Furnishing the Front Lines

Categories: Business Profiles

Furnishing the Front Lines:

An Austin, TX-based furniture manufacturer adapted its production line to produce COVID-19 PPE 

“I thought we were going to go to jail.” 

—Brian Morgan, co-owner of Couch Potatoes

What would you think when your phone rings and you find the director of homeland security on the other end of the line? In mid-March, Dan Anthony, co-owner of Couch Potatoes and C12 Member, was facing the same government safety guidelines as business owners across the country: shut down your operations and go home—unless your offering is “essential.” 

Dan, along with his business partners, brothers Brian and Travis Morgan, leads a team of 50 at the furniture manufacturer based in Austin, TX. They were disturbed when they heard about the nationwide shortage of masks for front line healthcare professionals yet were also concerned about the wellbeing of their own front line. “How do we think about our neighbor when we are thinking about our employees?” 

Realizing they had a bulk supply of non-woven polypropylene for pillowcases, the same fabric in high demand for medical masks, the leaders made the strategic and compassionate decision to convert their production line to manufacture PPE masks and gowns. Of course, this was new territory for the furniture store, but their graphic designer was excited to refocus his creative skills and quickly devised a design. Two days, a few prototypes, and >100 masks later, the local government heard about the PPE innovator and called with a request (far from a threat for arrest) for an order for hundreds of thousands of units. 

With an ironic name like couch potatoes, you wouldn’t expect the company to be equipped to meet such industrial demand. As it turns out, however, the company installed a robotic cutting table a year and a half ago that can produce 3-4,000 masks a day! This allowed them to think more broadly about who they served. 

Love people and bring comfort are two of the company’s core values. These words carry more weight than corporate ideals; they exist as a filter by which the men can make decisions, big and small, and compels them to care for everyone, especially those often unheard and overlooked. The Couch Potatoes team connected with the Immigration Coalition and was the first to provide PPE to migrant workers and immigrants in need at the Southern border. Even as the factory floors have reopened to manufacture furniture again, they are also providing bulk mask kits for commercial use designed with construction and manual labor jobs in mind.

The company’s contributions amid the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t stop at the production line. For people sheltered at home looking for ways to join the mask-making efforts, Couch Potatoes built at-home sewing kits. They provided all the materials, instruction, and delivery and asked the DIYers to pray for and think about the person that would soon be wearing that mask. They have also provided jobs for ex-cons, fostered church-business partnerships, and prayed for every reporter, government official, and first responder they encounter.

We wanted to hear directly from Dan and his partners about how they have seized the global crisis to live out their values through their business. See an excerpt of the conversation between C12 CEO Mike Sharrow with Dan and Brian below, and be inspired by their courageous faithfulness to lead an innovative BaaM (Business as a Ministry)!

 

For the business leader reading this looking for hope in a seemingly hopeless situation—

  • What gaps or needs do you see in your community? 
  • What resources or skillsets are you uniquely positioned to leverage?
  • What core values can inform your decision making and innovation?
  • What next step is the Lord asking you to take?

Relevant Scripture:

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.” Phil. 1:12

“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matt 5:16 

“And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14