Taking the Next Step: Going to Make Masks in Canada

Dear Friends,

As I start to accept the new normal (for now) both personally and as a business, so much continues to transpire. Here is the update from this past week:

  • We have now shipped or placed orders for 8 million+ masks at our partner factories
  • We continue to face many challenges, but this week’s challenge is mainly related to logistics; yet, we’re making progress.
  • We have purchased the machinery needed to make our own medical and non-medical face masks in Canada, starting next month

8+ Million Masks

We have gone from 0 to 8 Million+ masks in less than 20 days. 

  • That means we will be helping millions of people at home and abroad who are essential to our healthcare and non-healthcare related needs.
  • These masks are going to healthcare groups, businesses, charities and governments.
  • If you read my email last week you would know I was quite frustrated with certain government groups, I am also proud now to be working with many municipalities, counties and the Government of Manitoba who we will be delivering masks to at the end of this month.

The Challenges

Surpassing 8 Million masks in a short-period is no easy feat. It takes a team effort, gumption, resilience, adaptability, lack of sleep and the use of a translator app to go through hundreds of documents, reports, government filing and regulations both at home and abroad.

There have been many bumps from all sides to-date, but right now my biggest concerns are: 

  • Manufacturing quality masks
  • Exporting and delivering masks ASAP

In China, where we are currently making our masks, we are fortunate to be working with established medical device manufactures that are recognized by the Chinese Government for their quality. While that is a key step in the process, that still does not guarantee our shipments are not delayed. 

We have been dealing with limited flight availability or airlines jacking up prices at the last minute, to daily changes with local government regulations in China to export any and all protective equipment including masks. 

Our team in China has been regularly pulling all-nighters repackaging, relabeling, placing masks in a box, out of a box, this way, that way – literally doing this to hundreds of thousands of masks this past week. Sometimes we do this only to bring it to customs and find out since the time we left the airport to 24 hours later, there is a new regulation or requirement in place. So back to the warehouse to spend another night with hopes the next day is better. Luckily for me I have people on the ground so we can adapt and deliver but if you are wondering why so many have delays but will never deliver it’s because having people on the ground you can trust and that will go that extra mile is what makes this happen.

Many will criticize and say these delays are ridiculous and it’s wrong for anyone to stop the flow of needed supplies coming here. I may be one of them at times even. However, given the stories of poor quality coming from China that has slipped through the cracks early on, I can understand the reasoning behind all the last minute government changes and requirements. I don’t like it. It’s insanely frustrating but the goal is to ensure the products leaving the country have the necessary quality to really help people. It’s hard to argue with that reasoning.

Saying that, while not out of the Chinese customs forest yet, we have a great logistical partner that is working here and in China to help us get things done. Our goods are now starting to move once again and we’re currently arranging for 2-3 charter planes to leave China to North America at the end of this month carrying 6+ million masks.

Made in Canada Masks

If you have ever followed the work we’ve done, you know we believe in manufacturing as a way to create and support jobs for a sustainable future both here and abroad. This includes:

  • Factories in Ethiopia where we made our boots for 10 years in the world’s only Fair Trade Certified Footwear Factory
  • Our current Oliberte factory partner in Canada
  • Our team and factory partners on the ground in China

My passion lies in supporting workers rights by creating great products that embrace our responsibilities as a global citizen. Today that means making masks to help play our part to fight COVID-19.

To support our continued efforts in providing masks to those in need, I am excited to announce that next month we will begin manufacturing our own non-medical surgical masks at our own location in Canada. Shortly after we will begin to produce medical masks, once we have submitted our masks for medical grade testing. We have already purchased the equipment and raw materials which should be arriving to us in the next weeks.  

While the idea of making the masks in-house is exciting, we are doing it to make the masks more available and affordable to those here at home. We are doing this also in a way to ensure that when we kick COVID-19 to COVID-GONE, that we can support all our customers and any businesses, factories, restaurants, retirement homes and anyone and everyone with a basic need and desire to protect themselves by wearing a face mask.  

So that’s a recap of the week. Once again, a very long email that I will in time figure out how to shorten. These weekly emails have become a sort of therapy for me as handle the stresses and responsibility of our role to fight COVID-19 and I thank you for letting me let you in. 

Stay Safe. Stay Healthy. Stay Strong.

As always, Thank you.


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