GoodWood is bringing buy local full circle.
Small businesses know they’re only as strong as the communities they call home. That’s just one reason why, when COVID-19 began its reach into New Orleans, GoodWood’s Michael Dalle Molle and Jordan Gurren put their furniture studio on pause to serve the city they love.
They opened GoodWood in 2014 to craft well-hewn, sustainably-made furniture for hospitality clients. Their pivot from fashioning furniture for restaurants to making personal protective equipment for healthcare workers happened fast, but it’s on mission in every way.
Instead of waiting for a playbook, they wrote their own.
As longtime New Orleanians, Mike and Jordan were used to preparing for rough weather. Mike had lived in Italy and still had friends there. He knew from them, and from following the news, what was likely coming. GoodWood got busy preparing for the inevitable downturn.
First on their list: getting outstanding invoices paid, knowing they’d need the cash to keep their team on the payroll in the short term. Soon after, they moved with deliberate speed into a new labor of love — making face shields for their city’s healthcare workers.
The shift from high-end furniture to face shields was sudden, but it made perfect sense to GoodWood. “We’re quick learners and we’re all designers by trade,” Mike says. “So for us to be able to work with engineers and see a product concept and help bring that to life is what we do every day. We just normally do it for bars and restaurants and offices and clothing stores.”
Mike and Jordan went all-in, retooling their facility and converting their space into a production line within 48 hours. They also spent nearly $60,000 on materials before even knowing if they’d have any orders. “Part of what it means to be entrepreneurial is to believe in yourself and take those risks that you think are going to be fruitful.”
Within 72 hours of turning their entire operation on its axis, GoodWood had its prototype. “It’s lightweight, it’s durable, it can be reused if it has to, but it’s technically a disposable unit and it’s completely made here in the States. It’s made with American materials, it’s made with American labor and our supply chains are pretty much able to endure whatever happens.”
Sheer resolve and ingenuity weren’t the only things powering GoodWood’s invention. They forged the kind of collaboration that seems to arise in times of crisis. The local healthcare system, the CDC, local design engineers and industrial designers all worked closely with GoodWood to co-create and greenlight a winning design.
To date, GoodWood has turned out over 30,000 face shields, which are all being used in local hospitals. Eventually, they plan to ramp up production to as many as 50,000 per week.
Bringing it all back home.
In a time where businesses face tough choices, GoodWood’s focus on sustainability hasn’t budged. Like Detroit’s storied auto plants in World War II, their work for the common good is also fortifying their community for the long haul.Their operation is 100% local, from design to materials and manufacturing.
For instance, they sourced the acrylic products for face shields from a local vendor they’ve worked with for years. “It’s not something they import. It wasn’t something that they relied on anyone from outside of their region to get, they just make it in-house. I think that this is a lesson that we need to localize supply chains. Things like medical PPE should not be reliant on foreign entities.”
Where others might cut corners in an understandable quest for speed above all else, GoodWood has also remained steadfast in its commitment to be zero waste by 2025. “So when we did this, we wanted to ensure that there was going to be no waste or as little waste as possible and anything that can be recycled is being recycled.
Their devotion to lifting the local economy extends to creating jobs while many are being lost. Through it all, they haven’t cut staff, instead keeping on 10 full-time employees and hiring 10 independent contractors to bolster the effort.
“I think that we are the business that really wants to stick to our guns, so to speak. We’re true to our mission, and we wouldn’t be very good stewards if we shied away from our beliefs during a time of need. So for us, making the decision to pivot like this, to put all of our eggs in one basket and to pretty much spend all of our money on materials before we really knew what was going to develop, those decisions were not hard for us to make because we are firm believers in the greater good, and we’re firm believers that business and society are very intertwined and there’s no way to escape that.”
We’re true to our mission, and we wouldn’t be very good stewards if we shied away from our beliefs during a time of need.Mike Dalle Molle
What they’ve learned so far.
Working for yourself demands the kind of self-reliance that breeds confidence. Small business owners know how to figure things out on the fly, to flex however is needed to get the job done. For GoodWood, that’s meant trusting their instincts and moving forward with purpose, while also asking for help and listening to feedback along the way.
It also meant stopping to seriously consider how to chart a course across unmarked, unlit terrain. Their conclusion — and their advice for fellow entrepreneurs — puts community first.
“Entrepreneurs should be looking at the world right now through two lenses. It should be wants versus needs. And at this moment in time, the wants section is not going to be the direction to take. There are plenty of people in need right now, so how can you use your strengths to help those people? That’s what I think is going to create the recipe for success during a time like this.”