All good things must come to an end.
Two years on from when New Zealand recorded its first cases of Covid›19 and went into lockdown, former Omarama woman Beckie Wilson says the time is right to close down her mask›making business, Face It NZ.
It was April 1, 2020 when Miss Wilson sent an order form around her friends and family for fabric masks. She had recently returned home from South America and, looking for something to do during lockdown, started making the reusable fabric masks at home in Omarama.
With basic sewing skills, and a good supply of fabric offcuts from her mother, Karen Ward, who owns Total Interiors in Omarama, she found a design online, adapted it to suit, and ‘‘just got sewing’’.
Word of mouth, followed by media attention, sent demand skyrocketing beyond family and friends — and her business, Face It NZ, was born.
Over the past two years, Miss Wilson has made and sold more than 3600 stylish, reusable fabric face masks. She has expanded her range to sell face mask accessories, such as mask chains, and has shipped products across the world.
‘‘It blows my mind when I think about it,’’ she said.
‘‘There’s absolutely no way I thought I’d still be doing this.’’
After the first lockdown restrictions lifted, Miss Wilson moved to Wellington, where she now works full-time as a communications adviser. Face It NZ continued as a ‘‘side hustle’’, and demand for masks varied, depending on restrictions, outbreaks and mandates.
‘‘It’s weird, I feel like Covid and I have been on this journey together,’’ she said.
‘‘When it resurfaced or peaked, so did Face It NZ. Before the nationwide lockdown in August last year, whenever there was a surge about it in the news, or a scare, sales shot up, and when there was no talk, then there were minimal orders.’’
When demand was high, most of her spare time went into mask making. Since the August lockdown last year until the end of January this year, she estimated she spent about 20 to 30 hours a week on the business.
‘‘There’d be peaks when I’d be hectic and I’d be sewing all hours of the night after work, and packaging and answering emails and ordering stuff, and then there’d be weeks where there wouldn’t be such high demand.’’
It had been a real crash course in small business management and maintaining a good work-life balance. She had a new appreciation for the challenges of running your own business — being in charge of everything from making and marketing a product, to dispatch and administration — and was grateful for the support of her mother, who had given her advice on all aspects of the business since day one.
‘‘I think it’s been a good learning curve. Now I know what my strengths and weaknesses are, what I should do next time, and what I maybe don’t need to do.’’
An obvious highlight of the past two years was seeing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wear one of her face masks, but now she has had time to reflect, the support and positive feedback from all of her customers, especially returning ones, gave her the most satisfaction.
Because Miss Wilson had a full›time job, and was not depending on the profits she made from Face It NZ, she had enjoyed being able to donate some money and masks to charities.
She was also proud of her focus on sustainability. The masks and packaging were reusable, courier bags were compostable, and she used New Zealand›made elastics.
For Miss Wilson, it felt like the business had come to a natural end. Cloth masks were not protective enough against the highly infectious Omicron variant, and she was ready to move on.
‘‘I’m sad to let it go, because it is my little baby, I suppose, but I think it’s just time,’’ she said.
‘‘I was never going to do it forever, I never even thought I’d be doing it for this long.’’
The business had ignited an entrepreneurial spark, and Miss Wilson was studying for a certificate in small business.
‘‘That’s where I want to channel a bit more of my energy, learning more for my next step.’’
Face It NZ had also helped her tick off goals, such as learning to sew her own clothes.
‘‘I have always wanted to sew my own clothes, but never even understood a pattern or had the confidence to just do it.’’
The Face It NZ website will close down at the end of the month. Until then, she is offering 20% off masks, as a ‘‘thank you sale’’, and for every five bought, one will be donated to an organisation in need.