Debbie’s Sewing: A Small Fort Smith Dressmaker that Exemplifies Covid-19 Adaptation

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As the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe and the need for personal protective equipment became apparent – even in the Northwest Territories, Debbie Purchase, owner and operator of Debbie’s Sewing in Fort Smith, pivoted her small dressmaking business to address a rising demand for facemasks in the NWT. 

Funding Available for NWT Businesses to Manufacture Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Her business has grown exponentially and she has created four additional manufacturing positions – even in the midst of lean economic times. The demand for facemasks has resulted in her hiring a full-time position and part-time position in her shop and two part-time positions for individuals working from home.  

Debbie Purchase leveraged her 33 years of experience as a tailor and dressmaker in the garment industry to design a re-usable cotton facemask design that incorporates adjustable strings or elastic to allow for a comfortable fit. The design follows specifications set by the World Health Organization. 

Debbie’s Sewing has been a significant contributor to ensuring COVID-19 compliance in the NWT. In total, her company has manufactured over 45,000 of her custom-designed one-size-fits-most 2-layer, 3-layer and custom-fit facemasks. The manufacturing company has filled orders for a range of government departments and organizations including: the Town of Fort Smith, GNWT-ECE, GNWT-ENR, and the COVID Secretariat.

Her newest feature is a customizable outer-layer completed with her embroidery machine. She recently filled orders for the Fort Smith Fire Department that include the Fire Department’s crest.

 The ability of Debbie’s Sewing to adapt operations and create jobs and employment while keeping NWT residents safe is a wonderful legacy and accomplishment.

As a member of the NWT’s manufacturing community, Debbie was able to access specially-targeted funding SEED funding for the development of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and cloth face masks within the NWT.

With funding options under the Support for Entrepreneurs and Economic Development (SEED) policy and through the implementation of the GNWT’s Northwest Territories Manufacturing Strategy, the Department of ITI is working to advance the GNWT’s mandate to Increase economic diversification and contribute to increased employment in smaller communities.