I’ve worn mine to brave the grocery, to visit, but not hug, the grandkids and to comfort a friend, who on Mother’s Day, got a call saying that after a long brutal battle, COVID-19 finally defeated her son.
My mask’s grey strips are faded now, and it always smells slightly of bleach. It’s become one of my intimate pieces of apparel, like my well-worn jeans or my oversized knock-about-super-soft sweater.
It was made by a friend, who happens to be a professional seamstress, so it’s neat and precise, however it pinches my left ear a bit.
Sadly, most of us will likely be donning masks for a bit longer. So, I think it’s time to treat it as a fashion accessory and add some whimsy and fun to our wardrobe. That’s where Brook Bissinger, a young enterprising woman, can help.
During her day job, Bissinger is the vice president of operations, sales and customer success for a New Orleans tech company called Align. But on her off-time, she’s been creating and selling masks on her Etsy site, BubblyBrookDesigns.
Her face mask, with nose wire for tighter fit, is made from two layers of 100 percent cotton material. The mask has two layers so a disposable filter can be inserted in the pocket. It’s a reversible and washable mask. It also comes in kid sizes. The ear ties are made with colorful 1/2″ elastic like hair ties, so it’s a lot easier on ears.
“My face mask does not replace the need for N95 masks,” Bissinger says. “Rather, they are a last resort when no N95 masks are available. Some mask is better than no mask at all.”
Her creations are made with all of her favorite fabrics, ones she’s been collecting for more than 20 years.
“Plus, my mother donated a box of her favorites,” she says. “I’ve gone through my initial stash and I’m now trying to purchase material that makes me smile, but there are not a lot of places out there that are delivering fast enough.”
Bissinger’s been doing 99 percent of the work herself but since business has picked up, her cousin, Hallie Timm, has been helping out.
“I want to make as many masks as I can to make sure people have what they need, but I also have to focus on my day job running operations,” she says. “My cousin has been a huge help putting in a few hours getting materials prepped so my night job is easier and more efficient.”
Her biggest challenge is keeping up with the orders.
“With a limited amount of time to focus on the business, I have to make the most of the time I have and make sure to meet customer expectations,” she says. “I’ve created an assembly line for my masks. I cut the material out all at once, so when an order comes through, I have the materials ready and just need to put them together. One day, I’d love time to get ahead and pre-make some of my best sellers.”
What began as some non-TV/internet entertainment has turned into a fairly successful side gig. She set the price point so that she’s covering her costs plus a little bit for unexpected expenses.
“If I were to parlay this into a viable business and hire employees, I’d probably need to re-visit my cost structure.”
Bissinger loves being creative and helping people at the same time.
“Every material I use makes me smile and therefore it’s a pleasure to work hard and make more for the people who need and want them.”