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Inspiring Views from the Bright SideSM

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An Interview with Michelle Feibusch

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VP of Business Operations

A. Feibusch Corp / Zipperstop | Long Island City, New York

Connect with Michelle on LinkedIn

1. What are the goods/services offered by your primary business?

Over the past 78 years, A. Feibusch Corp/Zipperstop has been a leading supplier in the Sewing/Garment Industry. We offer a variety of sewing and craft products ranging from zippers, thread, Swarovski rhinestones, ribbon & more! We are most known for our YKK Zippers, but expanded greatly into the sewing industry offering our customers a one stop shop for all their sewing needs.

2. What did you launch in response to the COVD-19 pandemic?

Being a zipper company, when the Covid-19 pandemic initially began, our zipper business which has been around since 1941, basically went to a halt. Not only being a zipper company, but also being a small, 4th generation family business we needed to figure out how we can help the community and how we can ensure our small, family business can survive this pandemic, all without letting any of our employees who have been with us for several years go. We began to hear stories from customers, social media, and people all over the country of making/sewing masks, since finding them online or in the stores was nearly impossible. We turned our Zipper company into an elastic company overnight. We started shipping elastic all over the world to people sewing masks, as the part that goes over your ears. We also were able to offer our customers sewing supplies, such as sewing needles so they can complete their masks for hospitals, communities, neighbors, family, and friends. Elastic was impossible to find, and with businesses shut down in NYC, we came together and practiced social distancing, Ubering our employees in from all over NY, to get elastic out to these amazing people as fast we possibly could, while staying safe and healthy. Working 7 days a week, around the clock, we all came together during this difficult time.

3. What steps did you take to develop and promote your new initiative?

Being unprepared for the Covid-19 Pandemic, and the lockdown of NYC and the country, we needed to think fast to develop a plan that would make sure we would not go out of business after 78 years. We started researching what people needed to make masks and how can we get them these products in a timely manner, while keeping our employees safe. The product with the most demand was Elastic. We turned our zipper business into an elastic business, buy bringing in enough elastic to get to people all over the country and the world. We wanted to help out the best way we knew how. We were able to promote our new initiative on social media, and market places, such as Etsy and amazon. Also the biggest promotion was word of mouth. We were getting new customers all over the country from world of mouth from their friends, sewing communities, and people just trying to help make masks. It was so nice to see the whole country come together.

4. What or who inspired you to undertake this effort?

My grandfather started our family business on December 7, 1941 (Pearl Harbor Day) at the age of 16 with $100 to his name. He escaped the Nazis in Austria and came to America with nothing. He started off working in a grocery store, then he used to work for a zipper business and realized if his boss can do this, so can he. He started A. Feibusch Corp right away. He went back to fight in WWII, where he was wounded and received the Purple Heart, and came back to NY and ran the business with his mother, and eventually my grandmother, and then my father, and now my husband and I are all part of this amazing story. My grandfather did not let anything take down our business. He used to even take zippers out of used clothing to stay in business. He made it through the tough times after September 11, 2 fires, and much more. He worked until the age of 94. He was our true inspiration through all of this. I know he would be so proud of how we handled this devastating time.

5. What results have you seen so far from this initiative?

We have seen such amazing, positive, uplifting results from this initiative. The most rewarding results are the amazing emails, calls, pictures, and feedback from our customers, telling us how its so amazing that we are keeping the garment district alive, and how we are helping them make masks for nurses, sick patients, the elderly, family, friends and neighbors. We are so happy the changes we made to our everyday business are helping the country right now stay safe.

6. How do you define success for your project?

We define success for this, by the rewarding feedback we receive from existing and new customers. We also define success by making it though this Pandemic with ALL of our employees still working for us, all healthy and safe. We also define the success by being able to stay open as an essential business during this time and getting the essential supplies like elastic and other face mask supplies to people around the country trying to help by sewing. We define success by being to keep our doors open, the door my grandfather opened up over 75 years during the Pearl Harbor and WWII difficult times.

7. What are the biggest challenges for you to meet your goal?

The biggest challenges have been the challenges that came along with the Pandemic. Having our employees come in each day, we need to make sure everyone was able to feel safe here and at home to ensure the safety of all our employees and their families. In the beginning of the Pandemic we were only having our employees coming in a few times a week in rotations to make everyone feel more comfortable about social distancing. It was challenging to get out all the orders as fast as wanted to. We worked 7 days a week just packing and shipping out face mask supplies. It was definitely stressful at the peak of Covid-19 in NY, while everyone was staying home, and we were coming into work everyday to get out the goods to everyone around the country. It seemed like we were one of very little companies to stay open in our industry in the USA, so we were trying to just keep up the best we could.

8. How long do you anticipate continuing this effort?

We anticipate this effort going for quite a while. People are so amazing and are still sewing masks and making face shields. We even were seeing people use ribbons for hospital gowns. Face masks are mandatory right now in NY and other places around the country, so as long as people need masks, we are here for them!

9. What have you learned by undertaking this project?

I have learned A LOT. I have learned that your health and safety is the most important thing in the world, and without that you can't run a business. I have also learned so much from our customers. if we all work together and pitch in when we can, amazing things happen. Being 30, this was the first crisis I have experienced while working for our family business the past 6+ years, and I learned how to handle difficult times and how to work together to ensure our business will keep its doors open no matter what will come our way.

10. How can others learn more about your COVID-19 response efforts?

I think the best way to learn is to listen. We listened to our customers and people on social media, friends, and family. We realized by listening to them, that we can help. I think if people asked "how can I help" especially with the resources they have, they will be amazed at what they can do.