How Our Small Business is Thriving in 2020

Like many other businesses, we started 2020 planning for growth. We introduced customizable performance shirts to our line of products and had a major rebrand in the works. We were excited to branch out into new markets like the travel and hospitality industries. 

Needless to say, all of that quickly changed. 

But, even though all our best-laid plans were rocked as the year unfolded, we’ve managed to approach the last quarter as a company re-grown and thriving. How? We doubled down on our core values. Here’s what that looked like. 

2020, here we come!

As we entered our 38th year in the custom apparel business, we took stock of the words we used to describe ourselves. Family-owned, women-led, Chicago-based, design-oriented, and service-driven are words we take to heart. 

The company had changed a great deal since its original incarnation under Arnie Kapp in the family basement. But these words would continue to anchor the business. And with plans for a new name, new look, and new products, 2020 was shaping up to keep the best of the old while bringing in an exciting set of “new.”

The canary in the supply chain

When reports of an epidemic in China cropped up in local news, we were already seeing the impacts. For decades, we’ve relied on our strong friendship and partnership with our long-term manufacturer in Shengzhou, China. Regular business, admiration for each other’s operations, site visits, and family dinners have deepened our relationship over the years. So the news from China was alarming in more ways than one. 

Orders in process and shipments were delayed then indefinitely paused as their facility, city, and the supply chain out of China ground to a halt. This was January. 


Our experience in the early months of 2020 was very much like that of other small businesses. Even as we tried to keep up morale in a pandemic, we had to make the same tough decisions and transitions. We had to layoff staff and cut hours, shift to a work-from-home new normal with a skeleton crew, and cope with anxiety and some hard truths. Who wants to order custom ties or Hawaiian shirts right now? Will we still be here when they do?

Evolve to make an impact

One of our core values is to be constantly evolving. Another is to make an impact. These took on new dimensions in April. In our home city of Chicago, we saw the tireless efforts of our frontline workers and wanted to do what we could to support them. We’re a custom apparel company, so we approached it in the way we know best: raising money and awareness with Chicago-themed shirts and scarves. 

On their feet for unending shifts battling an illness we’re still learning about – we just wanted to feed the frontlines with the best comfort food our city makes. People across the US purchased our apparel or donated to raise over $13,000 and, together with our local restaurant partners, helped to provide over 900 meals to Chicago nurses, doctors, healthcare aides, police, and firefighters.

Then we realized a way we could make an even greater impact: providing cotton face masks. Time to evolve again. 

Consciously (re)connect and help out

We had everything needed to provide bulk quantities of CDC-compliant cotton face masks. While all of us were adjusting to new public health recommendations and making our best DIY masks, we worked to revive our supply chain, re-enlist our crack designers and employees, and reconnect with our customers. It wasn’t long before our custom face masks were rolling. Our first batch? Of course, emblazoned with the Chicago flag with proceeds going to Feeding the Frontlines

Candor Threads Feeding the Frontlines and Chicago Face Masks

Feeding the Frontlines: Mitchell Hospital with Brix Catering and Candor Threads Chicago Face Masks

At first, CEO Becky Feinberg Galvez and our small crew worked end-to-end. Making the sales and finalizing the designs, signing for incoming product shipments and sealing the hundreds of individual outgoing orders with packaging tape and a stamp. 

Then the business was – is – in full swing again with this unexpected, new product. It took off for all the reasons you know (face masks are as essential as hand sanitizer, their necessity doesn’t seem to be waning), and for a few reasons (we think) to do with our other core values. We strive to consciously connect with our customers and partners and to also always help out. While nearly any other tribulation would be preferable, we’re proud to prove our values even in a pandemic. 

The year’s not done, but we’re still here 

We made it to the fall of 2020, and we’re not stopping. We’ve added ready-to-ship-masks to our products to help customers who don’t need 100 pieces or more. We selected winners for our kid’s design contest, Mask for Change, and awarded them with 250 masks featuring their original art to share with fellow students, teachers, and community members. We re-introduced ourselves as Candor Threads Custom Apparel and we have even more community initiatives on the horizon for 2020. 

Though the phrase is well-worn, it is appropriate: Now, more than ever, we are grateful for the kind of mutually supportive relationships we’ve built over the years. And we’re renewed in our commitment to them – old and new. We’ve always thought our work can bring people together and, now more than ever, we’re ready to put that idea to the test. 

Candor Threads is a custom apparel company that provides custom ties, shirts, scarves, and masks. Our core values are to make an impact, consciously connect, have fun & help out, and to be constantly evolving. To see what our values can do for your custom apparel order, just reach out!

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