For many small businesses and startups in entertainment, “business-as-usual” stopped several months ago with COVID-19. With touring, concerts, and festivals on the back-burner, startups in the creative space find themselves financially compromised. However, for KAJ Collective, a Montreal-based entertainment consultancy and creative agency, the COVID-19 crisis presented an opportunity to pivot their business model and give back to their grassroots community.

With public health measures keeping businesses closed, startups in the live events space are struggling to meet bottom lines. KAJ Creative, a Montreal-based entertainment consultancy and creative agency, pivoted their business model by giving back.

KAJ Collective before COVID

What began in Montreal as a creative platform founded by a group of creatives grew into an international business-to-business (B2B) entertainment and marketing consultancy. Initially, KAJ was intended to be a creative space for local artists to share their music. Two years ago, the company pivoted to show production and touring. 

Now, KAJ Creative works with a variety of brands, artists, and companies to provide full-service solutions to brand experience, marketing strategy, sponsorship, and content creation through digital marketing consulting and creative building. However, that all stopped suddenly with the COVID outbreak.

According to Forbes, COVID social distancing measures could cut $7 billion of revenue from the U.S. concert and live event industry if the shutdown lasts until July. “Being a production company that engages in touring, concerts, and festivals which brings in 50% – 70% of our revenues, that all had to change now that there is a complete lockdown in the business,” said KAJ Co-Founder and President Abdoulaye Mouflet. 

Previously, KAJ focused on transforming clients’ digital marketing strategy to reflect physical events and experiences their customers could interact with. 

“Now, that is something that had to be left in the past, leaving a clear gap in the business,” added KAJ Director of Strategy Ben Attal. “From a growth perspective, we were in a tough spot with some of the things that were core to the business, so we collectively decided to refocus our energy on initiatives that would help those most in need right now.” 

That’s when Mouflet proposed a project to help raise funds for hospitals to acquire severely lacking personal protective equipment (PPE). “When Abdoulaye brought this project to the team, our goal right off the bat was to make this as successful as possible.”

Overpriced and scarce PPE for hospitals

For months now, hospitals have had a major shortage in essential PPE. A GetUsPPE.org survey shows that of 978 organizations surveyed across the U.S., most only have 2 weeks’ supply of PPE at best.  

To make matters worse, PPE supply prices have surged with increased demand. Since the COVID-19 outbreak started, the price of surgical masks increased six-fold, N95 respirators tripled and gowns have doubled. Market manipulation and shipping delays have worsened an already bad situation. 

The consequences of this severe PPE shortage are life-threatening. Many hospitals are rationing PPE, challenging established infection control protocols. As a result, healthcare worker infections and patient-to-patient transmissions have increased. In China, more than 3,000 doctors contracted the virus; meanwhile, Italy has twice this number of infected healthcare workers. The math is simple – an increase in infected healthcare workers plus more patient-to-patient transmission equals more overall sickness.

KAJ Creative’s COVID call to action

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“Clearly, there was a major issue in PPE supplies,” said Mouflet, who was working with a family friend at ApeironMed to help governments source PPE. ApeironMed, a medical supply branch of Apeiron Pharma Co. Ltd. based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, supplies high-quality medical products to the rest of the world at reasonable prices. Mouflet convinced the medical supplier to co-sign the fundraiser and supply PPE at cost to Canadian hospitals in need.

Since ApeironMed started the initiative, they have worked with an array of governmental entities. The medical supplier has also spoken with companies like Louis Vuitton to facilitate the donation of masks to hospitals. “Mainly, the goal is to provide accessible pricing for PPE in a time when people are price gouging and trying to make a profit off the current crisis,” said Mouflet. 

Once ApeironMed signed on, KAJ’s creative team contacted local Canadian hospitals and started a GoFundMe to raise money for PPE. After the first round of fundraising, the team raised over $1,000 via its preexisting local network and social media.

The team has since partnered with Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM), St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto, and Babinski & Kotb, Proxim Affiliated Pharmacy to provide necessary PPE.

Now, KAJ Creative is compiling a list of foundations, donors, and entities that are potential partners in reaching their $100,000 goal to support COVID efforts and give back to the community. The group hopes to have the PPE shipped from Asia to Canada by mid-June. 

“Right now, the campaign is off to a really good start, but it’s only a small beginning,” said Attal. Currently, the GoFundMe campaign has 160 shares and significant mentions, but donations don’t seem to match the web traffic. “We realized that people may want to help and share, but to get them to actually donate and get involved they have to be aligned with the cause,” Mouflet said.

The key to even out the numbers is telling a better story. “We need to tell people the full story so they can understand why this is important and how they can help to encourage them to take that next step,” said Attal. “It’s definitely a shift in what KAJ has previously communicated to audiences…going from promoting events to a charitable cause requiring people’s donations.” 

Nevertheless, the group is determined to make the initiative a success. For next steps, KAJ wants to connect with people who may be in a better position to donate and also reach a broader audience. “That’s when the group effect will really come together,” Attal said. 

How can small businesses and community members do their part? 

KAJ Creative took a disaster like COVID and turned into an opportunity to give back to the community. When it comes to advice for other creatives and entrepreneurs trying to make a difference in their communities, Mouflet suggests starting by assessing how you can directly impact communities through the resources and networks currently available to you. “Kaj was lucky to have access to a very trusted source for PPE material. When a company is pivoting their business strategy and trying to do more than just make money – actually have an impact on the community – the first thing you need to do is just see how you can leverage your network and your team’s network to put it toward something impactful.” 

“During the COVID-19 crisis, something especially to note is that sometimes something like this unforeseen happens and your business is kind of forced to shift away from what you were previously doing. Hopefully that’s only for a relatively short period of time, but the reality is that in that kind of intermediary period, you’re an entrepreneur. You realize that you have this opportunity – mainly through human resources like people’s minds and people’s time –to impact your community. You realize that you can no longer focus on the soul growth of your business, rather you have the chance to channel your energy in some other direction,” said Attal. 

To help the cause, Mouflet says donating, sharing, and connecting KAJ with foundations or people would be greatly helpful.

“We encourage you to reach out to the KAJ page to have a conversation if you are interested in learning more about the initiative, have any questions, or want to see how you can contribute. Anything helps.” 

Click here for Fundraiser by KAJ Collective

KAJ Points of Contact:

Ben Attal: ben.attal@nimbusapp.ca

Abdoulaye Mouflet: abdoulaye@kajcollective.com

Instagram: @kajcollective

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