Close Up: Hirsch Gift Works To Help Houston
Face masks are one of the most sought-after products in the U.S. right now. From medical-grade face masks for health care personnel and first responders, to non-medical grade face masks to protect people during trips to grocery stores or gas stations, it’s become a must-have tool for ensuring the safety of ourselves and others.
With the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in a shortage of face masks across the nation, one promotional products supplier has stepped up to help locally. Hirsch Gift in Houston, Texas, started producing face masks sewn by its employees to serve the Houston community. Only a select few of the company’s 90 employees were able to help with production; Hirsch Gift is not a sewing facility, but some of its employees who can sew chose to generously lend a hand. Using bought and borrowed sewing machines, employees worked remotely, sewing safely from their homes. “We don’t anticipate being a large producer, but [the face masks] will be made with love and will be donated to those in need,” wrote Hirsch Gift President Peter Hirsch and his son Paul Hirsch, vice president, in an early April blog post.
Hirsch Gift will continue producing face masks for the community throughout the duration of the Stay Home, Work Safe order in Harris County, Texas, which was issued March 24, and at press time, was extended through April 30. The first batch of face masks, produced in a single day, were immediately donated to a Houston-area hospice that lacked necessary equipment.
Hirsch Gift, which has been in business for 21 years—originally in the retail gift wholesale business, transitioning to promotional products in 2002—has played an active role in helping the community. Being located in Houston—all of Hirsch Gift’s decorating and warehousing operations are housed in two buildings across the street from each other—the business was in the epicenter of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Harvey in 2018, and thus, it was actively involved in relief efforts. After both natural disasters, Hirsch Gift formed a group of promotional professionals and employees to collect and donate products to those in need, donating more than 200 pallets of product to community centers, schools and churches for the Hurricane Harvey relief effort.
And to help year-round, Hirsch Gift donates 20 percent of the net proceeds from the sale of its Patriot product line of beverageware, coolers, reusable straws and lunchboxes to Homes For Our Troops, a nonprofit dedicated to building and donating custom-designed homes for severely injured post 9/11 veterans. Hirsch Gift also started a pay-it-forward campaign for Patriot Tumblers products. Attendees listening into the company’s webinars are encouraged to offer their clients a tumbler with “Thank You For Your Service” engraved on it to give to first responders, who, Hirsch says, “could be anybody [end users] come in contact with, from the pizza delivery person, UPS driver to health-care workers, who are all helping to flatten the curve.”
But transitioning to a COVID-19 world hasn’t been without its challenges. “We are operating on a skeleton crew, making face masks and operating at a very low level,” says Hirsch. “The biggest concern right now is, ‘When will this all be over?’ Concerns are for staff and families, that we all get through this with our health and minimizing financial attrition.” But Hirsch has been aiming to make the transition as easy as possible for employees and customers.
Hirsch shares more about what else his business has been doing to respond to coronavirus-related changes.
PPB Can you offer advice or tips to other suppliers and industry pros who are also experiencing changes to their businesses during this time?
Hirsch I believe that our industry will jump back comparatively quickly, initially as businesses start opening up, [and owners’] minds will be on staffing and covering the overheads. But once that is sorted out, getting back to business will need marketing, and our industry is the best medium to carry that message.
PPB What has Hirsch been doing to overcome the new challenges?
Hirsch Our sales management team has been busy offering Zoom-type webinars, highlighting home office and health and wellness products, which are particularly relevant to the current crisis.
PPB How has Hirsch had to change its operations internally?
Hirsch Fortunately, we switched to Netsuite last year, and this has hugely helped our staff work remotely by providing accessibility to everything that we need to run remotely. [The] phone system has its challenges, so we will be upgrading that next. Internal communications via Google Hangout have been good—and what would we all do without Zoom meetings?
Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.