When Beckie Wilson started making face masks for her family and friends during lockdown, she did not imagine she would still be in production four months later.
But since the second wave of Covid-19 hit New Zealand earlier this month, Miss Wilson has been working around the clock to keep up with national and international demand for reusable masks.
Miss Wilson started making and selling face masks in the second week of Level 4 lockdown. She was in Omarama with her mother, Karen Ward, who is an interior designer and had a workroom full of cotton, elastic and a variety of fabrics at home.
She found mask designs online and used her creative talents to adapt them to offer comfortable and stylish protection.
From there, her sister created a logo for her new business, which she called Face It NZ, and a friend helped her set up an online presence.
Her first sales were to friends and family, but then orders started coming in from people around the country, and then the world.
“It all happened so quickly,” she said.
“I wasn’t really expecting to have such an influx of orders.”
Before the Covid-19 lockdown, she “knew nothing” about masks.
“I didn’t even know how to wear them properly, it wasn’t even on my radar.
“It’s been interesting to see the discussion about it, seeing how they’re used overseas.
“I’ve been part of this whole mask journey, and it’s been really interesting.”
When lockdown was lifted, demand dropped dramatically.
“I kind of accepted that that was probably it, I never thought Covid would be back,” she said.
But when the Government urged New Zealanders to have face masks in their emergency kits at home in case there was a second wave of Covid-19, orders picked up again.
She has made about 1200 masks since starting Face It NZ, and 430 in the past week alone.
“I had to close off orders [last week] because I couldn’t keep up,” she said.
“It’s definitely been overwhelming, in the fact that I just want everyone to have a mask, but the reality is I can only make so many weekly, daily.
“People want them immediately, and now more than ever. There’s that pressure I put on myself to make sure I am providing that.”
She has refined her design over the past four months, but it has remained simple.
“I haven’t made an extravagant design like including filter pockets and nose pieces, simply because I wanted to keep my costs and time spent making [them] low so the customer wasn’t paying a fortune.
“It wasn’t a money-making venture, it was a simply a matter of I had the means and skills to make them for everyone.”
Now based in Wellington, she has relaunched her website and was this week working on bulk orders for a medical centre and a kindergarten.
Starting a new business during lockdown had been a challenge, but it had forced her to be creative and adapt quickly.
It had also given her a whole new appreciation for small business owners.
“It’s a real hustle, but all the feedback and seeing people really wearing the masks is so worth it.
“It’s been really cool and people have been so supportive.”
It was hard to know what the future of her business would be, she said.
“I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing.
“I feel like at the moment I’ve had great feedback and repeat customers, so I’ll keep going.”