In late January, Remy Garson, Remcoda CEO, acted quickly to convert his manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and overseas to assist in the worldwide effort to supply personal protective equipment, also known as PPE. The effort began, says the YPO member, when he saw videos on Twitter of people in Wuhan collapsing on the street. “I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that we were in trouble,” Garson says.
By late February, IBrands had stopped mass producing its essential oils and skincare products and was exclusively bottling sanitizer. By mid-March, it’s apparel factories in China had converted to making masks. Three million N95 respirator masks were sent to Italy.
“We also have reliable sourcing for digital thermometers that do not require any physical contact with the patient in taking their temperatures,” Garson says.
With these much-needed items in short supply, Garson’s efforts are making a real difference.
IBrands Global: A family business
IBrands Global is a family business that for 30 years has been manufacturing products, including denim, fashion brands, luggage, shoes, handbags and an intimates brand they co-founded with Colombian-American actress Sofia Vergara. The company is most known though, he says, for its health and wellness division. “Our dream is to bring wellness to the masses.”
“We have a large essential oil making and filling facility in California,” Garson explains. “When the COVID-19 pandemic began, we realized that there was going to be a strong demand for sanitizer and that we could convert our essential oil operation into a sanitizer operation.” The company converted all the machines used to fill essential oils bottles to machines that could fill sanitizer bottles. He does not think the change will be temporary either. “I think the world has changed and I’ll be making sanitizer for the rest of my career.”
“I can tell you that in all of the years my father and I have worked, we have never seen anything close to the amount of demand that we’re seeing for medical supplies. It’s beyond comprehension,” he says.
The company also has an extensive operation in China and its full-time staff sources products from very large networks of factories.
“We could see that there’s no demand for denim, handbags and luggage right now — certainly no one’s traveling — so we worked very quickly to convert all of those efforts into PPE,” he says. This transition ensures health care facilities and health care workers have the supplies they need to fight this crisis, and it also helps IBrands keep its staff employed.
Meeting new challenges
Sourcing products is sourcing products, Garson explains. If someone is good at it, they can source virtually anything — the process is pretty much the same, with one notable exception when it comes to medical supplies: the need to address certification requirements and U.S. Federal Drug Administration importing licenses. “It’s creating a lot of complexity. There are a lot of counterfeit product and fraudulent certificates floating around. You need to vet everything thoroughly.”
Importing medical supplies according to Garson, is much more sensitive. “Under normal circumstances if you deliver a faulty product, you just ship a replacement. But this is different. This is life and death,” he says. “Everything has to be double and triple verified.”
With surging demand comes rising costs presenting new challenges in an already difficult economic climate. “Its simple supply and demand. Practically the entire world needs billions of new masks and all kinds of PPE, urgently. Every state and every country are competing for the same supply, which is 5x, 10x pricing. To add insult to injury, air freight costs are going through the roof too,” he says.
High praise for the YPO network
Garson can’t say enough about the YPO network and the support and effort it has provided. “The YPO network has been amazing,” he says. “Business leaders, health care leaders, government – all kinds of leaders from YPO have reached out to get these life-saving supplies to the places and people who need them most.”
He adds, “We’re working really hard to give YPO members priority because we know their hearts are in the right places and they are in the position to make the greatest impact.”
The unique thing about the YPO network Garson says, “is there’s a trust factor that’s established between members.” With so much demand pouring in, factories are demanding 100% of the payment upfront before releasing any product. This could present an insurmountable roadblock. “Normally there wouldn’t be a comfort level to complete a transaction like that.”
Garson says the YPO trust factor has expedited the process at a time when speed is important. “That’s been critical,” he says. “I am really proud of the YPO community for stepping up and I am grateful to be a part of it. It feels good to know that we are helping.”