A Canadian company known for its wire-free bras and other intimates is now stepping up in the effort to get Personal Protective Equipment to hospital workers.

For Knix founder and CEO, Joanna Griffiths, it’s personal. Her brother is a doctor and told her supplies were already running low at hospitals.

“He reached out to me about a week and a half ago, just expressing what he was seeing,” says Griffiths. “People were starting to panic and (he) asked if I could reach out to our supplier network and get access to PPEs. We have great relationships with our partners overseas and the answer was ‘yes’.”

Cries for more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in hospitals have jolted many companies to repurpose existing operations to get N95 respirator masks, surgical masks and gloves to health care workers as quickly as possible.

The initial plan was to repurpose the Knix Leakproof nursing bra into masks but the idea was scrapped after hearing from front line workers.

“Obviously this isn’t a time that people want to take risks,” says Griffiths. “So instead of that product hacking idea, we’re buying certified N95 masks, surgical masks as well as gloves.” 

It’s not cheap so Knix started an online campaign to raise money. It blew past its $50,000 goal in just the first 48 hours after launching on GoFundMe.

“We acted really quickly its funny, responding on Monday versus yesterday has felt like a year,” says Griffiths. “Everything is prepayment so you have to pay 100 per cent in advance and then it’s about 5-7 days for production.”

Now, $80,000 raised online will go to buy 20,000 N95 masks, 30,000 surgical masks and 50,000 gloves.

The hold up now is getting those supplies to Canada from China.

“Obviously a lot of commercial flights have been cancelled so you’re relying solely on air cargo,” says Griffiths. “The wait times are longer and prices are double what they normally are.”

Once the gloves and masks are in Canada, then it’s time to distribute them. Hospitals, clinics and non-profits that have submitted requests online for the supplies will get them and Knix is subsidizing the transportation costs.

So far 60 institutions have requested the PPEs and the first shipment went out last week to Alberta.

“Our goal is that we’ll be sending supplies to these organizations, to bridge them one week at a time,” says Griffiths. “It feels good to help.”