Amid the pandemic, this apparel maker has pivoted towards a social good

18 Jan 2022

Amid the pandemic, this apparel maker has pivoted towards a social good

Activecool fashion

Led by Mr Amos Tan (back row, second from left), ActiveCool has pivoted towards a social good during the pandemic (photo was taken before the Covid-19 pandemic). PHOTO: ACTIVECOOL

When Mr Amos Tan and his team at ActiveCool learnt that migrant workers had difficulties getting a clean change of clothes, they thought nothing of donating the company’s ready stock of new apparel. A total of 3,000 pieces of clothing, 2,000 water bottles and 2,500 reusable masks were delivered in April 2020 to Singapore Expo – one of several designated community care facilities for recovering Covid-19 patients.

The manufacturer of customised apparel has long practised corporate social and environmental responsibility (CSR) with the goal of contributing to the well-being of local communities and society.

“ActiveCool has taken part in multiple CSR activities, either by donation of goods or funds from our profits. The initiatives that we are involved in are all close to our hearts, especially those involving the vulnerable communities,” says Mr Tan, 33, the company’s founder and director.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, as a gesture of appreciation to Singapore’s healthcare frontline workers, the company designed and distributed reusable masks to nurses on Nurses’ Day.

The company also donated care packs to another group of frontliners – hawkers.

“Our hawkers, especially senior hawkers, were also a community that we felt had been through difficult times,” says Mr Tan. ActiveCool worked with, a ground-up initiative to support local hawkers, and sponsored and distributed care packages consisting of muscle ache relief patches and reusable masks during Chinese New Year in 2021.

The company is an Honouree in the Brands for Good 2021/2022 awards, under the Business For Good category.

R&D key to business shift

Mr Tan notes the company faced its own challenges during the pandemic. “The crisis… required us to adapt quickly in order to stay relevant and afloat. When Singapore was under the circuit breaker, we had many orders put on hold, delayed payments from customers, and a huge dip in inquiries, which impacted our cash flow, workforce morale and ability to drive growth,” he says.

Fortunately, to differentiate itself in the highly competitive custom apparel manufacturing industry, ActiveCool has always invested heavily in research and development, and in lab-certified technology for its products.

When the pandemic struck, it was able to quickly shift its business from producing customised corporate apparel to lab-certified medical-grade reusable face masks. The company researched and improved upon iterations of its fabric technology to produce fabric masks with a bacterial filtration efficiency (BFE) of more than or equal to 95 per cent, and rolled them out at affordable prices.

ActiveCool now supplies masks to government agencies. Some of its masks were also worn by members of the 2021 National Day Parade marching contingent.

In the midst of the pandemic, Mr Tan also made sure to look after his employees. Noting that the work-from-home arrangement resulted in stressors that affected the staff’s mental health, the ActiveCool management team redesigned roles for a hybrid workplace and conducted weekly online calls so that team members could interact with one another.

“During our calls, we set aside some time to brainstorm trends we have observed in the market and to check in on everyone’s wellness,” says Mr Tan.

One idea that came up during the sessions was for ActiveCool to sell its products on online marketplaces, which expanded its reach beyond Singapore.

“This was new to the company and everyone, as we are a B2B (business-to-business) company and have limited knowledge about running an e-commerce. However, the total sales were above our expectations, and it was very encouraging to see the team’s willingness to learn,” says Mr Tan.

Seeing that masks will be a significant part of the new normal while the pandemic rages on, ActiveCool plans to increase brand awareness of its reusable masks and expand B2B distribution to neighbouring countries.

“It is also in our interests to help our neighbouring countries recover from this pandemic,” says Mr Tan.