Reflections on 2020

February 10, 2021

Reflections on 2020

We were recently asked some thought provoking questions from  Skyler Rossi from Times of Entrepreneurship and thought we would share some of our answers. She pulled our story together along with handMADE Montana in a recent article:  2020 Survivor Story: Recreate Montana Pivoted To Online, And Grabbed Government Grants To Keep Paying Artists

Tell me about your company. What'sWhat's your elevator pitch?

REcreate designs is a small manufacturing line that produces adult & children's clothing, accessories, and home goods made from upcycled materials. We are proud to be 100% made in Montana by people who care. Once a one-person operation housed in an apartment basement, REcreate designs has expanded into a full production space, now newly housed in the back of the handMADE MT retail store in downtown Polson. We pride ourselves on creating consistent and well-constructed products that will last. We employ local folks and purchase a majority of our raw materials from area thrift and second-hand stores. REcreate designs is a member of the Polson Business Community and the Polson Chamber of Commerce. This year for our 1% for the Planet donation, we were happy to support the Flathead Lakers, who encourage land and water stewardship. REclaim, REpurpose, REcreate designs—seeing things not as they are, but for what they can become.

I'd like to know a little bit about you/ the co-founders of your company. Tell me about yourself and what inspired you to start your company.

After graduating college with a degree and passion for both art and the environment, I started playing around with upcycling materials into new products. Most of my ideas and inspiration come from wanting to make a gift or item for myself that was not already being made. I grew up in a supportive environment that appreciated and encouraged my creative endeavors. My father was born and raised during the great depression, and it was his outlook about never throwing things away and reusing and repurposing that was handed down to me. I am always inspired by the colors and world around me. My kiddos inspired me to develop a children's collection of cute yet functional clothing. I am currently working on a bag and home goods line using wool scraps and discarded denim. I have always tried to do what is right and good.

What did you accomplish through your company in 2020?

Last year was something else. We began the year in full-on production mode for an upcoming wholesale trade show making sure we were fully stocked and ready to enter the year with renewed energy. This was going to be the year. The year we get to develop new products, write our story, and really go after online sales. Insert Covid-19, and a big wrench was thrown into any plans we had. What we did not accomplish was all the new stuff we had planned. We did grow and thrive and kept everyone employed and then some by shifting our business 100%. We saw a need and stepped up to make masks. We had a sewing factory that could make anything after all. We connected with the community and local organizations that needed face masks. We directly manufactured over 17,000 cloth face masks and processed materials for an additional 10,000 for community members to help make them. Fabric donations poured in, and we cut, serged, and bundled cotton fabric along with elastic and nose wires. Volunteers picked up bags of prepped masks to sew and bring back to be distributed to organizations requesting them. We did this from mid-March till the end of October. We accomplished financial stability by doing the right thing. We connected with our community in a way that no amount of marketing dollars can buy. 

How did COVID-19 affect your company?

In mid-March, everything changed. I had gotten a call from a nurse friend asking if I could make him a cloth mask to protect him when PPE was being reused and in short supply. I did some research and improved upon features of those already joining the mask making movement. I tend to go big, think big, do big. Within a week, I had made an instructional sheet, step-by-step video, and started processing fabric donations so others could help. We prepped materials and hired additional contract workers to help keep up with the fabric mask demand. At first, we wanted to help however we could. We did that and more, way more. We started receiving larger orders from the local US National Forest Service, Tribal Health, County Employees, and the State of Montana. While we put our regular collection of upcycled goods on full pause, we grew a whole other direction we did not even know was possible. Covid-19 affected us in our production schedules, acquiring supplies (elastic was sparse), and our workforce. With available grants, we could adapt our workspace and offer our employees an option to sew from home to stay healthy by purchasing some additional equipment. We saw more traffic on our website than ever before and close to 1500 orders from customers we had never connected with. By shifting our business, we were able to keep moving in a financially safe direction. We can now expand and develop product ideas that had been put on pause since last year. We also know if the call comes, we will again answer and shift our story to support what needs to be made.

How do you measure success in your company? Did this definition change during 2020?

We feel our success is not only measured by our bank account but a bit more. What do the profits at the end of the year look like? Did we reach new customers with our products? Did we tell our story? 

I have always hoped to scale what we do, but it is a tricky thing since everything is one-of-a-kind, and there is a lot of time and effort put into each product. Doing the right thing is not always the easiest or cheapest way to do business. This year we saw a different sort of success. We saw what mass-producing close to 20K of a good profit-margin product looks like. We connected with new customers, but our upcycling story may have been lost in the mask shuffle. Interestingly, last year was our best year yet financially—something to learn and build from. 

What challenges did your business face last year?

While we shifted to meet demand, we lost something. We had been so used to a constant flow of color and creativity. Our new expression was now limited to naming a color option for a mask on our website. It is quite challenging for a group of people that thrive in the creative world to become mask-making robots. The biggest challenge was to keep going, knowing that perhaps this mass-production situation would end and we could get back to our small batch manufacturing of products. The uncertainty of what was to come next did not consume us but inspired us to keep going.

How did you overcome those challenges?

We made lists, inserted creativity into any possible task, and dreamt of a day we could begin to check things off. We sprinkled in a few dance-offs, 

a puppet show to promote wearing masks, some speed sewing competitions, and the Star is Born soundtrack for inspiration. We did what needed to be done. 

Tell me about a particularly difficult part of 2020 and how you overcame it.

When we first shifted production, we did not know exactly where things were going to take us. There was an uncertainty in the direction of the next weeks and months. At first, we did what we must and did not worry about the financial side of things. Our efforts got noticed. We applied for an Innovation grant and received funding to upgrade our equipment for mask making that would expand our production and increase efficiency. The unknowing of what was next is what was the hardest. We had customers purchasing our regular collection via our retail front (handMADE Montana), but no way to keep up with both demands. Putting a business on pause was hard. Even with 2020's2020's set-backs, we are ready to move forward and tell the rest of our story. We are more than just mask makers.

Tell me about a bright spot of 2020.

This year will be known as a year of connecting. We connected with our local community and those we call our neighbors in both the businesses and life. Many new faces stepped forward to help with volunteer mask making. We got to hear their stories and how their lives had come to intersect with our mask-making mission. Since day one, Virginia, one of our oldest mask-making queens, has been the most upbeat and service-driven person I have ever met. I remember her calling to apologize that she fell and broke her hip and wouldn't be able to make masks until it healed. She loves to help others and wants nothing in return. After a while, I asked if she wanted to start making a little money and transition to being a contract sewer, and she refused and just wanted to continue to make to donate. Her spirit and care for others was definitely a bright spot of 2020. May we all one day be a Virginia.

What resources did you use throughout the year?

We are very thankful to be connected with the Lake County Community Development Center (now Mission West). They brought many grant and loan opportunities for those affected by Covid-19 to our attention. REcreate designs accessed the PPP loans for payroll, EIDL SBA loan, Montana Covid Relief, Adaptability, and Innovation Grants. We can't know what this year may bring, but we are standing on solid ground financially and are ready to move forward.

What else would you like to share?

We are very grateful for where we live and the people we choose to surround ourselves with. Getting through 2020 and navigating to what is next is not a singular adventure but a team effort for sure.




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Sizing

All of the items in the REcreate designs collection are one-of-a-kind and made from reclaimed materials, and as a result there is a small amount of variation within sizes.

Adult Collection

TEE SKIRT

The figure-flattering a-line skirt can be worn low on the hips or at the natural waist. The drawstring allows for an adjustable fit. If things get a little snug in the bum area, fold the waistband over.

Tee Skirt Adult
size range
waist
length
Xsmall 2 30" 19"-19"
Small 4-6 32" 19"-20"
Medium 8-10 34" 20"-21"
Large 12-14 38" 21"-22"
X-Large 16 41" 22"-23"

 

ELLA & ELLA ROO HOODY

A great hoody on its own or layered up. The Ella Roo has princess seams that add an extra level of flattery for the female figure. If you plan on layering over multiple shirts, choose a larger size. 

Ella & Ella Roo Hoody
size range
chest
bottom band
length
Xsmall 2 34" 34" 25"
Small 4-6 36" 36" 26"
Medium 8-10 38" 40" 27"
Large 12-14 42" 43" 27.5"
X-Large 16 45" 46" 28"

 

JANET TANK

An opened back favorite that will keep you cool in warm weather. Shoulder straps are wide enough to cover bra straps.

Janet Tank
size range
chest
bottom band
length
Xsmall 2 34" 33" 23"
Small 4-6 35" 36" 24"
Medium 8-10 37" 38" 24.5"
Large 12-14 38" 39" 25.5"

 

VELMA

A 3/4 Sleeve with button down collar than can be worn several ways.

Velma Short Sleeve Shirt
Size Range
Chest
bottom band
Length
Xsmall 2 34" 34" 25"
Small 4-6 36" 37" 26"
Medium 8-10 38" 40" 27"
Large 12-14 42" 43" 28.5"
X-Large 16 46" 48" 30"

 

BESTIE DRESS

Your go-to dress in your closet. Slip it on and head out the door looking fabulous

Bestie Dress
Size Range
Chest
waist
length
Xsmall 2 34" 34" 37"
Small 4-6 36" 36" 38"
Medium 8-10 38" 37" 40"
Large 12-14 42" 38" 42"

TWEEDERS

Cute, practical, and a great fit no matter what size calf you have. Great over shoes, booths, pants, or leggings. Tweeders vary slightly and will stretch a little bit.

Tweeders
Circumference Top 
Circumference Bottom
Calf
length
Small
15.5"-15"
12.5"
13" 14.5"
Medium 14.5"-16" 13" 14"
14.5"
Large 16.5"-18" 13" 15"
14.5"
Xlarge 17.5"-18.5" 15" 16"
14.5"

Weecycle

The Weecycle Kiddo line from REcreate designs is designed with a growing child in mind. The styles and color combinations are bright and whimsical.  The features and designs of the clothing and accessories allow them to be worn for a longer length of time, keeping kiddos in them longer and looking cuter than ever before.


REVERSIBLE JUMPER

The jumper is cut a little wider to keep it in the closet longer. It can start out as a long dress and then worn as a shirt as the child grows and is easily reversed.

reversible jumper
size range
chest
length
small 6mo-2T 20" 15"
medium 12mo-3T 21" 16"
large 2T-4T 23" 17"

Short sleeve snap down dress

The raglan cut dress can be worn as a dress or shirt, layered or on its own.

Snap Down Dress
chest
length
12 mo 21" 16.5"
2T 22.5" 18"
4T 25" 22"
6 28" 25"

 

Elf & Ranger Jackets

The reversible kimono style jacket can be worn for several seasons. The elastic bound sleeve cuffs keep them in place either folded or left long. The Ranger Woolen Jacket has additional leather elbow patches, but is not reversible.

ELF & RANGER JACKETS
chest
arm length
length
12 mo 23" 14.5" 15.5"
2T 26" 16" 17.5"
4T 30" 19" 19"

 

Elf hoody

The pull-over elf hoody has adjustable cuffs on the sleeves and can be worn long or at the waist.

Elf Hoody
chest
length
12 mo 21" 12"
2T 22.5" 14"
4T 25" 18"
6 28" 20"

 

Tee skirt

The ever popular kiddo tee skirt can be worn on their own or layered with tights, leg warmers, or leggings. Use the drawstring to adjust the waistband and fold it over if a little snug.

tee skirt kiddo
size range
waist
length
Xsmall 6mo-2T 20" 15"
Small 2T-4T 18"-21" 11"
Medium 4T-6 21"-22" 12"
Large 8-10 23"-24" 13"
Xlarge 12 15" 15"

Fancy pants

The versatile fancy pants are designed with a moving child in mind. The butt gusset helps with large loads. Keep the pants cuffed or unfold as the child grows and to keep the legs covered in cooler weather.

Fancy Pants
waist
length
3mo 15" 13"
6mo 17" 15.5"
12mo 18.5" 18"
2T 19.5 20"

 

Fancy shants

The new Fancy Shants are designed  to keep your kiddo's knees protected in the warmth of summer. The butt gusset helps with large loads. 

Fancy Shants
waist
length
3mo 15" 8""
6mo 17" 10"
12mo 18.5" 11"
2T 19.5" 12"

 

Max & Lilly Rompers

Easy snap closure and plenty of room for all types of diapers. 

Max & Lilly Rompers
chest
hips
torso length
0-3 mo 17" 20" 17"
3-6mo 19" 22" 18"
6-9mo 20" 23.5" 19"
9-12 mo 20.5" 24" 20"

 

Max & Lilly Tees

Lapped shoulders for easy wearing and removal. Cut a little longer to extend wear. 

Max & Lilly Tees
chest
 length
0-3 mo 17" 11"
3-6mo 17.5" 12.5"
6-9mo 18" 13.5"
9-12 mo 19" 14.5"

 

Single knotty hats

Adjust the volume of the hat by making the knots lower or higher. The stretchy jersey helps to keep a snug fit regardless of head size

knotty hats
 head size
0-6 mo 14"-17"
6-12 mo 16"-19"