Flattening the curve with a smile
We hadn’t seen this coming. Neither did we have a roadmap in case business and society would get to a halt. All of a sudden, parents all over the world - including Samantha and I - had to juggle homeschooling and telework, whilst keeping the house more or less tidy, and organizing three meals a day. And baking, lots of baking.
We had so many plans for The Extra Smile in 2020, the year we would have our real “go to market” with our ethical and slow fashion collection for kids.
But the beauty of a plan is that it is only a plan. It is never set in stone, so you can adapt according to the circumstances. A bit like making lemonade when life gives you lemons. I love lemonade, by the way.
Safety and dignity first
So, we checked with our suppliers and partners and tried to support them as best as we could.
Our workshops in Cambodia ensured that their employees were safe during the pandemic. At Pour Un Sourire d’Enfant, which is primarily an NGO that has around 6500 children in their care - the garment workshop is only a side business, all workers and children were sent home during the peak of the pandemic, however all employees continued to receive their salary and no jobs were lost.
At Fairsew, the entrepreneurial Anneliese switched gears and offered different models of facemasks to her clients, including us, The Extra Smile. Thanks to the success of this new fashion accessory, no jobs were lost and Fairsew’s business can continue with some extra health protection measures in place such as frequent hand washing, keeping distance from each other and all employees receiving face masks.
Waak, the Belgian company that packages and dispatches online orders from Europe, had closed operations in order to protect its employees. During the shutdown, an internal task force worked hard to prepare their facilities according to the new health and safety regulations. Since 20 April, Waak has started up production gradually, and soon will be able to handle our online orders again.
Not getting stuck
In many parts of the world, boutiques, restaurants and non-essential services were ordered by law to close their doors. Despite the wide acceptance that this measure was necessary to flatten the curve, it has been a huge blow to many small businesses. How great it was to see Kristien from Pharo, Pat at Reuzi and the team at Yuman to take the bull by the horns and reinvent themselves again in the new normal.
In Singapore, the sustainable marketplace Ethical Merchants had to postpone their launch slightly, and the lockdown has created the opportunity for a logistics collaboration. Which was a great experience!
Our sustainable business
Unlike many international brands, The Extra Smile hasn’t cancelled any orders. In fact, we pay our production suppliers in advance, so they can guarantee fair wages and safe working conditions to their employees.
If you have ever bought a garment from us, you are part of this responsible business model: by paying a fair price for our ethical kids clothing, we can pay our suppliers in a timely and correct manner, who on their turn provide a safe and fair working environment to their workers. Did we say that no jobs were lost at our Cambodian workshops? This is thanks to you!
These days, we are producing masks out of leftover fabric. This way, we keep our social business running, whilst supporting our suppliers and partners and flattening the curve.
We believe that there is lots of room for our social enterprise to grow and that now more than ever, it is clear that there is a place for ethical kids fashion and sustainable business practices.
We're building The Extra Smile with lots of great people, including you.