By Justin Seward
Twenty students at Foremost School in Grades 9 and 10 have been learning how to run a mask-making business for the last six weeks in their entrepreneurship program.
“We went over the fact that an entrepreneur is somebody that sees an opportunity and takes advantage of it,” said Shane Hamann, entrepreneurial class teacher.
And with that, the entrepreneur students fittingly with the world health crisis created the Foremost School COVID Mask Company.
Hamann started the students off with a small loan, bought them fabric and brought in a person to teach the class how to sew.
“They decided there was an opportunity- since everybody has to wear a masks- to make masks and start a little company that way,” said Hamann.
“Not one of them could sew at the beginning of the year. For the last six weeks, they’ve been learning how to sew masks and building up an inventory.”
The business has sold over 100 masks in two weeks of sales.
“They’ve got orders they’re completing now-fairly large orders- for 20 to 30 masks,” said Hamann.
“I’ve asked them ‘How can we be more efficient?’ They’re totally using their ideas. We’ve got four different departments. We’ve got department heads and leaders popping up.”
A focus of the class is make an appealing look to the masks.
“With the COVID, they can’t even come to school without wearing a mask,” he said.
“All these kids are showing up with one or two masks and that’s enough really to get you through a week and they weren’t very trendy. They wanted to make some masks that were a little (trendier).”
Hamann says the students are taking orders and stamping company logos on to the mask.
The masks are being sold throughout the school and orders are being taken from outside the school.
Masks have been dropped off for purchase at Back 40 Foods.
“They’re starting to tap into other schools and try to sell them staff of other schools,” said Hamann.
“They’ve sold lots to our staff and a hockey team. We’ve got a hockey team that wears their team logo on them. I’ve got a doctor in Calgary that’s shown some interest.”
The proceeds will be split between going back to the school’s entrepreneurship program and the rest will go back to the students.
“They’ve certainly all learned they have to be tugging on the rope together for the business to succeed,” said Hamann.
“They’ve learned quite a bit about taking risks and entrepreneurship in trying to grow a business. They’ve started from scratch and now they’re trying to grow it and all in pretty short order.”
Vaera King is head of the advertising department for the company and says there are a lot of posters up around Foremost and at the school and as well there is an Instagram account (foremost_school_
covidmasks) that is going smoothly and getting the word out.
“I have all the answers for the people needing information on making posters,” said King.
“We started off (and) made a commercial –which we posted on our social media and our school Facebook page. That was an interesting experience, to have never made a commercial for a company before.”
She says she is new to Instagram too, which has been a learning experience with a company.
The most important thing she has learned is having communication with the students that are working in the department with her.
“It’s been pretty good with how many weeks we’ve been doing this,” said King.
Daina Dixon started as a sewer but has moved to department head of manufacturing.
“I oversee all the orders we get and making sure we get the masks made in time for all of our bigger orders,” said Dixon.
“I also personally sew most of the smaller custom masks that we get in.”
Dixon has implemented a new system so she can keep track of who is making what mask, how many masks there are and how many more need to be made.
Each sewer can do three to four masks a day, she said.
When a mask is made, it has to come through Anderson Kurtzweg for inspection to determine if it is sellable or not.
“There’s definitely some good days and we have some days (where) kids are redoing masks and I send them back,” said Kurtzweg, who is the quality control manager.
“We’re getting better than when we first started-I’d send everything back. I look for good stitching and making sure the elastics won’t pull out. Sometimes the ironers, they can get the elastics and they’ll burn a bit and then they’re no good anymore. We’ll have to take them out and redo them and just making sure nothing will rip or tear if you wash the masks.”
The goal is make $1,000 masks by the end of January when the class ends.
Masks are selling for $15, $13 for the younger kids and personalized with logos are selling for $20.
People who are interested in a mask can contact the company student sales team of Connor Harty at email@example.com or Claire Lengyel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The class will have a website up soon and there is a commercial at https://www.facebook.com/ForemostSchool/videos/400140664341826.