WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO CREATE YOUR PRODUCT?
When we got our first confirmed case of COVID-19 inEthiopia, it was a time of confusion and fear for most people, who began reaching out to us for scrubs and facemasks. After getting more information on the pandemic and directions from the local health administration, our management team understood that it was our responsibility as a company to be of service to our community and play our part towards the fight against the pandemic. So we had to repurpose, and began producing affordable facemasks and PPE, to help meet our country’s demand.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE IMPACT OF YOUR PRODUCT?
We are able to produce affordable facemasks andPPE, that way reaching many people. We also created a gofundme campaign for other people to join us in donating facemasks and PPE for those could not afford it. With our campaign, we focused on the vulnerable elderly population unable to afford facemasks as well as donating scrubs and gowns to medical professionals, who are high-risk frontline personnel during this pandemic.
ARE THERE ANY CHALLENGES YOU HAVE FACED PRODUCING YOUR PRODUCT?
Initially, we had challenges in obtaining the raw material needed for mass production as well as training our staff to make the new products. We were fortunate to be selected as recipients of a MasterCard Foundation grant program in relation to COVID-19 relief. This grant program has been fundamental in helping us not only keep our staff employed, but we have also been in a position to recruit more people.
WHAT HELP WOULD YOU NEED TO SCALE UP AND IMPROVE YOUR PRODUCT?
As a growing SME, market linkage is an area of challenge for us. To have an opportunity to be locally listed as a vendor, and to have partnership opportunities with large organizations, would enable us to sell our products and scale up. At the continental and international level, we need linkage and opportunities to export our products.
WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES FOR THE FUTURE OF YOUR INNOVATION AND YOUR BUSINESS?
At the core and heart of Gaber Wear, is the importance of empowering women. Established in 2016, 85% of our staff are women – right from those who work on our factory floor sewing our products, to those in managerial positions. We also embrace all other women who express themselves through our products. Our hope in the future is to be a renowned apparel brand not just in Ethiopia but across the continent. And we hope to be the space for future innovative products that can solve Africa’s community problems.