A year on from when New Zealand recorded its first cases of Covid-19 and went into lockdown, former Omarama woman Beckie Wilson is as busy as ever with her mask-making business Face It NZ.
Miss Wilson returned home from South America in February last year and started making the reusable fabric masks during lockdown at her mother’s home in Omarama.
“When I started Face It NZ, there was next to no fabric face masks on the market,” she said.
“I have basic sewing skills and had some pretty fabric off-cuts, so I just got sewing.”
She found her mask design online and adjusted it to suit.
“I just wanted to offer Kiwis simple, stylish and affordable masks, so we all felt confident wearing one in public, during what was the beginning of a very crazy time.
“I thought, if we need to wear them, we might as well look good in them.”
Miss Wilson started off supplying friends, but word of mouth followed by media attention sent demand skyrocketing.
During her busiest times she was working around the clock to churn out up to 150 masks a day.
She now has the process down to a fine art, and estimates she can turn a mask around in 10 minutes or less.
“When I was making heaps . . . I was just, like, pumping them out. I was surprised at how many I could make.
“My design is super simple, so that’s why I can make quite a few.”
Her masks have now been seen on faces around the world Ireland, England and the United States.
Nationally, she has supplied Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean, as well as essential workers, flight attendants, Red Cross volunteers
Miss Wilson said seeing the prime minister wearing one of her masks was a definite highlight.
“It was such a cool feeling seeing her wearing the Ruby mask on an official outing, and again multiple times after,” she said.
“After she wore it in public, and that was shared on social media, that mask became and still is by far the best seller.”
Miss Wilson moved to Wellington in May and has a day job as a communications advisor.
All masks remain handmade by her, with help from her mother Karen Ward, who owns Total Interiors in Omarama.
She has learned to ensure she has a base stock, ready for the next rush of orders.
“What I’ve noticed, it’s kind of been in peaks and troughs.
“Orders were definitely in trend with [Covid-19] cases, and when there’s more chat about it in the media.”
“Once we sort of went back to normal, May-ish, there was a real dip. Then as soon there was all that flurry, sort of August-September-ish and they made masks compulsory, it was crazy.
“I was trying to make more than what was probably possible during a day.
“I was working around the clock, because I could see that, like, this is the one time that we desperately needed the masks, and people wanted mine. So I was, like, ‘well, I’ve got to do what I can do’.”
Over the past year, Miss Wilson has made more than 2500 masks.
“Which to me, looking back now, I’m like, ‘is that for real?’. It’s crazy.”
She said the biggest challenge for her, apart from learning the ins and outs of running her own small business, was providing what was a potentially controversial product during such a tumultuous time.
“It was all really new to me.
“I did have some guidance from my mum, who is a small business owner, so I definitely already had insight into that, so it possibly wasn’t as scary as it would have been.
“But making sure that I’m happy with the product I’m providing, in such a sensitive time .. Everyone had an opinion.
“I was a little bit wary, before they made them compulsory.”
The highlight had been having repeat customers.
“I’ve had people who have made four or five orders over the past year, and from some of my first customers, I think that’s so nice.
“I think it’s so cool that people actually do like the product.”
- Face It NZ masks are available online at face-it-nz.myshopify.com