“What now?” may be the most commonly asked question of late, particularly for retailers. And while some fashion brands got creative as the coronavirus pandemic quickly intensified throughout the U.S., others embraced the unknown — by choosing altruism over the waiting game.
That’s why young companies such as Go Dash Dot, a stylishly utilitarian accessories brand, leave a lasting impression. After only four years of its launch, the brand was already selling at Neiman Marcus with handbags in the $150 range.
But founder Hannah Fastov decided to do things a bit differently when COVID-19 affected sales: The brand donated most of its inventory to hospital workers after hearing from a Nashville-based nurse that she was able to carry around critical supplies such as bandages, medicine, syringes and saline in a Go Dash Dot handbag while doing her rounds. Hearing of the bag’s value in light of the crisis sparked the idea to donate them; Fastov’s most recent delivery included a sizable batch of bags to NYU-Langone and Maimonides Medical Center.
Here, Fastov, talks to WWD about sharply pivoting from business to aid during the coronavirus pandemic.
WWD: Would you share more about the inspiration behind donating the majority of your inventory to health-care workers?
Hannah Fastov: I started a program called Inspire to lift the spirits of my community and spread positivity. One component of Inspire was a daily giveaway for our belt bags. One of the winners happened to be a nurse who said she was so excited to win the belt bag because it would be so helpful to hold saline solutions, PPE, and other items she needs to carry on her body while working with patients and between shifts. And because our bags are machine washable, she can throw the bag in the wash as soon she gets home. This sparked the idea to donate our total belt bag inventory to the men and women who need them most right now and could use something to brighten up their day.
WWD: How is the donation of inventory going to affect business moving forward?
H.F.: I am a small business and have been greatly affected by all of the challenges facing the fashion industry. The majority of my business is wholesale, which is currently at a standstill, and e-commerce is tough, especially for a product designed for an on-the-go lifestyle. Donating a large portion of our inventory will no doubt have an effect on my balance sheet and was an emotional decision to make, but one that I felt strongly about to drive the power of positivity. I don’t know what the future holds. I do know positivity can do more than negativity regardless of the severity of the situation.
My Dad always says, “Show me, don’t tell me.” As I was making the decision to donate our belt bags, his voice kept creeping up in my mind. If I really wanted to inspire change and drive the power of positivity, I had to take the first step and show how it can be done. Seeing the nurses wearing the bags and their reactions to our gesture is more than I could ask for in return. And I hope karma does exist.
WWD: What has the reaction been from health-care community?
H.F.: The reaction has been beautiful. I have had so many people reaching out to express their excitement to receive belt bags and share how helpful they will be. One woman e-mailed me, “My hospital was one of the first hospitals in New Jersey that got taken over by COVID-19. Now we are filled to capacity going on the fourth week. Your message is exactly what I do daily. Wash every bag and article of clothing immediately after coming home and changing before I even step foot in my car. Thank you for all that you do to support health-care workers at this time!”
Another woman said, “I would like to extend my thanks to you and your company for taking the time to show your appreciation on social media. Sometimes when we are having a rough day, all we need is for someone to acknowledge it and it makes it worthwhile. So, thank you for supporting women and supporting your health-care workers. Stay safe!”
WWD: How difficult was it to pivot from day-to-day sales and management to dealing with the virus?
H.F.: It was challenging in the sense that I was scared and not sure what to do, but had to put on a brave face to lead my team forward in a responsible and safe way. However, being a small team has definitely been advantageous as we navigated these tough and uncertain times. All seven of us have doubled down on our efforts to build and share the Go Dash Dot brand, working longer hours with less pay.
My whole team has risen to the occasion and worked together to pivot and reassess our goals as a business to grow what we can control in the present, and plan for the future as best we can.
WWD: As a young entrepreneur, how did you initially react to managing this crisis?
H.F.: By nature, I am a positive person; a fixer, and a doer. While my first reaction to this crisis was fear, I quickly shifted into adaptation mode to adjust my business. Perhaps my age has shielded me from previous experience with recessions and grim situations, and therefore I am more niave naiver and more hopeful that the world will resume normalcy sooner rather than later, but I think it is more about outlook and ability to adapt than age.
WWD: What have you learned from this experience?
H.F.: The power of community. I would not have been able to donate 1,000 bags to health-care workers, offer free workouts on our Instagram, adjust our pricing structure, and remain positive without the support of the Go Dash Dot team, our loyal customers, and other businesses. I am just one small part of the huge community working toward flattening the curve — and giving aid to those who need it.
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