Wearing a protective mask in public has become a necessary new normal, but one Western student has noticed not everyone is on board.
While out for a physically distanced walk with a friend a few weeks ago, Computer Science student Matthew Danics noticed people were not wearing masks – a preventive measure many communities are recommending to lessen the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“We began discussing this issue and talked about the reasons people opposed to wearing a mask,” he said, determining that comfort, affordability and accessibility topped the list.
With his summer internship at a software development company cancelled due to the pandemic, Danics was looking for something to do. So, why not get into the facemask business?
With costs running between $12-$100 per mask, and shipping timelines of 4-6 weeks, he felt there had to a better way for Canadians to access inexpensive masks and not wait forever to get them.
Along with friend and Queen’s University student Josh Sofer, Danics recently launched Canadian Face Masks, a company offering a variety of coloured and patterned non-medical facemasks to the general public, as well as companies and businesses preparing to re-open their stores.
Canadian Face Masks also donates an organic cloth mask for every 10 sold to local volunteer organizations helping the community during the crisis.
The venture has not been without its challenges.
“I have been reminded numerous times that the most difficult part of a business is actually implementing the plan. I could definitely see the adversity,” Danics said.
While people are friendly and supportive of the business initiative, it can be hard to be perceived as “legitimate” due to a lack of history and credibility.
“Understanding how to effectively conduct business within the apparel industry was the first of many of our learning curves,” he added, in teaming up with a Toronto-based manufacturer. “With apparel, quality control is everything.”
At first, the pair personally delivered orders to customers’ homes, but as sales jumped from dozens to thousands, adjustments were needed.
“Our growth has allowed us to provide employment opportunities for more students and provide experiential learning that complement our classroom learning experience,” said Danics, noting seven students now work at the company. “It is one thing to read about how to run a business in a textbook, but it is another to actually plan, lead and implement ideas into reality.”
The more masks people start wearing – whether his or others – the more they will contribute to slowing the spread of the virus and gradually bring communities back together.
And if he were to be put out of business, well, that would be OK with Danics.
“We hope to look back at this time as a huge learning experience,” he said.
“These unprecedented times have emphasized that life is truly unpredictable. I truly hope by the time school should be starting, we really won’t need to wear masks anymore and our lives can go back to pre-COVID times.”