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• Jun 17, 2020

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Bourne Founder says the most important lesson is 'listen to your team'

The Bourne Group was "born on the water" 14 years ago, originally focused on manufacturing maritime safety signs and various safety products. In the ensuing years, the Charleston, South Carolina company expanded into sophisticated custom designed products primarily for cruise ship companies.

But in just 72 hours this past March, the company's 35 full-time and 15 part-time employees dropped anchor and began to pivot production to personal protective equipment for medical professionals and individuals to curb the spread of COVID-19.

As early as February, the company saw the impact COVID-19 had on the world, as its customer base is primarily outside the US.

Patrick McNulty, a founder and owner of the Bourne Group, said his employees immediately sprang into action, seeing how the specialized equipment that enables them to make custom products for their clients could be used for a new purpose – Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

"One of our employees showed us a face shield he designed, and we just went to work on a prototype," Patrick said.

Within three days, the protype with a shipment of about 3,000 masks was provided to the University of South Carolina for feedback and after requested adjustments, Bourne began to provide the masks to area hospitals.


Bourne's facial shields, made from polycarbonate often used often used in protective eyewear, are being cut, assembled and shipped by the thousands every day.

"I think it's really awesome to see the excitement to produce something that's so important to use," Patrick added.

Spreading the news with connections from TD

While Bourne has deeps roots in the maritime community, company leaders did not have connections to the medical community. That's when Patrick had the idea to reach out to his partners at TD Bank.

"I reached out to TD and they circulated what we were doing locally," Patrick said. "They played a big part in getting the word out."

The TD team worked to spread the word among its large network with Commercial Regional Vice Presidents and Relationship Managers in the Coastal South Carolina and North Carolina regions, along with Treasury Services Healthcare Segment Lead Nicholas Case.

"It is an honor and a privilege to play even the smallest of parts in helping connect Bourne Group with some of TD Bank's existing, healthcare clients who are on the frontlines in the battle against COVID19," said Grant M. McAnulty, TD Treasury Management Officer. "Bringing our clients and community together during this most uncertain of times is what building relationships is really all about."

The power of your team

Bourne has quickly expanded its customer base for the masks, also selling to medical facilities outside of South Carolina. You can also order PPE for individuals on the company's website. But Patrick and his team aren't resting on their laurels.

"We are looking at our business for our future - how can we adapt and diversify a bit more using the staffing we have?" Patrick said. "We know how to pivot and do something different. The cruise industry will come up but what exactly will it look like? We have to keep our willingness to imagine what the world will look like as it comes back."

Though the future remains unclear, he is certain of one thing – the important lesson he learned during this time of transition.

"It's the power of people you have already on your team," he said. "As a business owner, you may not figure it out on your own, so you must listen to your workers. This (PPE) equipment transition was really organic. The people who work for you may just have the best solution to your future."

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