Imagine being trapped on an island. It's reminiscent of 1960s American television shows and blockbuster movies. But for our founder and CEO, Felipe Jadue, that’s what life is like at this very moment.
Karukinka’s spinning mill and factory—along with nearly all of our employees and partners—are located on the remote island of Tierra de Fuego, in the southernmost tip of Patagonia. In April, Felipe left his family and his home in Santiago, Chile for what had always been a very normal, and very often work commute. But this time, Chile was experiencing the very beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Within days, everything changed rapidly, and the government instituted a country-wide lockdown, including border closures, transportation like ferries, and a shut-down of trade and non-essential services.
Felipe, and all of our goods, were essentially trapped on the island with no ability to leave.
Chile has experienced 330,000 confirmed cases and more than 8,500 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Although the country is looking to gradually reopen the country starting on July 28th, they are prioritizing the wealthy suburbs of Santiago. The residents of Tierra de Fuego still will not be able to leave their tiny island for weeks. Thankfully, food and provisions had been allowed to be transported to the island for the community members’ survival.
The impact has been tremendously challenging. While Felipe felt that his time at Outdoor Retailer earlier this year in January 2020 led to a handful of productive and promoting meetings, running a small startup in the middle of nowhere during a global pandemic is truly an ordeal. Likewise, Karukinka has been unable to fulfill orders due to the shutdown of basic services, like shipping delays in receiving certain materials into the island has meant that Karukinka has had to furlough most of their team for the time being, unable to make new products without all of our materials in Tierra del Fuego.
“It is hard, but every measurement taken, even though they affect our business, we have embraced them, knowing that we must flatten the curve,” Felipe said. “Vulnerable communities like ours need us more than ever to think about how our taken-for-granted actions could have devastating results. In this context of taking care of people, we will continue to evaluate our operations as the situation unfolds and our government offers more guidelines.”
“The mental stress also is overwhelming. I feel like the guy in The Shining. In my more than 15 years as a businessman and entrepreneur, I have weathered other storms and throughout this journey, I never had to work harder than this time to support and sustain our employees, our customers, and our partners. We must prioritize the people who will suffer the most physically, emotionally, and economically,” Felipe said.
We all are witnessing a global society juggling what is more important—our lives or our livelihoods. For many people, those two things are interconnected. As we all attempt to address a pandemic that will no doubt become a chapter in the history books, Felipe’s commitment to Karukinka will not waver.
As regulations and closures continue to change around Chile, we will keep you updated on when we are crafting new gear (coming soon!) and able to ship our quality goods your way. The harsh climate of the southernmost tip of South America has bred us to be strong, and we will continue to lead with grit, guts, and perseverance.