion.
McPhaul is on FABRIC's task force that's raising money, gathering volunteers and sourcing other tools to educate the public on federal regulations for making personal protective equipment and manufacturing reusable surgical gowns, N95 masks and other gear for multiple healthcare agencies.
In 10 days, the Tempe-based fashion incubator and its nonprofit arm, AZ Apparel Foundation, have fielded hundreds of messages regarding protective gear needs, received orders for millions of items and created a federally approved gown pattern, among other completed tasks.
Now, they need the public's help.
"To really be able to make a dent in the millions of units that are being requested, we need a lot more help financially," said FABRIC co-founder Angela Johnson.
FABRIC needs financial assistance to help fund $350,000 startup costs associated with producing the reusable isolation and barrier gowns – including the purchase of additional sewing machines and retrofitting its space.
"If we can get the funding we need for additional equipment, we think we can ramp up enough to make 10,000 [per] week for as long as needed," Johnson said, adding that they currently have an order for 400,000 pieces from one hospital.
"We can start immediately making as many as we can with our current staff and equipment. However, we are helping the AZ Commerce Authority get other manufacturers up and running by sharing our intellectual property and FDA information and connecting facilities with needs to manufacturers that could help fill those needs," Johnson added.
McPhaul is raising money through sales of Naked Rebellions scrunchies and "Girl Gang" shirts and tanks, which cost $12, $58 and $42 each, respectively.
Half of the proceeds will go directly to FABRIC.
"To have that the skill set that we have and the network of people that are in this community who can jump together and in 10 days create an entire task force able to make a million gowns is absolutely insane,” McPhaul said, adding:
“To know that all this training, all these years of making pretty garments for the outside can also be translated into actually helping these people on the front lines who are really protecting us and saving all these lives is — I can't even put it into words."
McPhaul so far has sold more than 110 Naked Rebellion scrunchies and raised more than $670 for the effort.
"We have had some local companies help us and donate some money, too," she added. "We have a long way to go, though!"
McPhaul said that the task force has received requests from facilities all over the country, from Maine and Connecticut to Utah.
"Nearly every facility that has reached out to us has expressed concern over the scarcity of their PPE resources. Some facilities are running very low and some have completely run out. We’ve heard tearful stories of the scarcity of not only masks, but also barrier gowns and other items," Johnson said.
Johnson said that they just filled an order of 33 gowns for a rehab facility that has a "considerable amount" of patients on ventilators for various reasons – not COVID-19.
"They called in tears because they were completely out of gowns," she added.
Last week, FABRIC received a $25,000 grant to acquire Food and Drug Administration certification and train their staff on the agency’s protocols.
They are also creating an open source barrier gown project that will allow the community to sew needed isolation gowns.
"Certain gowns need to be made under FDA regulations in a licensed facility in a specific setting using specific techniques. However, there are different levels of gowns and some of them can be made by the public using a fabric that is easily available at home stores like Home Depot," Johnson said.
FABRIC's currently putting together a “kit” to share with home sewers who want to help make these types of gowns.
"If anyone is a talented sewer [and] is used to sewing on industrial machines, we are hiring a team of sewers at FABRIC and they can apply on their website," McPhaul said. "We also will need volunteers to help deliver and bag it, and quality control in the building."
FABRIC asked McPhaul and her husband, Jay McPhaul, who co-owns Heywood & Ringo with Jessica, if they'd like to be part of the task force.
"It's definitely been a, 'How can X, Y, and Z brands get together and reach out to as many people as we can to make a difference?'" Jessica said.
Jessica is part of a few local support groups comprised of women-owned businesses, many of which are giving back in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
"My business took a huge hit," said Simple Jane co-founder and sales director Chelsea Hamilton. "We basically have had to pivot, as so many other companies have. In one fell swoop, what makes up about 60 percent of our business had to close their doors."
Simple Jane dedicated 40 percent of their revenue back to the staff of their local partner salons and spas.
"We were like, 'How do we do something that not only continues to drive our business, but also was able to give back to the people who cannot work remotely? What can I do right now that will help get money back into somebody else's pocket?'" Hamilton said.
In one week, they gave just over $1,000 to the teams.
"It's basically a tip that they would have gotten from a service. That was, at the very bare minimum, my goal," Hamilton said.
Over at Dog Candle Co., founder and owner Jenni Pollack created a "social distance and chill" candle, of which she's sold 50 — and counting.
"Since we are literally all experiencing our own versions of the very same strange, uncertain, isolating, and uncharted time in history right now, we can all relate to this 'social distance and chill' theme. I also think that people are needing to find ways to make their stay-at-home life as normal, relaxing, and cheerful as possible, and the ambiance and fragrance of candles definitely does that. So, I'm happy to offer this creature comfort to everyone while they are cooped up at home," Pollack said.
Pollack said she'll soon sell a special edition candle set that'll give back to local restaurants and bars.
"Along with dogs, food is my other main love and I want to help that part of our community as well, so my favorite local establishments are still around when all of this passes," she said.
Since its founding in 2017, Dog Candle Co. has donated around $2,500 in cash and supplies to the county shelter.
Pollack has also donated thousands of dollars’ worth of candles to local rescue organizations for use in their fundraisers and raffles to raise more money.
"The most amazing thing that I have seen coming back here is how women entrepreneurs have rallied," Hamilton said. "It's so inspiring."
"We're all close and tight-knit, and we all get better and stronger together," Jessica added.
"Nothing makes me prouder and more humbled than to be a fellow small, woman-owned business that gives back at a time like this," Pollack said. "I am in awe of how other local businesses are getting creative and philanthropic with their products, services, and supporters in order to lift other parts of our community up."
Those who would like to donate to Fabric, can do so on their website fabrictempe.com.
AZ Apparel Foundation is a certified nonprofit.
"Our unique model of collaboration between community, government, non-profit, has never been more important than it is now," Johnson said.