Saint Louis, MO

The Collective Thread: St. Louis’ small business that survived during the pandemic

Tyrone Wallace

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SAINT LOUIS, MO – This pandemic has affected big corporations and small businesses in various sectors. One of the small businesses in St. Louis, namely Collective Thread, is a small-batch manufacturing company that had to change their operations in order to stay afloat.

The Collective Thread pivoted their usual clothing apparel-oriented business into small fabric sewing-oriented, where they create cloth masks as one of the essential things for everyone to wear. They started their new vision in early 2020, when the pandemic begun.

Annie Miller and Terri Stipanovich, as the co-founders of the Collective Thread, started the company with a mission: to empower women immigrants and refugees by involving them in the fashion industry. They taught them to cut and sew, two of the most important skills to start a career in this field.

Zohra Zaimi, a floor manager-in-training at the non-profit organization and one of the women immigrants, has learned sewing skills from her 3 months of training and it gives her and her coworkers a career where they can provide for their families, specifically in difficult situations like the pandemic.

Some of the members are currently working with them in the Collective Thread. Gradually, they successfully built a headquarter at Washington Avenue’s Fashion Row.

Stipanovich stated that COVID-19 changed their organization workflow. They had to stop every operation and hold every project, so everything queued up and it would impact their members, who are women immigrants and refugees, as a vulnerable community.

With making cloth masks as a way to survive the pandemic, they are also partnering with the Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis to support the workflow changes as well as to set up working from home mechanisms such as materials and kits delivery to their workers.

Because of their efforts, they can survive during the pandemic and succeeded to donate 3,000 cloth masks. Furthermore, they sold 8,000 pieces of cloth masks to companies or individuals.

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