Q4 2020

6 | Q4 2020 Anja Kahn looks back on the development, ‘for me it’s imperative to not produce run of the mill products, and my background in manufacturing innovation means that we analyze every new concept and ensure it’s the best it can be for the end user. The team were amazing, job roles became fluid, and it was all hands-on deck; and again innovation didn’t stop in the product manufacture, we had to think outside the box on how to keep the logistics moving when the world was in lockdown and courier networks had impossible bottlenecks. After the first week or two of courier hiccups the operations & logistics team secured distribution such that on average 99% of orders were being delivered next day, enabling customers to receive their masks when they needed them’. ELLE took the drive to help the community to heart and setup customer service support for those facing difficulties with the way everything had moved to online shopping, and Anja didn’t stay in the background ‘as our phone number was on the website, we were getting large volume of calls, so I joined the front-end customer service team and took many calls – although my chatting to consumers on average 30 - 40 minutes per call meant I wasn’t the most productive member of the team! But it was a humbling experience to speak with people who were under lockdown, worried, facing overwhelming challenges for routine life. We had many say they were buying for relatives who didn’t or couldn’t shop online, so we decided to reach out with adverts in the national papers, not something we’d done for almost two decades! On the first advert going live, our lines did not stop ringing from 7am to 10pm, we were routing calls to staff in their homes, even those who were not in the customer services team, and over the run of that first long weekend, our youngest caller was 72, and the oldest a lively, cheeky, 94 year old! The common theme in the calls was how grateful people were that we’d run the ads as they had struggled to get effective face masks. It’s been the most touching experience of my career, and I personally felt the warmth of the British people coming together to support their communities at the local level as they shared their Covid story with us.’ The achievement with the face mask innovations has steered Anja Kahn to use her expertise and expand the company into the protective textiles sector; ELLE UK Ltd has recently launched its new brand, 2P1E, for Anti-Virus Hospitality & Healthcare Linens, towels, and soft furnishings (subject of global patent applications), with a specific focus to support the hospitality industry as it tries to deal with the aftereffects of the lockdowns and allay people’s fears over safety of hotel stays. As the head of a successful company with a recognized household brand name, we asked Anja if being a woman had posed any challenges that maybe her male counter parts would not have. ‘I was exposed to a business environment from quite a young age, with a strong entrepreneurial father who respected and encouraged my achievements in the business world. Many women say they grow stronger due to strong female influences or mentors; however, I think for me being around strong male influences who acknowledged and supported my ability took away any sense of being at a disadvantage as a woman. As the brand developed and my reputation grew, I was lucky enough to have enough autonomy to not be a target of any gender related negativity. Within the company, I have a horizontal leadership style rather than a top-down approach, working as a team with a vested interest and pride in our achievements, and self-monitoring and setting own goals. I worked with Investors in People many years ago, and their philosophy and HR culture are ingrained in me, and I reflect this in our organization. I’m focused and driven, probably too much at times, but this rubs off on people, and I think every member of the team can see their impact on the business, and this motivates them.’ ‘About 20 years ago I was recruited for the Manchester Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Board, and ended up serving for a couple of years, thinking I probably ticked a lot of boxes for them – woman in business, from an ethnic minority and a small northern business! All I can say is I am proud of every sector and community I represent, and I hope I do justice to each one!’ ‘Where is ELLE UK’s future headed’ we asked Anja Kahn? ‘We have our exciting developments in the PPE products. The potential is not only to aid the recovery out of Covid-19 pandemic, but to also be at the forefront to meet head on any future threats. We are geared for the challenges to take the anti-viral hospitality linens to a global market. We’ve taken our hosiery, shape wear and athleisure wear to the US, and we are refocusing on our core products at home. Covid took a toll on all business, however each day we see increases, so the light at the end of the tunnel is definitely visible, and we are confident of a successful return to pre-Covid levels of our core lines over the next few months. The not-forprofit face mask manufacturing has left a desire in the team to continue to give back, and we are now working with international bodies to provide PPE donations to countries who are still battling to bring the pandemic under control’. Fashion items, compression wear, PPE, hospitality & medical grade products, it sounds like an unusual mix, ‘we have the know-how and ability to make a difference, and so we do, it’s as simple as that’, says Anja; and that is the crux of it - see a problem, create the solution, and manufacture products which are fit for purpose, and aim to exceed expectations – simple straightforward vision. Headed by a woman with a track record for thinking outside the box, ELLE UK Ltd is a British firm proving it can rise to the global challenge in the modern world; for form, for function and if required, for humanitarian cause. innovation doesn’t stop at manufacture, it’s embedded into the culture of the company and you’ll see it in every aspect of our work – have a look at our milk fibre campaign at www.atom.fit and you’ll see what I mean!’ ‘Just producing a face covering would never have been an option for ELLE’ says Edward Watson of London based Prew PR who acts as Commercial Director for the company, ‘Anja Kahn knew her knowledge and expertise with fibres, knitting techniques and treatment applications could be used to bring about a face mask which was truly effective in its purpose. It was a fast-paced timeline, huge challenges with most of the world under lockdown, but the ELLE team’s determination was strong, and the company became the first to bring face masks to the market which had properties proven to destroy over 99.9% SARS-COV-2 within minutes of it landing on the surface of the mask, and they were developed to be washable, so the environment was not held hostage.’ ‘About 20 years ago I was recruited for the Manchester Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Board, and ended up serving for a couple of years, thinking I probably ticked a lot of boxes for them – woman in business, from an ethnic minority and a small northern business! All I can say is I am proud of every sector and community I represent, and I hope I do justice to each one!’