BiggerPockets Business Podcast

BiggerPockets Business Podcast 49: Coronavirus: Rising to the Challenge for Social Good with Stephanie Howard

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During this unprecedented, uncertain time, here’s a CHALLENGE for us all to collaborate for social good TOGETHER. 

What are others doing during this difficult time to help their communities? What can YOU be doing to make a difference today?

On this episode, Stephanie Howard—owner of How and Why—joins us today from her industrial design studio. As an international award-winning designer of wearables for companies such as Nike, New Balance, and Reebok, Stephanie started her own firm nearly a decade ago. She previously led the innovation team at Seventh Generation, a company lauded for its focus on sustainability. Her work taps into connecting a large network to design mission-based products—and the current global health crisis is no exception.

Stephanie tells us how a family health scare thrust her into the world of caring for a loved one at home. These days, in the midst of COVID-19, her work has been reprioritized to lead a design challenge that each and every one of us can participate in to help others in the unfortunate event that we are faced with a similar circumstance.

Huge corporations such as 3M, Nike, Tesla, and many more are making headlines for retooling and repurposing their operations to provide PPEs (personal protective equipment) to hospitals—but each of us individually, as family members, as community leaders, has the power to make an impact. As entrepreneurs and small business owners, we are innovative, resourceful problem solvers. Learn how YOU can put your expertise to use during this time of uncertainty.

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Listen to the Podcast Here

Read the Transcript Here

J:
Welcome to the BiggerPockets Business Podcast show number 49.

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Stephanie:
I do have to say something about this design. We talked about the anesthetics and methods of make and efficient manufacturing. This is the opposite of that. This is solving something that somebody can make today, do it yourself, in your house, with what you have.

J:
Welcome to a real world MBA from the School of Hard Knocks where entrepreneurs reveal what it really takes to make it. Whether you’re already in business or you’re on your way there, this show is for you. This is BiggerPockets Business. How’s it going, everybody? I am J Scott. I am your co-host for the BiggerPockets Business Podcast here again this week with my wonderful co-host, Mrs. Carol Scott. How’s the going today, Carol?

Carol:
Doing okay. In light of everything that’s going on right now, of course, my heart is a little heavy. There are so many things that are unknown, but I must say each and every day I get more and more hopeful, right? There are so many wonderful, amazing people out there every day just rallying, working together to try and make everybody’s lives a little bit better, right? We are very fortunate, very grateful for all the people who are out there, for the healthcare workers, for people who are the essential workers, continuing to be out there putting stuff together, being innovative, being creative, doing what needs to be done and just thank you to each and every one of you. Because of all of you I’m very confident that there are better days ahead.

J:
Absolutely, and we have a wonderful person here today with us, somebody who’s doing a whole lot of social good. Her name is Stephanie Howard. She’s an industrial designer by background and trade. She’ll tell us all about what it means to be an industrial designer, but basically she is using her expertise, her experience, her network, her skills to rally a group of other industrial designers as well as just people around the country and around the world to improve the situation we’re in today. A lot of us know that with this Coronavirus epidemic, there is a shortage of things we call PPE, personal protection equipment, shortage of masks and respirators and face shields and ventilators, things like that.

J:
And basically Stephanie is leading the charge on figuring out how we can use everyday materials to create these personal protection devices that are allowing people who are stuck in their home with sick people, people that are quarantining and trying to protect themselves and their loved ones, how they can create these personal protection devices using every day materials. So she’s doing some amazing, amazing, great stuff and today she’s going to talk all about her company, which is called HOW AND WHY and she’s going to talk about how she got into focusing on the social good and helping the whole world through this Coronavirus crisis. If you want to out more about Stephanie, if you want to find out more about what we’re talking about, check out our show notes at biggerpockets.com/bizshow49. Again, that’s biggerpockets.com/bizshow49. Now, before we jump into our conversation with Stephanie, let’s hear a quick word from our sponsor.

J:
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J:
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J:
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J:
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Stephanie:
I’m doing well, thanks and you?

J:
Doing great. Thank you so much for being here.

Carol:
We are so looking forward, Stephanie, to chatting with you today. You have such an amazing story and you are working on such an impactful and important project right now and I know our audience is going to be really excited about it. Looking forward to digging in and learning more about what that is throughout this unprecedented time in our society. So thank you again for being here with us.

J:
Thank you for having me.

Carol:
Oh, Steph, let’s set a little bit of context. Your current company is called, HOW AND WHY. Can you let us know, talk to us more about what is, HOW AND WHY.

Stephanie:
Yes, so I started this company in 2010. It’s a design consultancy. I do a lot of work with companies and brands, a lot of the sporting goods space because my background is in that space. What I do is help companies with their innovation planning. So that’s anything from gathering insights to creating an entire innovation roadmap, working with their teams, doing product workshops so that everybody’s involved in thinking about the innovation pipeline for the company. But I also do product design all the way from sketching and drawing and thinking about the needs of methods of make and new ways of manufacturing, new types of materials all the way to creative direction for a team. And I also help establish and implement some of the programs that they’re working on within the brands.

Carol:
Excellent. Excellent. So what brought you to the point to start HOW AND WHY back in 2010? What is more of your background, your backstory that led you to where you are now with this company?

Stephanie:
Yes. So I studied industrial design at school. Most people might not know what industrial design is. It’s really product design. So it’s anything from, I’d say there’s a triad of important things when you’re thinking about product design. It’s insights into the user experience, how somebody works with a product. It’s also the way it’s going to be made, how it’s manufactured, cost restrictions, materials. And then lastly, when people think of the word design, they think about aesthetics and of course, what it looks like and how it functions. So once all of those are put together, that’s what we learn as industrial designers and we put into practice in our work.

J:
So, so basically when we see products that are cool, that are designed well, efficient, functional, that we say, “Wow, why didn’t I think of that?” That’s kind of what you guys do.

Stephanie:
Exactly. Yes. And so after I graduated with a degree in Industrial Design, I started my career at New Balance. So went right into the footwear industry, learned a lot about athletes and insights and biomechanics and spent I think a little over three years there. And in that short time I actually worked my way into the position of Lead Designer. So I was not just working on designing the products but also thinking about the brand and the design language and how to work with the team to make sure that we had some cohesive thinking around how we did product design.

J:
So just to give a little bit more in depth, what kind of innovations happen in the footwear space? I know like we hear all about, like we see aesthetically footwear changing, but what kinds of actual efficiencies or improvements in footwear are actually happening these days?

Stephanie:
Well, these days. So back way back when it was very different and a lot of the innovation was happening around… I guess all of the innovation is around methods of make. It’s just that nowadays there’s a lot of new technologies involved in how we can produce materials. So that’s anything from 3D printing to working with making materials from nature and growing materials. So it’s a very vast range of what’s happening nowadays. None of that was around back then.

J:
Got it. So a lot of your expertise and a lot of the work you’ve done is actually been in the manufacturing space, creating or innovating around the manufacturing of products?

Stephanie:
Yeah. So when I talk about innovation, and I know that’s a broad word for many people, what I spend a lot of time thinking about is how we will make things differently. Sometimes it’s about manufacturing. Sometimes it is about solving a problem that people have. a usability problem or just maybe some white space where there’s nothing that exists that’s meeting the needs that people are looking for and it’s not easy to assess what those needs are. So a lot of what I do is also working on gathering insights and going into people’s homes and traveling to different spaces, talking to thought leaders to try to figure out what’s on the emerging future and how we might implement some of those changes into how we think about design. And so I referred to those social and cultural changes that are happening as macro trends.

Stephanie:
It’s a little bit different than seasonal trends and fashion trends with colors changing and materials trending that we think about in fashion. Macro trends are more of how is the world changing? I guess we can think about today and there’s some big shifts and probably people are thinking about macro trends now than what we were thinking about a month ago, if you will.

Carol:
Fantastic. Thanks for giving us more information about that. So you’re at New Balance and then what happened after that?

Stephanie:
Yeah. After I left New Balance, I spent a couple of years at Reebok and then I moved to Nike. And it’s worth talking about Nike for a little while because I think it’s really where a lot of my thinking about design changed because of their understanding there of the power of design to move people and how to, I talked about insights a few minutes ago, how to glean insights and really understand what the missing pieces are and put some new thinking towards that.

Stephanie:
So I spent six years at Nike, a couple in the footwear design group and running, and I had a focus specifically on women’s running. And that was the first time that they were thinking about women’s running differently than men’s. It used to be that the same models would be for both and they were just do different colors. And the words used to be pink it and shrink it for women’s. But they knew that there would be some insights that we could glean from talking to people and understanding that there some differences. And so out of that, one of the products that I created was the Air Max Verona, which came out of the insights that… This was back in 2000 that we were designing it. I think it came out in 2001, but the world was changing because everything was being able to be more mobile because we had mobile phones and we had the internet and we had laptops and all of that was changing.

Stephanie:
And so people in their mobile culture, suddenly we were on the move and we needed footwear that worked from day to night to our workouts. And so the insights from that study was that the difference between men and women, not just with fit and some biomechanics, but was safety and time. So the time famine was something that we noted with this new mobile culture. Everybody was feeling a little bit more stressed because there was just so much to do and safety was an issue that women runners were feeling different from men because if we’re running alone on a trail, even if it’s a trail where we might pass other people, we’re still feeling a little bit more vulnerable. So we designed a safety whistle to stored in the little pocket, the shoe, and it can be worn around your wrist when you’re running just so you knew that you could make a noise if you ever were in that situation where you needed to.

Carol:
Very cool. And I love how all of these decisions in all of these innovations and designs like you’re talking about now, really focus on insights as far as these macro trends that are happening with big shifts in society, shifts in the way we live. Like you talk about at that time people were becoming more mobile. There is more of a sense of urgency. People were more stressed out. So it sounds like every step of the way, you then really very much in tune with paying attention to what is going on for the greater good, not just in one specific industry, but throughout society as a whole, right? So that’s neat.

Stephanie:
Yes.

J:
Yeah, a lot of times I think we think about industrial design as making things cooler and making things more aesthetically pleasing. And those are the things that I guess get publicity. Everybody sees the Facebook posts with this really cool new product or this new cool design of an existing product. But just as importantly, if not a whole lot more importantly is actually solving problems. Solving real problems, and using industrial design to change products or to create products that solve the issues that everybody is having when they’re using these products. So a lot of times we don’t even realize that we’re having these products. You solve these problems that a lot of us don’t even realize and we just take it for granted that, “Oh, life’s just easy.” Life’s not just easy, it’s that these industrial designers are out there thinking about these problems that we haven’t even considered and they’re making things easy before we even realize that they’re hard.

Stephanie:
Yes. I love that definition of it because it is true. Sometimes it’s hard to explain and especially with the wording, industrial design, I mean there’s no way anybody’s going to pick that up out of it, but yeah, it’s what we do every day.

J:
So fast forward a couple of years and you started HOW AND WHY. Tell us a little bit about what led you to start your own design firm and what was your focus there? I mean, did you stick with footwear or did you branch out into other industries? What is HOW AND WHY? How did it start and what does it become today?

Stephanie:
Sure. Well, there was a big zag that I took just before, HOW AND WHY after I worked at Nike in running and then I was also in their hockey division. I was the creative director of Bauer Nike Hockey. Right after that I went to Seventh Generation. So if you see the trajectory of my career, it was all in the sporting goods space and then suddenly I was at a company that was all about business for social responsibility and they make consumer packaged goods, everything from laundry detergent to diapers. And it seemed like a big zag and people might question why. But it was part of the journey to get to HOW AND WHY. And that is because I was really looking to do something that worked with social responsibility in design and as much as I was learning and loving the work I was doing at Nike, I was interested to see where else I could span my thinking to other types of products.

Stephanie:
And so an opportunity at Seventh Generation came up to run their innovation. I did some work there and I think that really broadened my horizons in a way on both how to glean even more insights with different types of users. Going into people’s homes and talking to new moms about diapers and their concerns about their children and chemicals and sustainability and all of those things. And so that was just a really great time for me to start to understand sort of the breadth of where really good insights can take you and just got me interested in doing more of that type of work. And so in 2010, I decided to leave Seventh Generation and launch HOW AND WHY. I was getting a lot of calls from my network with some interesting jobs and lot of it in sporting goods and places that I’ve worked before and I thought, I didn’t really want to go inside of these corporations anymore.

Stephanie:
I thought it’d be interesting to do this from a broader perspective from the outside. And where I could maybe be a little bit more useful because some of this new thinking and ideas around macro trends could be, or sometimes just listen to in a different way if you’re coming from the outside of the company than inside. And so that’s where when I started, HOW AND WHY and you know I started off, I had one longterm client that was New Balance. So I’d sort of come full circle and did a lot of work with them, and then I started to broaden the client base. And I have a few clients who are… I like to keep longterm relationships if I can with clients because we’re not just doing one off projects, we’re trying to build these innovation pipelines.

Stephanie:
So I like to work either as an ad hoc sort of innovation department for some of my clients that are smaller or with their innovation teams for some. So for example, VF Corp is a company that owns Timberland, The North Face and Vans and they have a full innovation team. So I’ll work with that team on projects that they are needing some extra insight or maybe leadership from my background. And I’m working with a small group right now of outdoor brands that are looking to start to build an innovation program. They didn’t have much of a structure for that. So I’ve come in, worked with their teams and done some innovation workshops and we’re building basically a roadmap of innovation projects. And that work’s been really interesting because one of these big macro trends I was mentioning is really about sustainability and there’s so much complexity to sustainability these days.

Stephanie:
And a lot of companies that are smaller with smaller teams don’t want to… Or maybe don’t… It’s not that they don’t want to, they just don’t know where to start. And so it’s not on their agenda when I come into a meeting. So I will bring that. I’ve said before it’s irresponsible of me not to bring up the fact that it’s really important to think about sustainability and it’s finally we’re in a space where people actually care and are willing to put their money behind it. It’s a great place to start with new companies to give them that background and say, “Hey, we’re going to take some baby steps on this journey. It’s not that you can get there right away. It’s very complex, but you know you need to start now.”

Carol:
Excellent. So it really sounds like throughout every step of your journey when you started in school, these companies you worked with. You’ve had a focus on wearables, you’ve had a focus on how people live, how people interact with each other. You’ve had a focus on these macro trends looking where society is going, looking how society is changing, focusing on sustainability, and it looks like you’ve really encompassed all of those things on different levels in a very rounded holistic approach over the past several years. So now you’re working on… Bring that to the present day. Right now with this Coronavirus health crisis that we’re dealing with, you’re working on something that it takes all of the best of those things that you’ve been doing for all of these years and channeling that energy into something new.

Carol:
Before we talk about exactly what that is So, I would love for our audience to get an understanding of this is something that is really, it’s taking all those pieces like I said, and it’s channeled into the healthcare space. So can you talk to us a little bit about how that became a focus and something that was top of mind for you being able to round out your experience with something healthcare related?

Stephanie:
Sure. There’s a couple things here, a while back in my early 20s, I actually had a brush with cancer and some major surgery. It really changed my perspective on what I wanted to accomplish in life and bringing that something that happened so long ago to present day, I think it’s part of why my perspective on taking what I can do in terms of what my expertise and skills and bringing that to something that can help a lot more people and make a big difference in life. That’s something that’s really important to me. But also specifically to Coronavirus and what’s happening now, I had a pretty major experience a couple of years ago helping my mother who went through a major health crisis. And she would spent a long time in the ICU at Mass General Hospital, and the whole illness lasted about, you know, from illness to rehab was about six months of every day me spending time with her, going to the hospital and understanding what was going on in the hospital environments.

Stephanie:
And add that to recently where she had a flu and was in the hospital again and I got to really experience all the different types of, what they call PPE, personal protective equipment that the healthcare workers where when somebody has something that’s an infection related. And so I’ve spent so much time putting on gowns, putting on gloves, putting on masks and really thinking about how to protect myself so that I don’t then bring that home. When I was staying at my mom’s house, if I was to spread that to my father and all of these things that we’re worrying about today with the issue with Coronavirus.

Stephanie:
And so I started thinking about what’s going to happen if my parents get sick. And it led me to think I need to have a face shield. I don’t have a face shield and I have a very good friend at Mass General who was talking to my husband and I, and we learned that there’s shortage and now it’s hitting the news that there’s a shortage of all types of PPE gear. But definitely the face shields are one the biggest shortage or maybe the soonest to come in terms of the need. And so I was thinking about if I go home and my mom’s sick, I don’t want to give it to my dad and then my dad’s immunocompromised. My mom has been weakened by all the things that’s gone on with her.

Stephanie:
I have to just add, they haven’t exactly been staying isolated. My mom’s a therapist, so she’s been seeing all her patients and my father’s an accountant and certified financial planner, so he’s been seeing all his clients. I finally got them to stop. But what I needed to do was come up with a plan in case they get sick. So I started to design something and I was drawing it up and then realized nobody knows they need a face shield or at least very few people, right? There’s all this talk about masks in the face, the part that goes over your nose and mouth and yes, there is a shortage there and yes, we need those also. But if you’re dealing with somebody in your home today that starts to cough and probably has the Coronavirus, that’s airborne and it’s your mucus membranes that you want to protect. So that’s your eyes and your face and you want to you want to protect it with the face shield.

Stephanie:
So I started to think about, “What can I design? I can’t really get out to a lot of stores. What can I order?” And did some drawings posted it and said, “Oh, this is…” Actually, didn’t just post it right away. I thought, “This should be posted because I don’t think people about this that they might want to think about having these at home.” And then people in my network… So this is on Instagram and so people in the design community and in elsewhere started sending me, “Well, look what this person’s doing and look what this person is doing.” And I realized that there’s a lot of people starting to think about the same thing in the design space and they’re trying to solve for the healthcare workers because there’s the shortage there.

Stephanie:
So there’s two different things that I’m involved with that came out of this. And one is trying to help people at home A, get out the message that they’re going to need a face shield if somebody coughing a lot and they’re trying to take care of them and how they can build that face shield very simply with things they can find in their home or things that they can easily get an order, whether it’s Amazon or from their local hardware store. So that’s one side of this. I do have to say something about this, the design we talked about the aesthetics and methods of make and efficient manufacturing, this is the opposite of that. This is solving something that somebody can make today, do it yourself, in your house, with what you have.

Stephanie:
But on the other side of that is the search to quickly manufacture something for the shortage that’s existing in hospitals. So there’s a large group of people all a little bit disparate right now. And so there’s some people that have come together and I’m helping to introduce the groups that I’m learning about together that are really just jumping right in to mass manufacture. So these are makerspaces. So you might’ve heard these people.

Stephanie:
There’s people doing 3D printing versions, there’s other people doing what’s called CNC laser cutting and assembling of parts, there’s a lot of complexities because you need it to be an in a clean environment and the material supply needs to be reliable and so there’s people reaching out to the companies that are making acetate film or PTGE film and whatever’s used in the 3D printers for the resin. So it’s a lot of challenges. There’s a lot of people working on that. I’m trying to stay, keep my focus on the, do it yourselves, face shield at home and helping coordinate anybody that seeing working on the made for hospitals.

Carol:
I absolutely love this, Stephanie. So it sounds like you as well as many other people throughout the design community are really tapping into their expertise or really looking at, “Yes, there are a lot of other projects we have on our plates right now, but this whole issue is a much bigger issue for society. Let’s put aside what we’re able to put aside right now and really focus our energy in all those things we’re really good at into solving these problems for both people at home,” like you’re talking about for the duet yourself, “as well as on a much more mass level.” Right? So I think it’s a really powerful message. So major kudos to you and your network of all these people in these different industries for looking at this on such a big level. I think it sets such a great example for all of us right now, right?

Carol:
All of us as entrepreneurs, as small business owners. It’s just smart, resourceful people. It’s really our opportunity during this time when things are really uneasy, are really very much unknown to tap into our networks, to tap into our expertise, to tap into those resources that we have and see how we can contribute to the greater good. And it’s a really nice time for like all those mission-based things to come really front and center. So I would love to tap a little bit more, dig a little bit deeper into each of those two things. So I’m very curious. You mentioned about do it yourself face shield for example, which heaven forbid any one of us could potentially need to care for somebody during this crisis in our home.

Carol:
So since you posted the challenge, I heard you mention something about plastic sheets or something and the simplicity of it. So what types of materials are we talking about? You’d mentioned things you can go grab on Amazon or Home Depot. What are these basic level type of materials that people are submitting? This is fascinating.

Stephanie:
Yes. So we spent, my husband and I. My husband is also an industrial designer. His name is Ben. And he and I this weekend spent some time building some prototypes of these ideas. And so he was able to order from our local art store a roll of acetate, but you can also find acetate and transparency films that teachers use. So I think there’s potentially staples connection or office supplies store connection there. I was thinking, “What if somebody had the most immediate need, in other words, somebody starts coughing today and they can’t go out in order from Home Depot and get order to their art store and get some of these rolls of plastics?” So I did one that I’ll post on this site with the #DIYFaceShield.

Stephanie:
I made one and there’s no beauty involved here with rolling up wash clogs and two binder clips, a regular rubber band, elastic and a Ziploc bag. And if you keep enough space with those wash clogs around your forehead to bring that Ziploc bag forward from your face so you’re not risking some sort of suffocation. Plus it’s not going around your whole head. You’re not putting a bag over your head. It’s just shielding across your face to make sure you’re protecting your eyes. So that’s what we’re doing. I took some photographs of here’s the exact materials that we use laid out and then here’s the final product. And so I think probably a lot of people have paper clips or tape. I use binder clips, somebody could use tape, a Ziploc bag that they cut and wash clogs rolled up.

Stephanie:
So I’m thinking, and an elastic, hopefully some people have elastic bands, maybe hairbands headbands, there’s multiple things but we use just like a rubber band. So we’re just trying to think of the simplest ways to do this. If you have access and you can order foam. My husband decided weatherstripping is available in almost all hardware stores and/or some people might have that in their homes especially in cold environments where they’re protecting their windows from a pool drafts. So we bought weatherstripping and made some prototypes with that. So we tried to use just basic, really basic materials that hopefully people won’t go out and hoard now that I said this, but I think that’s really the key is if people make a bunch of different options and put them online, then what that allows everyone to do is see, “Oh, well I don’t have the transparency sheet, but I do have a Ziploc bag.” Or somebody might have another idea or…

Stephanie:
If you can create a mask that goes over your nose and mouth and you have sharp glasses that cover the sides of your eyes, not just the front of your eyes, then you can do that too and you’ve pretty much protected yourself. So I think it’s up to well what I’m hoping that this design challenge that I’ve created does, is get people to just post anything they can think of so that anybody who goes to this can say, “Oh, well, I don’t have that, but I do have this. I better make this today.” And if you can plan ahead, great, then you can order some materials and start making it. But if you’re experiencing somebody yesterday that started coughing and you have to go in the room and help them, especially with an elderly parent, you know what I mean? They might need help getting up. They’re going to be weakened if they have a fever, right?

Stephanie:
My mom needs help getting up and down off the bed if that happens. So I think, there’s going to be a lot of close contact that caregivers are giving at home and people really do need to stay at home unless they’re in an emergency state so that the hospitals don’t become overwhelmed. So emergency state, from what I understand is trouble breathing, things like that. But if you’re just feeling feverish and you have some coughing, then you’re better off at home, but somebody might have to help.

J:
I absolutely love this because I mean, we hear a lot these days in the news about these billion dollar companies retooling their manufacturing plants and their production lines to create more masks or to create things for widespread use by hospitals, first responders, emergency workers. We’ve heard about in Italy, companies that had been 3D printing respirator materials, so they don’t have enough respirators because there are certain components that aren’t prevalent enough and they’ve literally been 3D printing those. And so we’ve heard a lot about that in the news recently. But what we don’t hear about is we don’t hear about people like you and me and the 350 other million Americans and 6 billion other people on this planet that don’t necessarily have access to those things that are being produced.

J:
And so a lot of us, like you said, it could be that today everything’s fine, we’re not thinking about it, but tomorrow somebody in your family starts coughing, somebody in your family gets a fever and you realize, “I may need to take precautions right now. I can’t go and order something on Amazon that’ll get here in three weeks. I can’t necessarily go to the store that might be closed and just buy something.” And so instead of just saying, “Oops, I guess I’m out of luck.” It’s, “Hey, what can we do to make shift this stuff for ourselves in a way that is not only efficient and inexpensive.” Because a lot of us can’t afford to spend $1,000 on one face shields but is also functional. And it sounds like you’ve thought about a lot of those things that I wouldn’t necessarily think about, like a covering your eyes and around the sides of your head. A lot of us don’t think about that.

J:
We think about the N95 masks that cover our nose and mouths, but a lot of us don’t think about our eyes. A lot of us don’t think about those other places where a virus or another contagion could potentially penetrate. And so this community of industrial designers coming together and basically saying, “Not only are we going to design something that works, but we’re going to design something that allows other people in the comfort of their own home without necessarily access to great materials to do the same thing.” And that’s amazing and I know I just went on for a long time there. But I love that and it’s just an example of how we’re all coming together right now to help each other.

J:
Can you tell us a little bit more about where… Let’s say I needed a face mask right now. Where can I go to see these designs to get some ideas, where can the people that are listening actually go if we’re not industrial designers ourselves to see what people like you and your team and others in the industry are designing?

Stephanie:
Yes. I think there’s probably multiple places that things are popping up these days. The one that I’m trying to direct people to is on Instagram. So if have anybody post these ideas with the #DIYFaceShield and that’s DIY for Do It to Yourself. There’s been people I’ve noticed it’s a global thing. I think I saw somebody from Thailand and Philippines, so people are doing this. It’s not just me starting some sort of movement. I mean people need these ideas and it’s open. This is not for industrial designers. I put a design challenge out on my website because I just needed to sort of write out what that design brief is and explain what this is.

Stephanie:
So on my website, it’s www.howandwhy.biz/design-challenge. And that gives you a brief if you’re interested in the background of what we’re looking for people to submit, that’s the background information. It also has a PDF from the CDC on how they wear and remove all of the PPE gear. You can definitely find that on the CDC site. I took their PDF and I just included it here so people could see it along with the design brief. But ultimately it’s for designers and non-designers. Like anybody who has an idea to do this should be posting. And I said that, a lot of people do design challenges on Instagram it’s a thing and there’s the person sponsoring it will post the best ones. That’s not what I’m doing here. I’m sending it to a hashtag.

Stephanie:
I’m just saying everybody and anybody and other people are already on this hashtag. Please, if you have an idea, send it here. Try to get the word out that if you’re looking for ideas and you need something today and you’re at home, this is the place to go to see what you might be able to build right now. Or if you can plan ahead. Great. Build today for if it happens in a week from now.

J:
So face shield sounds like it’s one of the big challenges these days for obvious reasons. Are there other examples of PPEs that that industrial designers are trying to help average Americans tackle as well?

Stephanie:
There’s a lot going on with face masks and people sewing and I don’t have it here. Maybe I can send it to you if you do some show notes or something that we could add later. I know there’s a Wiki with a explanation of a pattern for how to cut fabric of your own and stitch your own face mask. And there’s definitely a lot of designers. So this is not just industrial designers so like anybody who knows how to sew is out there trying to make these both for hospitals and I think if people need them at home. There’s a lot of communities and I’m just learning about them, so I’m not in charge of all of these. I’m just learning of them because it’s great what I did made people reach out to me and say, “Hey, have you seen this?” And then I joined a large video conference on Saturday morning of all the different people that were doing the 3D printing and the making for the hospitals.

Stephanie:
And there was a woman on there who is part of one of these fab labs. I think the one that I was connected to is called Artisan’s Asylum. It’s in Somerville, Mass. There’s lots of makerspaces all over the country that are trying to get involved. A lot are connected to universities. And so I think there’s a lot of people posting patterns. So I imagine you could even Google face mask sewing pattern and you might get to some of these places, but I know there’s a Wiki with patterns on it that people can go to. And if they know how to sew or they’re willing to cut up some material and do that. What else? There’s a group of people that are looking into and talking about gowns for the hospitals.

Carol:
It sounds like this is just this amazing time of all these people. You’re mentioning people at universities, at hospitals, in makerspaces, labs, designers, all these different people just reaching as far as they can. Just reaching out for connections within their network to get as many people in as many resources on board. Do you have any thoughts and tips about just the rest of us who are not designers, who are just your average every day entrepreneurs, just people with life in general. Any thoughts about how we can go about helping even more by reaching out to other people we know. I mean, was that an easy decision for you to do that? Did you feel like, “Oh gosh, everyone’s got so much going on already. I don’t want to burden them.” Or have people been really receptive and open to jumping in and supporting these causes?

Stephanie:
Yeah, I think it’s been the… everybody’s just supportive. Like I haven’t gone and searched out people. People are sending things to me that people are already doing. So I made public this idea around, “Hey, people need to think about face shields.” And next thing I know everybody’s sending me, “This is happening, this is happening now.” And then I decided, “Well, maybe all these people don’t know that these other people are working on it so I can connect them.” So if you’re trying to get connected, I have to think about that because there are definitely a lot of people. Maybe look up a local makerspace in your community and see if they’re working on this and say, “Do you need extra hands?” Now, one of the biggest issues is we’re supposed to be social distancing. And so that’s going to be an issue.

Stephanie:
It’s not like we can get a bunch of people together in a factory all next to each other, making things for hospitals in a clean environment. And so it’s complex to help. But for sure I think definitely if you know how to make things, if you know how to sew, there’s a lot of people doing the fabric face masks that are washable and I think hospitals are happy to… Some hospitals that have the ability to sterilize those are happy to have them from what I understood from a conversation I had. So yeah, I think just start looking around and seeing what’s happening in your community, maybe.

Carol:
Excellent. Very cool. So what else would you like to share with us, Stephanie? Again, major kudos to you, to all your colleagues, to your network, to all these people who are just rallying around these solutions. Is there anything else you’d like to add and share with us?

Stephanie:
Oh yeah, I think it’s just that there’s just so much going on in this world involving ingenuity. One example is for the health care space, the one that I was talking about, where people are trying to mass produce. I mean, I saw on this group email chain that was happening this weekend. There’s a group out of Wisconsin, a design studio called Delve, and they created a design that looks… it’s very, very, very similar to the ones that the doctors use today. And they worked with the University of Wisconsin makerspace and they built a bunch and then they talked to hospitals and hospitals seemed to approve it. And then there’s a group that does a cycle manufacturing and they’re trying to get involved because they have a factory that’s not open right now. How can they help?

Stephanie:
It’s a beautiful story of people coming together to try to do something, and I think that’s just… Really the word is try to educate people on what they need to know to protect themselves if a family member is ill and if you have a talent and you know that it could be used in some way, I think what about people with talents in social media? They could be using that skill to explain to people what PPE is and how they might want to try to have a plan at home to protect themselves with what they have. So yeah, I think that’s all we can… Play your part with whatever you have. Whatever your talents and skills and network can be.

J:
Well, as a big advocate for makerspaces and somebody who’s been involved in makerspaces for the last five or six years, I think this is a great opportunity if nothing else, to get the word out about makerspaces and how a lot of us can be doing a lot of this DIY thought and innovation and encouraging our children to really start thinking about this because I think the future is going to be less, I don’t want to say necessarily, less large scale production, but I think solving our own problems and creating our own solutions for problems that we face personally. Maybe not large scale problems. It’s a great, even if we’re not industrial designers, it’s a great skill to have to be able to walk into a makerspace or a fab lab or just using materials you have at home to solve your own problems.

J:
And I think over the last couple decades, I think maybe a lot of us have moved away from that. We don’t work on our cars as much anymore. We don’t do necessarily our own home improvement projects anymore. We kind of farm a lot of that out and I think this is a great opportunity with the tools we have today to start transitioning back to being more resourceful and being able to solve our own, even if they’re really small problems on our own without necessarily relying on large scale manufacturing to solve those problems for us. So if nothing else, I think you hopefully are starting a trend that will not just help during this crisis but might help all of us moving forward into the future.

Stephanie:
Right. I would hope that the power of creativity is what we’re promoting in many ways.

Carol:
Excellent.

J:
Awesome. Stephanie, this has been absolutely amazing. We really appreciate you being here. Thank you for sharing your experience. For anybody out there that wants to learn more about HOW AND WHY, check out our show notes. For anybody out there that wants to learn more about some of the links we talked about the Instagram, hashtags that we talked about, some of the websites and the Wiki that you mentioned, check out the show notes, we’ll make sure everything is there and just thank you so much for everything you’re doing for everybody and just rallying the community and rallying all the people that you know in your industry to make a difference and to help all the rest of us.

Stephanie:
Well, thank you for having me. I’m glad we could get the word out. A lot of thanks to everybody who’s putting the extra effort from healthcare workers to these designers that are trying to provide them with the equipment they need. There’s a lot of really wonderful people putting big effort in to do the right thing.

J:
Awesome.

Carol:
Awesome. Thank you so much Stephanie. We’ll talk to you soon.

Stephanie:
Thank you. Bye.

J:
I’ll tell you, there’s a lot of not good news coming out these days, but when you hear a story like that and you meet somebody like Stephanie, really it gives you faith that everything is going to be okay. We’re going to get through this and it just makes you feel good.

Carol:
It really does, and truly it’s really wonderful thinking about the fact that we all have so many of our individual micro level issues going on right now, yet there are so many people that are happy to put all of those things aside, the regular issues, their work projects and so on and so forth, and focus on the bigger picture. Focus on people coming together to get through this together. I think it’s really inspiring, I think it’s really noble and very commendable and I’m so grateful that there are people out there like Stephanie doing things like this. So major. Thank you.

J:
Absolutely. Thank you everybody. Everybody you hang in there. You have a wonderful week. She’s Carol, I’m J.

Carol:
Now, go check out #DIYFaceShield today. Have a really good day everybody.

J:
Thanks everybody.

Carol:
Talk soon. Bye.

Watch the Podcast Here

 

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • The triad of product design
  • How she helps companies with their innovation planning
  • How macro trends differ from seasonal or fashion trends
  • How design has the power to move people
  • How to keep long-term relationships with clients
  • How she started a DIY face shield design movement
  • How anyone can help
  • And SO much more!

Links from the Show

Tweetable Topics:

  • “Nobody knows they need a face shield.” (Tweet This!)
  • “It’s not easy to assess the needs of people.” (Tweet This!)

Connect with Stephanie

What does it take to start, scale, and sell your own business? Every Tuesday, J and Carol Scott ask this question to entrepreneurs of all stripes and delve into stories that go beyond the launch. F...
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    Andrew Syrios Residential Real Estate Investor from Kansas City, MO
    Replied 6 months ago
    Great podcast! Very interesting information on these very interesting times.