Our Stories: Brooke Dennis

Written by Bronwyn Huband.

Brooke Dennis is one of many expat New Zealanders in London who have had to diversify their businesses over recent weeks. She’s one of the brains behind The Scrub Hub – an initiative created to provide scrubs to doctors when suppliers couldn’t meet demand.Brooke Dennis

For Brooke, COVID-19 has meant she can’t run the business, she set up only six months ago to provide a space for textile making. However, instead of wallowing in this she looked at what she could do to help.

The chance to do something to help came by way of a friend asking Brooke if she could sew some scrubs for one doctor. That one doctor’s request turned into creating hundreds of PPE-type scrubs for consultants across London. The scrubs are not certified PPE but instead are used by consultants and the like, who wanted to be easily identifiable and not be in their usual clothes for work.

Quality is not compromised. Brooke set out a standard for quality and craftsmanship – volunteers had to be very good sewers. She also uses cotton, because it’s better for the environment, as well as being comfortable and breathable.

“A lot of scrubs are made from polyester based cloth. Doctors shouldn’t be wearing plastic for 14 hours if they don’t have to.”

The grassroots initiative was set up in a matter of days by Brooke and three of her neighbours in Hackney Wick. From there The Scrub Hub was born, with a website and social media with a handful of volunteers helping with the admin around raising awareness. It’s now seen 70 volunteers produce over 600 scrubs.

A gofund me page was set up to pay for materials – it costs around £20 to make each scrub without labour, so the donations help keep costs down for key workers. An impressive £20k has been raised and the plan is for anything left over to go to a mental health charity for NHS workers.

From this one initiative a number of Scrub Hubs were set up across England, Wales and Scotland, with Brooke and the team providing guidance on how others could follow their processes.Pre-COVID

Brooke moved to the UK six years with her husband and two, now teenage children.

As with many of us she says it has been a real rollercoaster. She had a textiles and garment construction business, before she set up her most recent venture six months ago.

She says her strong work ethic lead her to create a space for textile makers, where people could work on their own or with others. The space lends itself to sustainable events and is big enough to be used by other creatives. The main part of her business is teaching craft workshops with weaving as the prominent craft.

“We had just got to the stage of being able to pay our rent from what we were earning and then COVID hit. We’re back to zero now.”

Getting back to business

While Brooke has been able to help fill a gap suppliers couldn’t, she said selling garments is the answer for her business now, but not in the long term.

She said she falls between the cracks in terms of any Government support and it’s going to be a struggle, but she hopes that what has happened makes people think differently, about being more sustainable and using spaces like she has created for people to make their own products.

Asked what we should all think about for the future, Brooke said: “Shop local. If you can buy a takeaway coffee or gift card to support those small businesses do it.”

You can also support Brooke via Make Town