When Covid-19 spread to Ottawa, I was immediately concerned since it was a new virus with unknown epidemiology. I was also very worried since I live with two high risk family members, my grandpa and brother. With the virus' uncertainty, high school closures, and how many people were suddenly being laid off, I was very worried. As my own summer job plans didn’t pan out, I had to try and figure out how to translate my skills into another avenue in order to find a job. The stress of not having a summer job, combined with the highly contagious corona virus and my awareness of environmentally-friendly habits, these became the motivating factors in evolving my new entrepreneurial endeavour.
Since the spring of 2020, the use of face masks has become the new normal. Initially, I saw many people wearing the blue disposable masks, which are non-recyclable. Since they must be changed after every use, this creates a lot of waste, which is awful for the environment. As a result, I started my own reusable cotton face mask business, a social enterprise named the Ottawa Mask Project. There are three main goals of Ottawa Mask Project: first is to help reduce the spread of COVID-19; second is to help limit the waste caused by single use disposable face masks; and third is to give back to the community by providing reusable face masks and making donations to those in need. I choose new organizations or local non profit campaigns every few months as a way to give back to my local community. Since starting my mask business, I have donated masks to the #SewMuchLove campaign at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute and the #SewHelpful campaign at CHEO, as well as donating a portion of all sales to the Royal Legion’s Poppy Fund, the Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Center and the Community Food Pantry at Highjinx. Currently, a portion of all spring mask sales will be going to the Distress Center in Ottawa.
As a local high school student, I am hoping that the successful vaccine roll out will enable me to attend university in person this fall. Ihave been lucky enough to have been accepted to several programs and will make my final decision soon. My post secondary goals are to learn more about human development, psychology, and how different stressors include physical health and mental illness affects one’s life and lifestyle. The Ottawa Mask Project has taught me how to start and run a successful business as well as the importance of “Pay It Forward” in an unprecedented time of difficulty and uncertainty as we all fight Covid-19 together.