When my company, Mount Royal Soaps, pivoted towards making hand sanitizer at the beginning of the pandemic, we were connected with Jill from Jill Andrews Gowns and Kim Strassner and Mike Pararas from Words with Boards. They started working together to make cloth masks, and they were trying to make N95 filtration pockets with the folks from Harbor Design using their CNC laser cutter. Initially, they had a difficult time getting the filtration right, so we started joking around after hours about the idea of starting a disposable N95 respirator mask business.
We then heard that Jeremiah Jones and Cecilia Grimm from SewLab USA and Rob Andelman from Nightmare Graphics were playing around with the same idea. Since the equipment required to make N95 masks is so expensive, we figured we should reach out to them and see if they wanted to start the business together.
Our partner, Jeremiah, refers to this stage of business as “the naivety of entrepreneurship.” It’s that stage when you have no clue about what you’re getting into, but the excitement and potential propel you forward. We kept playing around with the idea, and when you get enough crazy people in a room, you egg each other on. Eventually we decided to purchase an N95 respirator machine that makes masks.
As this pandemic slows down, the public demand for N95s will go down dramatically, so we are considering a couple more collaborations with local nonprofits that may be beneficial to sustain this mask business. Manufacturing locally is something that I’m very passionate about, so it’s my hope to reinvigorate local and regional manufacturing of affordable, basic goods. That is something that all of our partners in Maryland Medical Industries are aligned on—especially since we all experienced the reality of the COVID supply chain issues.