• The coronavirus crisis has prompted many companies and individuals to pivot their businesses to help those in need. 
  • One example is Karst, a sustainable stationery company based in Australia that has started making hand sanitizer to address shortages caused by the global outbreak.
  • “We felt strongly compelled to put our hands up and lean into this current health crisis by providing an affordable hand sanitizer product,” Karst CEO Jon Tse told Business Insider. 
  • The company says it’s already sold more than 15,000 units of its hand sanitizer, which costs $22 Australian, the equivalent of about $14 US. 
  • Proceeds from Karst’s product helps pay employees at Rescue.support, a collective of people from various industries whose incomes have been affected and who are looking for new ways to support their families. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Since 2017, Jon Tse and Kevin Garcia have been focused on building their sustainable stationery startup, Karst. Then, the coronavirus outbreak happened. 

As Tse and Garcia watched the outbreak spread worldwide, they began noticing shortages of crucial products like hand sanitizer, both in their home country of Australia and around the world.

They decided to act. 

Karst doesn’t make hand sanitizer, or anything remotely resembling sanitizing products. Their line of notebooks, notepads, sketchbooks, and woodless pencils is stylish and minimalist, made from materials like vegan leather and recycled stone.

But the founders realized what they lacked in expertise, they made up for in manufacturing capabilities. Karst had access to ethanol, the key ingredient in hand sanitizer, and already had warehouses, logistics, shipping, and a digital platform in place to produce a product. 

“The world is in a crazy place right now — sometimes you don’t know up from down, and things are changing so quickly day to day,” Tse, who is Karst’s CEO, told Business Insider in an email. “We felt strongly compelled to put our hands up and lean into this current health crisis by providing an affordable hand sanitizer product.”

Karst started producing 500 milliliter bottles of hand sanitizer. Tse said took the team three days to create the sanitizer, and within a week, Karst had sold more than 15,000 units. 

The bottles retail for $22 Australian (about $14 US). The company plans to start shipping orders in Australia by April 30. 

Karst Hand Sanitiser



Karst


‘Business is not as usual anymore’

Karst is working with an Australian organization called Rescue.support, a collective formed by people from various industries whose incomes have been affected by the coronavirus crisis and who are looking for new ways to support their families. 

Rescue.support built a predictive model to help meet demand, routing hand sanitizer to places like hospitals and nursing homes that need it the most, with the goal of helping to prevent hoarding and panic-buying.

Tse said that proceeds from every bottle of Karst hand sanitizer sold helps pay the employees at Rescue.support. 

The hand sanitizer Karst is making contains 70% alcohol, which meets the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations which require hand sanitizing products to contain at least 60% ethanol. Tse said the company followed a material safety data sheet, a document that provides safety and health information for chemical products.  

There have been about 2 million cases worldwide of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and over 125,000 deaths. Australia has more than 6,400 confirmed cases, and, like most other countries worldwide, is facing shortages of medical supplies and hand sanitizer. As far back as February, even major retailers like Walmart and Amazon started experiencing hand sanitizer shortages, and it’s still almost impossible to find bottles online from popular brands like Purell or Germ-X. 

That shortage is what inspired Karst, and what Tse hopes will inspire other business owners as well. 

“The pre-coronavirus Karst would not have made hand sanitizer, but with the rule book thrown out of the window, we felt strongly compelled to look at things a bit differently,” he said. “Business is not as usual anymore. In this day and age where nothing is certain, more business owners could think about asking themselves why they shouldn’t do something.”

Have you pivoted your business to help during the coronavirus outbreak? Or have you started a new company in response to the current crisis? Please email ahartmans@businessinsider.com to share your story.

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