Our Covid-19 Story Revealed

It is no secret that the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted lives in ways that are unimaginable. Whilst we can all hope to navigate through this unsettling time, there are many people who mourn friends, family and loved ones, and the impact of Covid-19 will never be forgotten.

Not only has this pandemic affected our personal lives, it has also disrupted schools, businesses and whole economies — and we at Grass-fields have been no stranger to the knock on effects of this turbulent turn of events.

Over the years we’ve had the pleasure of growing Grass-fields from a tiny Etsy store, selling a couple of items a month, to a brand that’s proud to deliver bold prints and be in the wardrobes of people across the globe. However these stunning prints and our beautiful models bringing them to life on Instagram can detract from the fact that behind the brand you know as Grass-fields sit human beings who have their own stories of struggle, failure and success.

Michele gave birth to a beautiful baby girl during the peak of this pandemic, and whilst she was alone in the hospital dealing with birth complications I, Christelle, had to manage the business alone.

Although the virus is still wreaking havoc across the world, I am lucky that it has eased where I am so I feel that now is the best time for me to be completely transparent and articulate the impact that Covid-19 has had on Grass-fields, myself and my twin Michele, and the lives of those closest to the brand.

The Event that Never Happened

2020 was going to be the year we took Grass-fields to the streets of London. We wanted to be able to meet you all — in person. We wanted to tell you the stories behind the prints you wear and give you a full African experience.

We had a perfect venue, live music, African caterers, performances and exclusive drops — it had all been booked to immerse you into the world of prints. After 9 months of planning everything was ready, we’d even started to showcase a few of the grand plans, and just as we’d confirmed the last piece of the puzzle... Covid-19 hit. The excitement in the office instantly turned into fear and panic.

Our number one priority was the health and safety of our customers and staff. Everyday we heard stories of the virus spreading further and further and infection rates were rising more quickly than anyone could predict, there was no question but to cancel. And the cost of cancelling? £40,000 (about $52,000). This hit us hard, but couldn’t possibly even think about putting anyone at risk.

The Impact on Africa

Coronavirus began to spread even more ferociously and eventually made it’s way to Africa.

We had already placed orders with factories, and many were really looking forward to starting the production. The virus and subsequent lockdowns across the continent meant that most of the factory workers were relying on us continuing production. Back home in Cameroon (and it would be fair to say across the vast majority of Africa) there is very little or no government support or schemes to help people.

Whilst some of our factories were able to put measures in place in order to stay open and keep working, our biggest challenge arose when airlines began reducing flights and ports started closing one by one.

Rules were changing daily which meant that promises made by airlines on one day were broken by the next day.

Things felt so out of our control and we had to resign to the fact that there was nothing more we could do. We wanted to give our customers as much information as we could and keep everyone updated but unfortunately despite our best intentions, the information given to us was inconsistent and often incorrect.

Doubts Began to Surface

We saw the value of our stock reduce by 60%. This means it will take around 8 months to get back to operating how we used to.

I began wondering whether or not we should keep going.

With Michele just giving birth, I was taking on a lot myself and was really struggling to manage the business without her. I was worried about her and how she was coping at an already daunting time in her life and I was helpless because I knew I couldn’t do anything.

We had so many commitments and people relying on our support — from the orphanages we always donate to, to the factories that still needed to keep going to provide for their workers and community.

But then I began looking at this from a different perspective… It was this that helped me to realise and remember it comes down to so much more than money…

Although Covid-19 struck us hard financially, it was also a very humbling experience to be reminded of the fact that everything is about solidarity. It’s about helping as many other people as we possibly can whilst trying to keep our sanity.

So despite all of the turbulence and trauma we faced — the delays, the difficulties, the sheer uncertainty - we are so proud and happy to still be alive to see this day. This experience has given us the opportunity to keep fighting and striving as a company and be the best that we can be.

Stronger than Ever Before

We’ve learnt and taken so much from everything that’s happened during this time.

It’s so important to understand and be aware of the fact that things don’t always turn out the way we’d hope, but no matter what happens it’s always good to take the time to be kind and humble.

Things are not always as they seem, and so sometimes we need to understand and remember that the little help, patience and compassion we can give to another person goes such a long way.

We received lots of reviews and feedback - both of which have been a mixture of ups and downs - and through this humbling experience we strive towards learning, and will continue to pray and keep fighting for the better.

Even though Michele gave birth in the midst of a global disaster, she still stood strong and worked to ensure we kept going. There were many late nights and tough times, but every member of the Grass-fields team pulled through to deliver. The bond that was formed as a team combined with the love and support of our customers is what has kept us going - because of this, we have been able to grow and are now stronger than ever before.

Thank you <3
 

69 comments

What a wonderful story of endurance, faith and commitment. I love the fact that buying from you, is supporting my sisters in another country. We must hold each other up. The Black Lives Matter movement in America, incorporates addressing economic inequities. More opportunities for black owned businesses, such as yours, is a cornerstone. I love my authentic African clothing, made by Africans, that is beautiful and affordable. I wear it with pride for you as entrepreneurs and the unique beauty of our people. Keep going, keep growing, keep creating!

Michele August 25, 2020

Amazing! Thank you for sharing this story – it’s so inspiring in the mist of all the uncertainty with Covid. I really love what you guys are doing in the industry and truly hope you guys continue to shine and make beautiful prints and design! Keep doing you and supporting the community! We are behind you!!! Xxx

Tola August 23, 2020

I am so glad that as I got to the end of your story, that you will continue in business 😌. I love every outfit whether it is pants, dress, or skirt, I get compliments on everyone. Your customer service has always been top notch. If there was an issue, you took care of it through refund, credit or replacement and always kept great communication. With all of that, you both will do great because that speaks to your integrity and the heart of a person. Many blessings to when God allows you to have that big showcase (always in his timing).

Annette August 21, 2020

I am a fan, not only of a black owned, female headed business, just of you beautiful well made clothing. It was uplifting to buy your clothing during Illinois shelter in place order. I looked forward to receiving your packages like a child on Christmas Day. I am proud to say I have a full wardrobe of Grass-Field outfits to wear on my cruise in February 2021. I proud to wear your clothing and I always get compliments. I am a plus sized woman and it is great wearing clothing that makes me feel pretty. My husband is a fan and has picked out outfits he would like me to buy. He gets a smoldering look in his eyes when I wear your clothing. It is nice to see that look after 18 years of marriage. Keep up the excellent work. You have a fan for life.

Racquel August 21, 2020

Congratulations to both of you for making it to the other side of COVID-19. It’s been a challenging year for everyone and we should all be grateful for the gift of life. Continue to persevere. God bless you and your team. You will bounce back stronger and better inshallah.

Pamela August 21, 2020

Hi, thank you for sharing your story. It’s difficult when things don’t go according to plan, but please keep persevering! You have an amazing company and I can’t wait to get my first order here in Australia. I was born in Zimbabwe and I can’t wait to proudly wear your clothes it makes me feel connected. All the best to you all, Nadine.

Nadine August 21, 2020

Christelle,
You company has so much value to me! One of the things I appreciate about you and Michelle’s company is your openness, honesty, concern for your talented team and your customers. The pandemic has leveled a huge weight on all us. Giving thanks for your resilience.

All the best.
Anita

Anita Collins August 21, 2020

Your story is amazing and encouraging
Everything will work out for you.
I am awaiting my first piece from you and it won’t be the last!
God bless you.

Kind regards.
Lisa

Lisa Remi Hamilton August 20, 2020

Thank you so much for being transparent and thank you for not giving up in the midst of all of this! It seems like since the pandemic you guys have just gotten better and better at what you do! I love coming on your site and looking at the new designs and getting pieces that I can showcase here in America! Keep grinding and shining!

Daphine Whitfield August 20, 2020

Please keep going! It has been such a hard time for everyone. I bought my first dress from you guys during the pandemic. I was so surprised by the quality! I am proud to be Cameroonian and I am so proud of both of you. You’re a talented individuals. You will thrive I have no doubt.. success is at the end of the tunnel. I am not one to normally do such a thing but I even advertised your website on black owned Facebook page. That’s how much I liked your products. It was a fast an efficient transaction. So thanks 🙏🏾

Severine Ngankam August 20, 2020

I am SO happy that GRASS-FIELDS is thriving and counting their BLESSINGS EVERY step of the way. I am a loyal customer. I believe in GRASS-FIELDS MISSION. I’m happy that GRASS-FIELDS continues to more ahead Against all odds,even in the midst of the PANDEMIC (VIRUS )this just goes to prove we are STRONG WOMEN and MEN …it’s in the GENES the AFRICAN BLOOD LINES IS STRONG. The world may be a vastly different place today than it was when GRASS-FIELDS started their business back in the day or even just a few months ago, but our SWAG remains the same: UNMATCHED, UNSURPASSED and BEYOND COMPARE. I wish you all the BEST along this JOURNEY..congrats to MICHELLE for giving Birth to a healthy newborn baby. KEEP ON RISING TO THE TOP !!! MS. DOROTHY

Dorothy Odoms August 20, 2020

I appreciate you for being transparent. Im impressed that you were going through so much and still able to operate a successful business. You continue to release beautiful pieces that are great quality. I received my shipment quickly (in California) despite the pandemic. Keep up the good work and continue to make us proud.

Proud Nigerian 🇳🇬

Ami August 20, 2020

I honestly felt like a proud mama reading this!

Look at what God has done already! Just keep pushing girls, one day this will be a story you laugh about with your children!

God bless you both and congratulations Michelle! Xxx

Simone Parke August 20, 2020

As a self-employed professional, I really do sympathise and really do understand the struggle and frustration that COVID rained on every business and employee alike. However it was the custmer service and often lack of transparency that put some of your customers, including myself, on edge. I understand having to run business on skeleton staff so as to implement social distancing but often the delay on response was hard to swallow. Now I sent an email recently actually congratulation your business for standing steadfast. I have yet to receive an acknowledgement let alone a thank you. And this was sent during this recent period of the easing of the lockdown measures. Whilst one may say why do you need a thank you or acknowledgement, well, I found myself thinking ’ Was I right about Customer service all along?’ In any event, I truly wish you all the success for the future. Being female and black in business is not easy, I know. I would very much love to attend any future events you have in London so please keep us posted.

Rita August 20, 2020

Thank you so much for sharing! I love your brand and will continue to support and promote! Your shipping was so fast, I never knew there was this type of struggle behind it! I sit here in the USA sending u and all your staff my prayers, thank u for blessing us with such beautiful amazing art in this dark time. Your clothes make me smile every time I open a package! Thank You!💕

Kim S August 20, 2020

This story was very poignant, and made me quite emotional. I think many of us can related to unprecedented trials and tribulations during this time. I am so proud of you, and your sister for preserving through this tough time, and exemplifying your unwavering strength through this. Your story has gave me momentum to keep pushing, and knowing that all is possible when we don’t give up!! You two are QUEENS!! You got this!!💪🏾💪🏾 I have been a customer for over 4 years, and I will continue to support, always!!

Customer for life,

Danyell U.S.A🇺🇸

Danyell Knox August 20, 2020

Dear,
Everyone had to struggle with COVID-19
Most business even the big ones, when one was buying they told us expect delivery to be with a month and it arrived within 5 days, the issue with your business was the other way around, your website said expected delivered up to 8 days when uncertainty was hovering, no this not not fair for the customer also who created expectation and ended up disappointed. Plus we paid for speed delivery
Kind regards,

Tânia August 20, 2020

I love the article, and I thank you for taking the time to be transparent and real. These times have been a challenge, and I am glad to hear you are both doing well. We will always support good quality, great customer service and of course, our heritage. Thank you for all you do, you ladies are an inspiration. Stay blessed

Pierrette Tanguep August 20, 2020

Thank you for being so transparent and sharing your testimony! We tend to forget that even about the humanity in others. As a consumer, we have daunting demands on the business owners forgetting that they too are real people forging through just like we are. I pray that God continues to bless the work of your hands. I pray that your business will continue to be fruitful for your and your family and those around you. I pray that God continues to add his super to your natural in every aspect of your lives. In Jesus Name. God bless you!!!

t ceaser August 20, 2020

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