Gulf Coast MEP Bolsters Community By Assisting Texas Small Business During Covid-19 Pandemic
- 75K face masks produced
- 105 jobs supported
- 6832 masks donated
- 100+ underserved entities trained
- $150,000 reinvested in community
- 211 sewists upskilled
In May 2020, the Houston region reached record high unemployment rates (over 14%) compared to the US at 13% for this same period. Our robust manufacturing sector came to a screeching halt, while our front-line workers were scurrying to secure limited personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep themselves safe. Connect Community, a nonprofit community development organization, with technical and operational assistance guidance from MEP affiliate BeehiveFund/TMAC Gulf Coast and others, launched Sewn Goods to quickly mobilize small batch manufacturers and train Houston’s Gulfton residents to meet the PPE shortage and keep underemployed workers earning supplemental income.
Since March 2020, Connect Community provided training to over 100 underserved proprietors, (100% LMI; 76% Hispanic; 75% immigrants and refugee), supported 10 local manufacturers, and produced over 75,000 facemasks. In addition to reinvesting over $150,000 in Houston, this initiative helped stop the spread of COVID-19. For Gulfton residents, where the per capita income is $17,647, which is 68% less than the area median income ($51,140) for Houston and 78% less ($71,500) than the national median income, having access to supplemental income
enabled families to pay monthly rent and avoid eviction. The Sewn Goods initiative motivated residents to create home-based small businesses and empowered existing businesses to scale. These efforts illustrated the need for a hub to upskill residents and provide entrepreneurial support services while also developing a supportive ecosystem for soft goods manufacturers and businesses, and build a more resilient supply chain so that Houston can weather future disasters.
While Sewn Goods PPE production continues, Connect Community is establishing the soft goods ecosystem for Houston, and is looking forward to receiving strategic and organizational assistance from TMAC Gulf Coast. Opening in 2022, the Textile Lab and Entrepreneurship Center (project site located in an Opportunity Zone) will build on local sewn trades’ expertise and Industry’s desire to reshore some soft goods production, to launch and mentor small soft goods business-tobusiness (B2B) or business-to-industry (B2I) businesses; and to support existing businesses Gulf Coast MEP Bolsters Community By Assisting Texas Small Business During Covid-19 Pandemic to scale. These efforts will leverage the strengths of the diverse Gulfton population by connecting residents to new skills and business opportunities and support the scaling of existing minority, women, immigrant and refugee-founded companies. Additionally, it
will build connections to soft goods manufacturing needs in Houston and beyond.
The success of the Sewn Goods collaborative was three-fold:
- Through mobilizing existing minority and woman-founded small batch manufacturers, Sewn Goods provided the opportunity for these producers to pivot away from their traditional production and support necessary PPE requests which kept their business afloat; and
- Through upskilling Gulfton residents, Sewn Goods was able to create a pipeline of skilled workers to meet the increasing production needs of the small batch manufacturers, enable residents to earn much needed income while getting a taste of US entrepreneurism, and produce critical PPE to support frontline and non-frontline workers.
- Through the support we received from our MEP partner, TMAC Gulf Coast, we were able to scale the operation fast and efficiently.
“TMAC Gulf Coast’s assistance to us throughout this endeavor has been invaluable. They helped us connect with entities in Houston that could manufacture masks for us, with suitable STORY
and skilled talent who we hired to manage operations, with sewers to join our group and ramp up production, and find material suppliers during initial prototyping phase. They reviewed
developed, and improved our cost calculation model; helped develop a dashboard of metrics to scale up; and developed capacity metrics. Finally, they also have provided support for our various grant applications. We are grateful to BeehiveFund/TMAC Gulf Coast for all their assistance.”
— Anne Whitlock, Founding Director, Connect Community