The past year has shown how adaptable, flexible, and creative we can be…whether we wanted to or not. We’ve crammed home, work, and school under one roof and keep ourselves busy without leaving the house. For many local businesses, however, change wasn’t much of a choice. If they wanted to keep staff busy and revenue flowing, it meant figuring out ways to pivot.
Locally, flooring specialists at Flooret tackled COVID-19 with their usual blend of innovation, quality, and care. They opened Monster Aid to keep employees working and provide much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE) to businesses and organizations nationwide.
“Monster Aid came onto the scene as a response to COVID-19,” says Outreach Coordinator Chesiree Katter. “I think the founders of Flooret had wanted to branch into a fun project for some time, but the connections that sprung up for supplying face masks aligned with the demand of the pandemic. We knew we needed to use these connections to benefit our community.”
But there was a definite learning curve. Did Flooret’s materials and manufacturing processes overlap into the world of PPE? “They don’t. At all,” admits co-founder Nathanael Hartman. “We had to start from scratch. The only advantage we had was familiarity with global distribution. Everything else was like cramming for an exam.”
And cram they did. “Our team worked in shifts around the clock to source, test, reject, negotiate, certify and ultimately procure critical PPE,” says Hartman. “This means from source materials to packaging design and Federal approval to import and distribute medical devices.” Amazingly enough, deciding to tackle the new project to airlifting and distributing the product was only 20 short (but exhausting) days.
As with any new venture, connections and partnerships are essential. “Our partners abroad manufacture the masks and send them over to us to be kept in our warehouse in Lacey, so Flooret and Monster Aid share that space,” says Katter. “Our team have been rock stars taking on the additional management of the PPE along with hundreds of flooring orders going out the door every day. Selling PPE was a huge learning curve. It’s been difficult to get the word out with normal advertising methods, so we’ve been relying on our friends in the community and those we donate to spread the word.”
But the word is out. During Monster Aid’s first two weeks of existence, they sold over half a million face masks and were able to re-order quickly, so everyone who needed masks received them within four days of ordering. They’ve even expanded staffing to keep up with both Flooret and Monster Aid’s shipments.
Monster Aid’s PPE sales aren’t intended as a money-maker. “We had the resources to help people, so we went for it,” says Katter. “Transitioning isn’t easy—our face masks are not sold at a profit to us, and we are lucky to be able to do that. We admire and encourage those who step up to the plate to keep trying. To us, it wasn’t about making money off PPE. It was about helping our community.”
Hartman agrees. “Every day, I marvel at the thousands of ways businesses in Thurston County are adapting to the ongoing challenges of remaining in operation. The pandemic magnifies it, but adaptation is the lifeblood of business. So, in many ways, we were doing exactly what anyone else would. Further, our decision was targeted to allow other Washington businesses to remain in operation by helping them acquire the limited supplies they were mandated to utilize to remain open or reopen. I’ve seen this evolution from day one of the pandemic across all types of industries from simple to sophisticated.”
“We are so glad to be able to make even a slight difference in the community, specifically with organizations like the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce who reach out directly to small businesses,” admits Katter. “The struggle of the pandemic has hit all of us in different ways, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it is that it takes a village to revive and come back stronger than ever. Monster Aid is honored to be a part of that comeback, and we hope we can continue to aid those who need it.”
If you know of a business or organization in need of PPE, reach out to Monster Aid at www.MonsterAid.com. They still have plenty of masks available. “Eventually, as we get the rest of our PPE into the hands of those who need it, we’d love to focus completely on our apparel line and grow from there, helping causes close to our hearts raise funds and get support,” says Katter.
COVID-19 has taken so much from so many. If you made it to 2021 employed, housed, and healthy, consider yourself blessed. Then take a moment to thank—and support—the local businesses who fight hard alongside us. Adaptation and creativity have gotten us this far, here’s to 2021 and a return to community togetherness soon.