Many of us were already thankful to Chat Razdan for his inventiveness. His startup, Care+Wear, which he launched with Susan Jones in 2014, has been designing functional clothing for cancer patients and others who find themselves facing medical procedures. The company’s product offerings grew from breathable antimicrobial arm sleeves to hold PICC lines, to specially created tops for chest ports, a less embarrassing and revealing hospital gown, and even an Oscar de la Renta-designed hoodie.
Now—thanks to the coronavirus pandemic—you can add PPE supplier to the list.
Razdan says that a few months ago, his suppliers asked if Care+Wear was interested in carrying disposable coveralls (“Think of the hazmat suits from the James Bond movies.”) at the same time that one of his partners made it known they could help source well-made PPE for different Care+Wear partners that were in need of the equipment.
“The next thing we knew, we were getting calls nonstop from people sharing their horror stories about receiving poor-quality—and even worse—fraudulent product,” he recalls.
And just like that, Razdan realized he was in a position to reliably acquire and distribute PPE into the hands of people who needed it most.
Delivering the Goods
Over the last few months, Care+Wear has been able to supply millions of PPE units to his partners across the globe. That includes wearables such as isolation gowns, protective masks, face shields, plastic gloves, goggles, coveralls, bouffant caps, and shoe covers, as well as crucial items like thermometers, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, and more.
But acquiring the many helpful products wasn’t as straightforward as it might seem.
Razdan says some unscrupulous people have taken advantage of the COVID-19 outbreak to turn a quick profit.
“We’ve spent and continue to spend countless hours vetting the supply chain and ensuring that we are on top of vendors and logistics,” he says. “We are actively communicating in real time what we are learning to our hospital and government partners.”
The need is clear as the situation has changed and brought unexpected roadblocks along the way. China, where much of the supplies originate, changed its customs process, requiring all products leaving the country to first undergo medical testing. Razdan says that policy caused massive delays, but ultimately provided a benefit to end users, who were assured of the authenticity of the products.
Of additional help to Care+Wear was their upstanding reputation, which allowed their partners to make the company’s pivot successful in getting PPE to those on the front line.
“We are a known entity to all the hospitals,” Razdan notes. “So as they’ve been looking to find people with reliable inventory, they liked that they knew of us beforehand, and we weren’t just trying to enter the business to profit. It’s been a great way for us to continue to develop our relationships, and we’re happy to help however we can. We’re proud of the fact that we’ve been able to help protect so many people who are risking their lives each day.”
When prompted for any examples, he cites the company’s part in a recent initiative that supplied gowns to the Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY, where the team emailed about how the isolation gowns were helping protect them. Shannon Health in San Angelo, TX, were excited about getting the face masks they received, and sent along a photo of the shipment. After sending products to Illinois, a regional emergency logistical specialist posted a special shout-out to Care+Wear on social media for getting his team face shields.
“At the end of the day, we’re all in this together. And we’re just excited to be able to help,” Razdan says.
Strong Support Systems
Though Care+Wear was thriving in the past two years, Razdan’s plans for the company changed when the pandemic hit.
“We were on pace to grow dramatically this year with sales of our hospital gown and expansion of our direct-to-consumer business with a new Oscar de la Renta introduction,” he explains.
So while COVID-19 necessitated a pushback on the release of their new products, it gave the company the opportunity to apply its expertise to PPE. It also created new partnerships, resulting in the successful launch of the reusable isolation gowns and other new items planned for next year.
Though Razdan says that nothing could have prepared any of us for the impact of the coronavirus, he notes that his time at McIntire readied him for the upheaval that accompanied the crisis.
“McIntire helped prepare us for the uncertainty and to realize that while the world was being turned upside down, there was a lot that we could do to help,” he says, explaining how the company quickly added a reliable supply chain to reach many people during their greatest time of need.
“Separately, the McIntire network remains super-strong,” he says. “I continue to get daily texts from many of our McIntire friends and investors who have been helping us solve issues that come up in real time, whether it’s customs, financing, or products. It’s been amazing.”
Razdan says that Care+Wear is proud of their growth, but more so that their efforts have been able to help millions of people. Both the providers on the front lines and the patients receiving critical care continue to be a source of inspiration for him and the company as they continue to be a source of support.
“The pandemic has just opened our eyes even further at how much more work there is to do.”