I often battle my own uncertainty. With clear ideals and high expectations, I tend to plow forward into the unknown holding myself to standards that are impossible to meet. I work hard, plan, grind it out, and stress about what will happen. This is all under regular circumstances of trying to make a business that does good within this framework of capitalism which may not suit my endeavors, but is our system anyway.
By keeping my small business very contained, I built it by bootstrapping my way through from the very beginning. There was no initial venture capital. I began with big ideas, skill, and hard work. With creative problem solving (something you will hear me mention way too often if you know me at all) and pure grit, gained through lifelong experience with making do with what you have, I created all that this business is. I have a tendency to overwork, do it all myself, and be rather stubborn in general. These qualities, I have often aimed to change. One of the questions I have been asked the most through the years about my business has been, “Is your business model scalable though?". No, not really. It isn’t scalable in the sense that those asking me that question mean. I have spent a lot of time considering this question and often feeling inadequate (or self-indulgent) in some way for having built something so self-reliant on, me.
Now, here we are in the middle of this global viral pandemic and some important points have become clear. Firstly, because I created a business that is so self-contained, self-reliant, and not scalable in the business sense, it saved us. When global supply chains and labor forces were instantly shuttered, I was not. With my supplies, skills, time, and tools right here at hand I was able to make an instantaneous pivot. The Coral Marie Mask Project unfolded in a matter of days. I do still rely on a supply chain and things have been changed dramatically here, however I can operate largely unchanged.
As we progress further into this thing, I am reminded by how fortunate I am to have this infrastructure in place the way that I do. It has enabled us to help our community quickly by supplying masks to those in need. We are finding a way to balance revenue with giving. This is our income. Before the pandemic this business was only supplemental income. Currently, it is our family’s only income. I am grateful that this little seed of an idea has grown into something that is nurturing all the way around even in this time of uncertain panic. I am struck with heavy feelings as I watch many in my industry (and so many others) closing their doors permanently because they can’t weather this storm. While this situation will most certainly continue to change what Coral Marie is and can be going forward, I am determined to keep it from defining my work.
Additionally, I must mention all the incredible support and generosity we have experienced. This project has been made possible in part by the COVID-19 Athens Response Fund, and by those who chose to pay it forward with their own purchases. A sincere thank you to everyone who has supported this business all along the journey.
Launched on April 2nd 2020 in immediate response to the Covid19 outbreak.
We began making organic cotton masks with filter pockets available on a sliding scale and donated to ensure they were obtainable to all. These masks were made in my studio at a record speed and shipped within two days of order all over the country. Simultaneously, I offered my mask pattern for free use including video sewing tutorials. One week later we launched our second version of this project, still offering masks on a sliding scale, but with new options to ensure we were meeting our production costs in order to stay afloat. All the while maintaining a significant discount for essential works and offering many donation masks to local community support organizations. After producing 1000 masks, 500 of which were directly donated or sold below cost, we moved on to our third and final version of the project. Coral Marie is sustainably producing hemp and organic cotton masks in three sizes and four fabric options right here in our solar powered, zero-waste studio in Southeast Ohio. We continue to offer an essential worker discount, donation masks as possible, and have provided our new pattern for free use.