“I felt like if I didn’t complete this mask as fast as possible that means somebody’s life could be in jeopardy.”
Ten months ago, Dana Greaves had a thriving business in her Shoppes on Fatherland artisan jewelry retail shop, Artaya Loka. Her creations appealed to celebrities and tourists alike and earned her praise from New York magazine and Nylon, but that career trajectory came to an abrupt end in March.
When the pandemic began to ramp up, just a few weeks after the March 3 tornado, Greaves paused her regular business and started sewing face masks for essential workers. She eventually began selling some of the masks, but she wasn’t focused on making a profit. “I was barely paying myself, and I was working in a way that wasn’t sustainable,” she says. “I felt like if I didn’t complete this mask as fast as possible that means somebody’s life could be in jeopardy.”
As the desperate need for masks for medical caregivers eased, a new market arose for personal masks that provided protection while also making a fashion statement. This new market led to Greaves is selling fashionable masks via her online store at artayaloka.com and wholesale outlets like Faire.
“Prior to the pandemic I rarely sold anything online,” she says. “People didn’t visit the website, people didn’t know about the website and people who did shop with me online found out about the website through the retail shop. The pandemic changed how I sell, and what I sell.”
But while this new market blossomed, Artaya Loka’s retail shop faltered and it joined a growing list of local businesses that have permanently closed due to the tornado and COVID-19. In Greaves’ case, she’s taking a setback and turning it into an opportunity for the future. With plans for a new, bigger Artaya Loka, she’s set up a GoFundMe fundraiser (gofundme.com/f/artaya), with a lofty $200,000 goal.
“When the pandemic hit, it kind of persuaded me to dream way bigger than what I was dreaming of,” she says. “I’d love to have a bigger store, I’d love to have employees, I’d love to have street visibility — those aren’t things I would’ve thought about prior to the pandemic.
“With my GoFundMe I wanted to be very realistic about what it takes to have a bigger store—it’s a different ball game than the shop I’m closing,” she adds. “Yes, the amount I put there was high, but I wanted to honor myself by being realistic about what really goes down during a pandemic. It is not easy and if you don’t prepare properly then it could be damaging, financially damaging, emotionally damaging.”
She adds that she’s not only starting to feel optimistic about the future, but she’s even been feeling inspired to once again start thinking beyond face masks. “I’m absolutely optimistic. I have moments of true inspiration, which I wasn’t expecting at all. Some of the new collections and the collections I want to produce are fueling me.”