Saskatchewan

U of R students' business SaskMasks working to help flatten the curve

More people are wearing masks in public these days because, along with hand-washing and physical distancing, it's believed to be one way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Proceeds from SaskMasks go to the YWCA, Regina Food Bank and Carmichael Outreach

Robyn Ham hopes more people will wear masks in public as the province starts opening up more. (Submitted by Robyn Ham)

More people are wearing masks in public these days because, along with hand-washing and physical distancing, it's believed to be one way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

So when four University of Regina business students were searching for an idea that benefited the community during this pandemic, sewing masks seemed like the perfect fit.

Robyn Ham is a member of Enactus Regina, an entrepreneurship club at the University of Regina that encourages projects with a social conscience. 

"We were approached by our faculty advisor with Enactus Regina and she said 'Hey, I will give you $1,500 to come up with a project idea to work on during this pandemic,'" said Ham. 

Twin sisters Jana and Robyn Ham put their sewing skills to use to start SaskMasks. (Submitted by Robyn Ham)

Ham and her sister Jana decided to put their sewing skills to use to make and sell masks, with proceeds going toward YWCA, Regina Food Bank and Carmichael Outreach. 

"It feels good to be able to try and help slow the spread and flatten the curve, as well as help those people that are struggling financially right now," said Ham. 

Ryan Sellinger is a member of Enactus Regina working on SaskMasks. (Submitted by Robyn Ham)

The team was originally made up of the two sisters and their classmates Ryan Sellinger and Jordan Tholl, but they quickly realized they couldn't do it all on their own. 

"The first two days of running the social enterprise we were actually selling them and then we realized we wouldn't be able to keep up with the demand," said Ham.

"We now have 34 sewers working with us and five people cutting fabric for us." 

Ham said the team buys the supplies or gets donations of fabric, then they cut them up into a kit to give to the sewers. After the masks are sewn, they go back to the team, which sanitizes them, packages them up and distributes them.

The masks are made from 100 per cent quilters cotton to block contagious drop particles, and include a nose seal and filter pocket.

The business owners use the money they make selling the masks to buy supplies and pay the sewers. The rest of the proceeds go to the charities they selected, along with one additional charity per week that the community nominates on SaskMasks' social media pages. Ham said the owners have not taken any earnings from the business at this point, but may in the future.

Jordan Tholl is one of the original members of the SaskMasks team. The business quickly went from four employees to more than 30. (Submitted by Robyn Ham)

Ham said the experience of running this business has given her a clearer path for her future after university.

"I definitely like the idea of running a purpose-driven company. I think that there's always room in business to help others," said Ham.

She hopes the business will continue growing as the province opens up and more people are moving around.

"We hope that everyone's staying safe and wearing a mask."

About the Author

Joelle Seal is an Associate Producer in Current Affairs for CBC Saskatchewan. Get in touch with her by emailing joelle.seal@cbc.ca or on Twitter @joelleseal.

With files from CBC Radio One's The Morning Edition

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