Updated: Jul 15
By Daniel Garcia
The economy, business realm and stock market have undergone drastic changes in the past few months due to the coronavirus. The United States and other countries are seeing small business owners struggle to adapt, maintain or find success in the new marketplace where stay-at-home orders are forcing businesses to remain closed unless deemed essential. There are many small business entrepreneurs maneuvering the newfound marketplace and seeing a boom in their business. However, what about those who are looking to make strides into the marketplace and launch their small business? Some entrepreneurs are launching their business during the pandemic and seeing high demand and success. One area is the craft market, specifically making face covering masks.
City Requirements and Recommendations
In California, residents have been sheltering in place since the statewide stay-at-home order that was issued on March 19, 2020. While essential businesses have remained open to the public, there has been guidance from the CDC, state and local counties on how to prevent and slow the spread of coronavirus. Based on studies according to the CDC, the virus can spread between people interacting by speaking, coughing, and sneezing. As a result, the CDC recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings where social distancing can be difficult to maintain effectively, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential businesses.
In addition to this recommendation by the CDC, many counties, such as Santa Clara county, have also discouraged the general use of N-95 or surgical masks, but rather recommended the use of breathable material such as cloth, bandanas, scarfs, and towels. Some counties, such as Santa Cruz County, passed an order requiring face coverings in public, and for those who do not follow the order may face a misdemeanor and fine. For more information on the order, click here. The order also requires all essential businesses to require their employees, contractors, owners and volunteers to wear face coverings when interacting with members of the public.
With the recommendations and requirements in some counties, mask making businesses are popping up in the pandemic startup scene. They are capitalizing on the demand for face coverings and offering different types of cloths, scarfs or bandana masks. As California progresses into Stage 2 allowing lower-risk workplaces to reopen, we will be seeing an influx of members of the public with masks. As a result, the demand will continue until the government lifts all social distancing and life returns to how it was before the pandemic. Even then, society might see a shift where masks become common regardless of there being a pandemic.
Launching a Mask Making Business during the Pandemic
The United States generally has not seen a large marketplace for mask making as we are currently seeing. Members of the public are searching for, or already sought out and received facial coverings, but want replacements. Others may be seeking specialized masks with their favorite superhero, sports team or color. If a person has a sewing machine, scissors or even rubber bands and some cloth, such as bandanas and towels, they can make their own masks for personal use or launch their own business making masks.
While writing this blog post, I reached out to a small business owner who decided to launch a new business making both specialty and generic masks. See her interview below.
Q: What sparked your interest to launch a small business making masks?
A: I actually make hair bows for cheerleaders and take specialty requests for different types of bows. Orders were down and I had a lot of extra fabric, so I decided to start making masks. Plus, since [masks] were being recommended I knew there was a market for them, and I could keep the cost low with the fabric that I already had.
Q: How do you market your products?
A: I list my products on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and by word of mouth. I take a photo of all the fabrics laid out on a table and then ask people to submit their orders to me by selecting from the fabrics in the photo. I get most requests from word of mouth and repeat customers.
Q: What type of customers are ordering from you?
A: For the most part I’m getting orders from parents for their kids. I’m also seeing more orders from people looking to get their elderly parents, aunts and uncles masks as well. I have been lucky to get large orders from companies [because] customers are asked about the masks [I made for them] from their bosses. Recently, I had an entire kitchen staff for a local school submit orders for masks.
Q: How do you keep yourself safe when interacting with the customer?
A: I am only doing porch pick up right now. I will text the person to let them know the masks are available and then schedule a pickup time so I can leave the masks on the front porch. I get paid either through Venmo, Cashapp, Zelle, or if they want, they can leave the money in a zip lock bag on the front porch when they pick up the masks.
This small business owner used the materials she had available and launched a new business during the pandemic. Her mask making business has quickly become very successful as she is making significantly more revenue with this new business than she was with her bow business. Orders for her masks are continuously flowing in and most of the new orders from people discovering her products are by word of mouth. She doesn’t have to advertise as much on media platforms because she believes she won’t be able to keep up with the orders if she continuously advertises her products on Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook.
Are you interested in launching your business? Keep reading to find out more information to launch your own mask making business.
Launch Your Pandemic Startup
You may be asking…how can I get started with my business making masks? There are a few things a person would want to consider when starting to launch a mask making business.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
· What type of masks do I want to make?
The first question one should ask themselves is what material they are going to be using in making the masks. Cloth (cotton fabric) is a frequent offering and can be purchased at your local craft store, such as Joann Fabrics and Crafts, but keep in mind currently many locations are only offering curb side pick-up. Bandanas, towels and t-shirts can also be used.
Second, determine the type of mask you will be making. There are sewing methods and non-sewing methods. If you choose a sewing method, one must choose the style of mask by following the method in the CDC link below or by following the link here.
The CDC has instructions to create face coverings either by sewing or non-sewing for all the materials above here.
· What do I need?
Materials needed for sewing masks:
i. Sewing machine
ii. Cloth (cotton fabric)
iii. Elastic (rubber bands, string, or hair ties)
iv. Needle and thread
Materials needed for non-sewing masks:
i. Bandana, t-shirts, square cloth, or towel
ii. Rubber bands or hair ties
iii. Scissors (if cutting cloth)
· Who are your customers?
Looking to see who the target customers will be can help determine the amount of materials one will need and estimate the turnaround time from order to delivery. Are you looking to sell to individuals or are you looking to solicit companies or schools through mass ordering? Each has its limits and benefits. For example, when selling to individuals, a small business owner can fulfill requests quicker versus large orders from local companies. However, large orders allow for a small business to sell more products per transaction versus smaller orders to individuals. Weighing the benefits of each can prove fruitful to maximize the product delivery, customer satisfaction and profit. Finding a combination between the two can be the best of both worlds and allows a small business to maximize their customer base and profit.
For example, a small business owner in Santa Cruz county, where masks are required, can offer their services to local companies where their employees are interacting with the public. In addition, it may not only reduce the stress of business owners who are striving to comply with the local city regulations, but also help keep the employees safe from infection.
· What products are you offering?
Determining the type of masks you’ll produce is important, but don’t forget the aesthetics, such as the style, design and color. Since counties are passing ordinances requiring face coverings, such as the order in Santa Cruz County, wearing masks is likely to be commonplace especially where social distancing is difficult to adhere to completely. Even where social distancing is possible, a majority of the public will still elect to wear masks. People are wearing masks in public even when they go for their daily walks. Masks are also becoming a fashion statement and an endorsement of what they want to portray. Creating a wide range of products that includes a variety of colors, sports teams, and even superheroes can add value to a startup business launching during the pandemic. Offering unique masks separates a business from those selling only single-color masks and maximizes the customer base. Maintaining a diverse product line can lead to success where the small business is standing out from the competition.
· Where will I market my products?
There are many different platforms that can be used to sell masks and help kickstart sales. One marketplace a person can sell masks is an e-commerce site. For example, Etsy’s CEO, in an interview with CNBC, claimed that 20,000 shops on Etsy began selling face masks because there was an “overwhelming demand” after the CDC recommended face coverings. Etsy also released an article providing tips for their existing sellers on how to sell and market masks to customers. The article can also be used as a guide for startup businesses offering masks and can be found here.
Another way to market to customers who wish to purchase masks is to use Facebook Marketplace. Generally, Facebook Marketplace is used for selling various items locally. By selling locally, a startup business can save shipping costs and pass that saving to the customers by delivering a product that cost less and is of the same or better quality. In addition, it allows a small business owner to deliver products to the customer faster than if they needed to be shipped –a benefit the customer will appreciate.
· How can I keep my customers safe?
Whether marketing masks on an e-commerce site or to the community through Facebook Marketplace, it is important to take preventative measures for safety. For example, our interviewee, who took up the challenge to make masks for the community, eliminated the need for face-to-face sales by developing a system in which she left the masks on the front porch in zip-lock bags and completed the transactions electronically.
If you are delivering to the customers in person, take preventative measure to prevent the coronavirus spread by wearing a mask. Even if you believe you are not sick, it is important to keep taking precautions because people can still spread the virus if they are asymptomatic. Luckily, you will have plenty of masks and can also choose to market your designs, logos and specialty masks during deliveries.
General Tips for Selling Masks
It is important to be truthful about the products being sold. The CDC has stated that cloth face masks can help slow the spread of coronavirus. However, face coverings are not the same as a surgical mask or N-95 respirator. A small business owner wants to make sure to not compare the cloth face coverings as “virus prevention” or compare the mask to surgical or N-95 masks.
While launching a business during the pandemic can help supplement the income and keep a person busy, they should also adhere to the social distancing guidelines from the CDC and their local counties. Stay at least 6 feet apart from other people and customers when selling, delivering or offering products. Launching a startup business during a pandemic can be scary, but as discussed in this blog post, it is not impossible. Good luck and remember to practice safe distancing. Stay safe out there!
Are you interested in launching or sustaining a pandemic proof small business? Spot issues, take action, stay safe, and thrive in a post Covid-19 world with Legalucy. Learn more at thelucyreport.com
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