Kfir Gavrieli: A True Example of Corporate Leadership During a Global Pandemic

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The Coronavirus Pandemic has undoubtedly uncovered many of the ills faced by our less-than-perfect society, but it has also uncovered the greatness and generosity of the human spirit. While our front-line health workers continue to battle this treacherous disease that has taken the world by storm, there are also heroes working behind the scenes, doing whatever they can to support these front-line workers.

Even in the business-as-usual corporate world, unlikely heroes have emerged. One such hero is Kfir Gavrieli, CEO of the fashion shoewear brand Tieks, who recently devised an initiative to step up and support front-line workers by engaging not only his company’s staff and manufacturing facility, but also Tieks’ fans and supporters, in a highly successful campaign to provide much-needed PPE to essential health-care workers.

Gavrieli has always been a community-minded business leader, long known for his philanthropic work to empower women as the largest donor to date on the Kiva micro-lending platform, which provides micro-loans to women entrepreneurs around the world.  Most recently, after hearing from a friend in Los Angeles about the critical shortages of PPE local county hospitals faced, he set his sights on innovative ways to contribute to mitigating the crisis.

“As soon as I learned of this coming shortage, I knew we had a responsibility to reorient our business to get masks into the hands of those who need them most,” stated the passionate Israeli native. “Our nurses, doctors, EMTs and other medical professionals are on the front lines of this pandemic. We must do everything we can to protect them: for their own health and for everyone’s health, so that we have adequate healthcare staff as this crisis grows.”

Gavrieli immediately sprang into action, quickly purchasing a fleet of sewing machines and training his staff to make masks for health workers. Tieks, a popular footwear brand known for its innovative ballet flats that fold up neatly enough to fit inside a purse or handbag, suddenly found itself producing thousands of cloth masks that include pockets for filters. 

These masks provide essential backup for hospitals and health workers, as they may be used to prolong the life of the critical N95 masks that have been in short supply in health centers.  When worn together with the N95 masks, the cloth masks extend the life of the N95’s, providing increased protection for essential workers who depend on them.  The cloth masks also provide protection for general hospital and health workers less likely to be exposed to the virus directly, which means that those critical and scarce N95 masks may be reserved to protect those who are directly on the front lines.

The beauty of Gavrieli’s leadership lies not only in his ability to mobilize his own workers, but also in his brilliant and innovative idea to mobilize the company’s vast fan and consumer base, thereby increasing the people-power behind the incentive by the thousands, and multiplying the production of masks by hundreds of thousands.

“We tried sewing masks,” he explained in a recent interview on The Briefing. “We were making a few hundred a day. And then it hit us that if we could somehow engage our community, our fans and our customers, to sew masks with us, we could really scale up the impact we were having.”

The company, whose fan base and supporters are largely professional women who enjoy the comfort and style of the Tieks flats, launched a social media initiative called Operation #SewTogether. This ingenious campaign motivated thousands of supporters to come together and produce hundreds of thousands of masks, providing easy instructions, and motivation in the form of gift cards for the popular Tieks ballet flats.  For every with 25 masks donated, fans would receive $50 gift cards, and $100 gift cards for every 50 masks donated. This proved to be a win-win situation that allowed thousands of women to purchase the coveted flats at a discount, while building a powerful community to support essential health workers.

“We launched Operation #SewTogether and the response has just been phenomenal,” Gavrieli noted.  “We managed to overnight erect a factory with thousands of workers, something we couldn’t have done at our own headquarters.” 

The initiative has now produced over a million masks masks that have been sewn and distributed among hospitals in the Los Angeles County area, as well as other hard-hit areas in the country, such as Louisiana, New York, Washington, and other cities facing dangerously high infection rates. 

“People wanted to help. We, as a brand, wanted to help. This was the best idea for how we could really do something together.”

Inspired by the success of the Operation #SewTogether campaign, Gavrieli decided to push his company’s philanthropy a step further to provide more direct rewards for essential health-care workers and those working on the front lines to fight the pandemic. In recent weeks, Tieks launched an additional campaign initiative offering direct rewards to health workers. The Tieks For Heroes campaign provides the gift of a $100 gift card toward a pair of the coveted Tieks flats to nurses, doctors, other health workers, and other essential workers who are on the front lines of the fight against Covid-19.

Although Gavrieli has long been recognized for his generous contributions to platforms such as Kiva and other charities, this particular campaign, with its innovative use of social media and wide-scale public engagement, became extra-special, because it unified supporters all over the country and built a beautiful community of donors.

In his frank and forthright conversation on The Briefing, the emotion and excitement in Gavrieli’s voice was evident as he stated simply, “This really has been for me, as the CEO of the company, perhaps the most rewarding campaign we’ve ever done.” For more on Kfir Gavrieli visit:

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