Carmina De Young Fashion Design Inc. (Carmina De Young) has recently secured $2 million worth of funding from Next Generation Manufacturing Canada’s (NGEN) Strategic Supply Challenge.
AC Jumpstart recipient Carmina De Young Fashion Design Inc. (Carmina De Young) has recently secured $2 million worth of funding from Next Generation Manufacturing Canada’s (NGEN) Strategic Supply Challenge. The challenge aimed to address the need to create domestic producers of PPE. Twelve Canadian companies and their project partners were awarded funding, representing a total combined investment of over $60 million to develop advanced manufacturing projects.
Pre-pandemic, Carmina De Young is a sustainable fashion design company specializing in women’s clothing with an environmental focus.
“It’s always been important to us,” said Lina Bowden, CFO and partner of Carmina de Young. Bowden is also overseeing the PPE project.
“If entrepreneurs don’t take a stand to create companies or businesses that care for the environment, then we’re never going to achieve our goals for climate action.”
When the pandemic made its way to Canada in early 2020, Carmina De Young pivoted to make reusable isolation gowns for homeless shelters and other vulnerable communities. By June 2020, Carmina De Young was producing isolation gowns weekly for Health Canada. This helped them sustain business in such an uncertain time, as well as grow their operation from five to 15 people. By July 2020, Carmina De Young joined the Accelerator Centre’s AC JumpStart as part of the COVID-19 response cohort to focus on their COVID-19 pivot.
For the NGEN challenge, Carmina de Young partnered with Optima Colour, a company in Brantford who had already been looking at ways to recycle and repurpose medical waste. Optima Colour was looking into how to reuse blue wrap — a sterile, medical sheet made of polypropylene used in surgery. After its use, blue wrap is put in the landfill. Carmina De Young was already using this material to make their isolation gowns, but it was being imported from outside Canada. A partnership seemed obvious.
Out of the partnership came two new companies: LifeCyle Revive, which Optima Colour will operate and own. LifeCycle Revive will focus on the recycling program with the hospitals to reprocess the fabrics. LifeCycle Health will be the London-based textile company that will produce the textile, operated primarily by Carmina De Young.
With this newly acquired funding, Carmina De Young will be able to scale operations and buy ultrasonic welders — sewing machines that bond without thread. They’ve also started a training program to take beginner sewers and convert them to qualified sewers.
As a company that was initially focused on creative design and building fashionable garments for women, the AC has helped guide Carmina De Young during this business pivot. As the CFO, Bowden expressed that the mentorship they received from the AC has guided them as they scale their company and prepare to bring in the necessary new equipment to properly make and distribute this sustainable PPE within Canadain borders.
“I have to say, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed being a part of AC JumpStart. We are over the moon with the people who have been supporting us,” Bowden said. “It’s been great, and we really appreciate the support and the caliber of the mentors is top notch.”
Learn more about the AC JumpStart Program here.
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