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From cigar ribbons to face masks

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The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge effect on the creativity and flexibility of both entrepreneurs and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency. This case looks at a business that had to put its DHI plans on hold, but has found a creative way to continue working during the crisis.

Marc Evers owns Van Engelen & Evers, a family business. The company began 120 years ago as a weaving mill producing textile ribbons for the cigar industry. Operating under the name EE Labels, the company produces tags, ribbons and labels for fashion brands, furniture manufacturers and customers in the automotive industry.

Factory in Turkey

In 2018, Evers started an investment preparation project to set up a factory in Turkey for radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags. "We saw an increasing demand there for traceable labels, like the ones used to scan stock. We are using the DHI subsidy to investigate whether we can build a factory for this product, which is very new to us." The project deadline was September 2020. But then the coronavirus pandemic broke out.

"What else can we do?"

"In late March, Turkey went into lockdown, and we had to stop what we were doing. We could not carry out our DHI project.” After talking to a DHI advisor, we decided to put it on hold for now. “One problem was solved, but the others were not over yet. Our production was affected: the fashion industry turnover went into a major decline. We wondered how we could stay active and what we could do with our finely woven textiles." Quickly, the Dutch entrepreneur began to shift production to making face masks. "Within 3 days, an entirely new production line was set up. It was just in time, as the worldwide demand for products like elastic became so strong that supply became quite a challenge." After 4 days, the first face masks were available for sale. "It normally takes 3 months to set up a production line. I am extremely proud of the entire team and that we were able to do this so quickly."

Independent

Luckily, Evers was able to use the webshop of Belgian sister company Nominette. "They sell labels for the consumer market and were already known in neighbouring countries. The sales went well from the very start. Because we had our own sales channel, we were independent and sharp."

In September, he hopes to continue with the DHI project in Turkey. "Based on what we know now, we cannot make a decision yet." Evers thinks that the current crisis will create opportunities for products produced in the Netherlands. "You hear a lot about how great the dependence is on far-away markets. Local production makes you less vulnerable. I hope that in 6 months, the Netherlands still thinks that 'local for local' is a good thing to focus on. And that we do not go back to the times where the product with the lowest costs always wins, no matter what. This is our chance to do business differently."

Would you like to know more?

DHI is the subsidy scheme for demonstration projects, feasibility studies and investment preparation projects. Would you like to apply for DHI? This is possible even during the coronavirus crisis. Please visit our DHI page.

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