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(L-R) Photos of the pinkPRIDE, blueSURFSHOP and flagVINTAGE face covers. // Photos courtesy of HOMEMADEbrand.

Local LGBTQ+ small business owner remains hopeful during pride month pandemic slump

By Rachael Grothe, June 23 2020—

When life gave him lemons, Jason Holt sewed face masks. After a year of planning, his new clothing line was to make its March debut in Canada and a handful of boutiques across the U.S., but then the COVID-19 pandemic struck and all orders were cancelled. Holt was shocked, but kept his chin up, turning his talents to helping his community by sewing face masks and selling them online. He remains hopeful that, although this side project has potential, he will eventually have the opportunity to return to working on his clothing line after danger of the pandemic passes.

Holt grew up in Raymond, Alberta, but has been a Calgary resident for the last ten years. He honed his expertise in various parts of the garment industry after graduating university in 1994 and worked for a few different manufacturers before turning his eye to creating his own label. The GENESTA/HOLT line is the culmination of a year of work between Holt and his business partner, and was even successfully launched at The Bar Showroom in Los Angeles before sales halted. Regarding the personal tragedy, Holt calls himself an “eternal optimist.”

“I’m lucky that I have a small, manageable operation that I knew I wouldn’t need to close,” said Holt. “I’ve been determined to ride this thing out and be ready to roll as soon as it’s time. We’ve been slowly reaching out to our stores, making sure the time is right for sales conversations.”

He’s hoping to see orders pick up again in the Fall.

In the meantime, he’s been selling face masks on his website, HOMEMADEbrand.ca. These masks ship freely across Canada and feature a range of unique designs. Holt sews each mask by hand and says the side project has been fun for him. His PRIDEmasks designs each have a rainbow stripe across the front for wearers to fashionably celebrate Pride Month 2020. Holt explained that these patterns are a way to show he’s proud to be part of the LGBTQ+ community and he’s currently looking into the possibility of donating the proceeds of the PRIDEmasks to local LGBTQ+ organizations.

In addition to the month-long Pride celebration, this June also features Stage 2 of the Alberta government’s Relaunch Strategy. Proponents of reopening the province are often in defense of small businesses, who they argue are responsible for circulating local economies and need sales; however, when questioned about the topic, Holt explained that the best way to help small businesses is lowering operating costs and that one of the biggest struggles of local businesses in Calgary is “astronomically high leases.” He pointed out that, although Alberta has been doing great with mass testing, not much has changed in terms of developments combatting COVID-19. Calgarians need to remain socially distant, wear face masks in public, and wash their hands as often as possible. Stage 2 reopening shouldn’t mean that we can forget about the most vulnerable in our community, for with greater caution now can there be more economic gratification come this Fall.

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