Updated: June 24, 2020 05:59 PM
Created: June 24, 2020 04:13 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — At MansaWear on Park Avenue, Nita Brown has added a new item to her inventory. She's making face masks. But these aren't ordinary masks. They are from colorful fabrics she hand-selected from Ghana, the country where she was born and raised.
"I had to pivot because nobody's buying $155 dresses, they're not going anywhere," Brown said. "So I pivoted and started using some of the fabric, my sample fabrics, to make the masks."
Making masks certainly wasn't the original plan. Brown opened MansaWear in 2014. She says it was her destiny to be a clothing designer. And here, it's all about the experience. Customers select from about 50 different patterns. Brown takes your measurements and sends them to Ghana, where she partners with a manufacturing facility that puts the custom orders together.
But her business model got turned on its head during the pandemic. Ghana was shut down, so she used the sample fabrics she had in-house and had them sewn locally into masks. And then she started making them available online and for pick-up.
"My daughter has been my spokesperson doing all the ads and we started posting them and that was a godsend, at least it kept us afloat," she said.
Now her store has reopened and you'll find a large display of colorful masks on the shelves.
"The bulk of my customers are doing Zoom calls. What's going to make them look good? Beautiful masks, beautiful tops, bottoms they need to be comfortable," she said with a laugh.
During the time when the store was physically closed, Brown used the opportunity to renovate her store.
"We painted it. We redesigned the dressing area to make it really, really nice and plush, and I had an enormous amount of help. Friends just chipped in," Brown said.
Brown credits the community support for helping to keep her business afloat during this stretch. And she says the coronavirus pause has given her time to better develop her business strategy—fine-tuning the focus on custom-made clothing, but also seizing on the opportunity to reach a larger customer base.
"A year from now I think we will have grown much more in terms of Western New York. We're going to do targeted marketing, but also online, so I see more positives."
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