As the coronavirus continues its disruption, many small business owners are innovating strategies as they navigate the unforeseen financial and operational challenges brought on by the pandemic.
For Theresa Mae Conson, Chief Finance Officer and sole proprietor of Cebu-based Smartieshirt Apparel, the COVI19 crisis is a game changer.
Started by husband Marvin Conson in 2015 as an e-Commerce platform for custom designed shirts, Smartieshirt Apparel began producing cloth facemasks as early as February and later, as the virus spread, expanded to making protective suits.
“Producing PPE gears and facemasks is far different from what we did before COVID-19. Back then, we had sports jerseys, fun run shirts, bags, and caps,” Conson noted.
She narrated how company production set up drastically shifted in March as the number of COVID-19 positive cases in Cebu increased and N88 disposable facemasks became scarce.
At present, the company produces 15,000 cloth facemasks per day and 3,000 PPE suits per week.
To surmount financial challenges, the company approached the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to get an endorsement to avail of a loan facility from the Small Business Corporation (SBCorp).
“Like a responsible entrepreneur, the safety of our employees remains our top priority despite the obstacles: we provide them free lunch, rent shuttle vehicles to ferry them , provide them with PPE suits, installed a sanitation tent for everyone, found guards to act as safety officers who rove around our area every 2 hours to make sure it is regularly sanitized.”
Conson also disclosed that the company shuttle vehicles have sanitation sprays and thermal gun for body temperature checks for all employees prior to stepping in.
To ensure all bases are covered, Conson admits the Smartieshirt Apparel also sought a little help from the Divine as they prayed every morning before start of the shifts for everything to run smoothly and for everyone to stay healthy.
Gradually, the company recovered and Smartieshirt Apparel managed to work on their pre-COVID-19 pending projects.
Currently, we divide our time between finishing pending projects and producing facemasks and PPE suits, she clarified.
“We tap distributors around the area to sell our masks and PPE suits. Our existing clients also help us a lot especially the BPO and manufacturing companies. Facemasks and PPEs are the new normal, she said.
Unfazed by future challenges, Conson believes her company will survive the pandemic because her team of talented designers and marketing specialists know how to adjust to the needs of the market.
“When this crisis is over, it will be part of our company history that we played a significant role in containing the spread of the virus and that with every mask and protective suit we made, a life was protected. “
Theresa Mae Conson of Smartieshirt Apparel is a graduate of DTI’s Kapatid Mentor Micro Enterprise (KMME) program.
With KMME, her real life experiences as an entrepreneur were enhanced by learnings on business management which enabled her to sustain her enterprises amidst the challenges of the pandemic and ‘New Normal’ conditions.
For small entrepreneurs with a similar passion for business, DTI is open to receiving their applications to join the first batch of the Kapatid Mentor Micro-Enterprises (KMME) – Online Program.
Interested entrepreneurs may contact any of the DTI Central Visayas Provincial Offices.
DTI Cebu Provincial Office
Tel No.: (032) 255-6971
DTI Bohol Provincial Office
Tel No.: (038) 501 8828
DTI Negros Oriental Provincial Office
Tel.No. (035) 422 5509
DTI Siquijor Provincial Office
Tel No.: (035) 480-9065