Old Fort, N.C. (March 25, 2020) — After pivoting its premium bike apparel production to make face masks and shields for first responders and medical providers in Western North Carolina, Kitsbow experienced unanticipated engagement from all over the U.S., with demand totaling more than 100,000 units in the first week. Asheville-based neighbor, Industry Nine, offered its expertise in large-scale manufacturing and sourcing of raw materials. In less than two days of working together, the companies found a solution to yield 10,000 shields per day.
“We never expected to make personal protective equipment (PPE), but there are a lot of things that none of us ever expected about the current state of affairs,” said David Billstrom, Kitsbow CEO. “We were blown away by the demand and quickly turned to Industry Nine for help. We jumped into this—no paperwork—just putting our heads together and knocking out a better solution and a few design tweaks to make the face shields more manufacturable, in a shorter period of time.”
Industry Nine’s engineering teams have years of robotics and automation experience and were in a position to help Kitsbow with the manufacturing of parts needed to produce PPE shields and assisting supply efforts in combating the virus outbreak.
Industry Nine was just one of the many outdoor industry brands based in Western North Carolina to welcome Kitsbow to the area in December 2019, when Kitsbow hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to unveil the new factory in Old Fort.
Due to high demand, Kitsbow is only able to supply PPE to medical providers and first responder agencies on a first-come, first-served basis. See https://www.kitsbow.com/collections/medical for more information on the PPE products.
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Kitsbow Pivots Production To Make Face Masks
Kitsbow decided to pivot its apparel production to make face shields for first responders as well as reusable face masks. The company is doing so to fight the spread of COVID-19 aka the Corona Virus.
Kitsbow founder, Zander Nosler, is a Stanford University graduate and remains well-connected with the Stanford Design School alumni, which shared a design of a face shield from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Makerspace. An initial design was created by Kitsbow last Thursday, and after collecting feedback and design tweaks from local first responders, Kitsbow kicked mask production into high gear, with its first shipment going out today.
The first shields are going to Asheville-based Buncombe County Emergency Management and Burke County Emergency Management and the first masks are going to a medical clinic in Salem, Oregon that is cleaning disposable masks in order to reuse them.
Kitsbow is currently selling the masks at-cost to local first responders and medical staff but plans to distribute internationally as they make more. Using raw materials on-hand, Kitsbow will continue making the masks and shields as long as they are needed. This also allows Kitsbow to keep its employees paid and working, unlike so many businesses throughout the country.