Milwaukee women who started their business with just $300 pivot during pandemic to make much-needed PPE

Company found specific organizations you can donate to
Posted at 6:05 AM, Jun 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-13 13:00:30-04

MILWAUKEE — Despite the pandemic, there is one thing for sure: Our small businesses have stepped up in huge ways to help our communities. Even while struggling themselves.

One of them that is a perfect example to spotlight in our Rebound Milwaukee series, is located in the Clarke Square neighborhood, called Tactile Craftworks.

Julia Fello followed up with the two owners featured in her Passion Project series, to catch up and show us how their dream company is helping people get back to work.

Sarah Heck and Anna Warren own Tactile Craftworks. They create intricate maps of major cities, lasered onto leather.

“When we started the business our checking account had $300 in it like we both put in $150,” recalled Warren.

We showed you in January how orders for their intricate lasered journals, passports and mugs grew to 200 different stores across the country. Then March came. The pandemic was declared and most business stalled.

“Our usual day to day business pretty much went from normal to almost zero in about a week,” said Warren.

Instead of throwing in the towel, Anna and Sarah knew their laser printers could help make something for those on the front lines no one could find: face shields.

Warren explained, “It was about two weeks before when we first started researching to when we had our first shield ready to go.”

The right plastic to use was the hardest material to find anywhere. Anna says that’s where their theater days helped solve the problem, “We actually found a costume supply shop in Texas that had a couple hundred sheets of plastic in stock. I think that's born out of our theater training of being scrappy.”

It worked! So far, Tactile Craftworks have sold 900 face shields. The largest donation went to health workers in Haiti and Navajo Nation. Anna adds, “We've also sent smaller donations around to small businesses in Milwaukee small community organizations in Milwaukee and a birthing center in Chicago.”

In the meantime, Tactile Craftworks received a federal loan, and orders for their intricate leather products ticking back up. Just like the rest of the country, they expect their business to bounce back soon.

Here is your Rebound Rundown:

  • Tactile Craftworks face shield costs $10 each
  • Face shields purchased to donate cost $5 each (NOTE: Company has already chosen the specific organizations you donations will go to.)
  • Click here if you would like to learn more.

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