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Refugee women come to furniture maker's aid as business shifts amid COVID crisis

By Anna Spoerre, The Kansas City Star on

Published in Health & Fitness

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A few years back, and halfway through a master's degree in business administration, Kansas City native John Pryor realized he didn't want to spend his life in a "digital nothingness." So he left his corporate tech job in Boston and moved home, looking to recover from the stress of the tech world by retreating to a workshop where he could craft furniture by hand.

Creating tangible things, he said, "made me come alive."

Earlier this year the 40-year-old opened a showroom called Madison Flitch where he could display and sell his artisan furniture pieces.

Then the pandemic hit.

Pryor, like many others, was hit hard by the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic. He feared his budding business wouldn't be able to survive. He needed to pivot.

In the early days of the pandemic there was a desperate need for masks, so Pryor pounced, transforming his showroom into a mask-making operation. It was a decision he now realizes was an absurd idea, considering he didn't even know how to work a sewing machine. But he couldn't let his business collapse.

 

Pryor took a sewing lesson, at one point becoming so frustrated that he rested his chin on top of the sewing table in defeat

"What did I get myself into?" he remembered thinking.

Nevertheless, Pryor pushed on. He launched the masks on his website on a Wednesday, and by Friday he had thousands of orders, way more than he had planned for. He thought he'd make 50 to 100 masks a week with his part-time assistant, but that plan was thrown out the window.

The volume of orders was too much for him to handle alone. He needed help. So, again, he pivoted.

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