See how Umaimah Mendhro, Founder and CEO of VIDA, pivoted her company to address the COVID-19 challenge.
VIDA is a global platform that brings together creatives and manufacturers from around the world to create unique, original apparel and accessories on-demand and at mass-scale.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, VIDA had launched over 2.5 million unique products from statement bags, cashmere silk scarves and boatneck boyfriend tee-shirts to iphone cases, yoga mats and large accent candles.
Vida has produced exclusive collaborations with a variety of cool partners including the Museum of Modern Art, deYoung Museum, StitchFix, Steve Madden, Cher and Iris Apfel.
Get a 15% discount off VIDA with promo code bettertogether.
Vida pivoted to address the COVID-19 crisis early and head-on.
As the coronavirus crisis hit U.S. soil and the dire shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) became evident, Umaimah spent her nights and weekends learning about N95 and protective masks, what was causing the global shortage, and where protective masks can be made.
A Harvard Business School graduate, Umaimah “began to prototype home-made masks on her personal sewing machine and sourcing alternative filter materials that could match the 3M N95 public specs.”
As VIDA factories began to shut down in the United States, Turkey, Pakistan and India, her team looked for the needle in the haystack to find a partner that could produce a mask that is more protective than a home-made mask yet could be made available immediately. Their goal was to help get protective masks in people’s hands to help flatten the curve before hitting the outbreak peak.
Introducing the VIDA Protective Face Mask
VIDA launched its Protective Face Mask on Friday, April 3rd and today offers a great selection of protective masks for individuals, families and businesses.
Their early launch put VIDA way out ahead of a number of other companies who would eventually roll out a variety of options for washable face masks for kids and adults.
Umaimah has been able to leverage the company’s existing supply chain to support its launch into masks, though she tells me that the demand for masks far exceeded that of the company’s prior business.
VIDA moved quickly to triple the size of its customer support team and added two new fulfillment centers to expand capacity dramatically.
She’s seeing demand now as cities begin to open up and, in many cases, are requiring masks.
Vida now offers three different types of masks:
- The VIDA Original Protective Mask features a metal nose piece, PM2.5 filter, 100% cotton and adjustable ear straps,
- VIDA’s Made in California Protective Masks are similar to the original but feature tie straps (not loops) and are made in the United States
- Cloth Masks, which VIDA is making in partnership with Indie Source, which feature cool designs by local San Francisco artists.
The new normal for VIDA? Being flexible.
“The new normal means, with our new protective mask category, we have an even broader product offering than before and that we’re able to provide a more diverse customer base with a product that is critical to limiting the impact of the pandemic,” said Umaimah.
She added that, “we’ve always been a mission-driven company so we knew from the start that utilizing our core strengths to offer protective masks to customers was right for VIDA.”
Umaimah and her team have had to be flexible as she quickly pivoted to address the COVID-19 crisis:
“There was no way to fully anticipate the many challenges we’ve faced, and addressed, since we launched, and we had to quickly and dramatically increase our team’s capacity to meet customer demand for our masks,” she said.
“We kept reminding ourselves that we’re operating in the midst of a pandemic and trying to get the most important product into the hands of millions of customers,” she added. “We dealt with issues and lost a lot of sleep but we’re glad we stepped up and resolved the many challenges coming our way.”
Her story echoes those of entrepreneurs who pivoted their product offerings and messaging, like Aman Advani of Ministry of Supply and Paul Tribble of Ledbury, to adjust to the current crisis.
Supporting small businesses like VIDA
VIDA is a founding partner of the Brands for Better coalition of businesses that have banded together and pledged to give back during COVID19.
VIDA has donated more than 5,000 masks and filters to essential workers, veterans, first responders, single moms and community groups. Their company also partnered with the SF-Marin Food Bank and Food Bank For New York to donate over 500,000 meals to communities in need.
I asked Umaimah about how customers can support small businesses like hers. She told me that the best ways customers can continue to support small businesses are to:
- Show your support through your words and actions – as you connect with small business’ customer support teams, as you talk about us on social media, as you spread the word about our businesses with your friends and families;
- Be patient and understanding – small businesses are dealing with insurmountable challenges during these times as they work their hardest to serve their customers; and
- Invest in small businesses by purchasing from them now.
(Explore Modern Fellows’ interviews with the founders of Ministry of Supply, Wolf and Shepherd and Rumpl, who are also participating in the Brandsxbetter coalition.)
Umaimah added that, “this is an unprecedented time and small businesses in general are faced with a plethora of new obstacles — everything from shipping delays, working remote teams, and keeping limited on-the-ground team members safe with new health and safety protocols.”
“We are all navigating these changes the best we can and hope customers understand that,” she said.
About JakeJake is passionate about exploring entrepreneurs' global journeys. He founded Modern Fellows in 2012 to get to know the entrepreneurs behind the innovative brands helping men dress sharp in the digital age. Jake has written about entrepreneurship, international business and/or fashion for outlets including Business Week, Forbes, Inc., Details Style Syndicate and Primer Magazine, and has provided analysis on international business for BBC Radio, NBC News, CNN and Time Magazine.
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