Publish date: 21/07/2020

For business owner Janne Clare of Oxford, the urge to help during the Covid-19 lockdown led to a new side-venture making and selling Government-approved face masks.

Deemed a non-essential business, Jannz Craft Shop on Oxford’s Main Street was required to close for the duration of the Alert Level 4 lockdown and Level 3 restrictions. “The thought did cross my mind that I should take a holiday at home while in lockdown,” says Janne. “Usually the shop is open 7 days a week. But then I thought – I can’t just sit here. What can I do to help?”

Having encountered numerous posts on Facebook showing facemasks for sale that Janne felt were sub-standard, she set about researching and designing her own version.

“The ones I was reading about were made with materials that I believed weren’t ok; they had too many layers, the quality of the fabric and lining were not great and many were using gauze as a lining which is dangerous as you can breathe gauze fibres in. I had the materials on hand already so I saw this as a challenge.”

Using the fabric and fittings already in her craft shop, which sells accessories, supplies and patterns for sewing, knitting, cross-stich and crafting, Janne created her own facemask. But the challenge didn’t end there.

“Because I was not deemed an essential business I had to get accreditation from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE) to change this status so I could sell the masks. This involved a lot of emails, phone calls and research. I came up against officials saying that the masks are not protection against the virus so I did more research and changed the thinking from ‘it won’t stop you getting the virus’ to ‘it will stop you – the wearer – spreading your bugs to others’.”

Janne also took it upon herself to ensure purchasers were getting the most out of the masks. She provides a pamphlet with each mask outlining how to properly care for the mask and how long one can be worn. She also gives away a custom-made strap with each mask, which enables the wearer to adjust the mask to comfortably fit their head. “The strap also stops any chafing or discomfort from the elastic behind your ears,” explains Janne, which was a common complaint amongst regular mask wearers during lockdown.

The strap is made by Kaiapoi-based TechMedics using 3D printers. TechMedics started creating the straps during lockdown as well as headbands to secure protective face shields. The company’s local contributions to front-line staff saw them accepted into a global 3D Printing initiative to produce aids that will help front line staff working against Covid-19. TechMedics owner Aaron Lovelace approached Janne about providing straps for her facemasks. Janne decided she would absorb the cost of the straps and give them away with each mask sold.

After gaining accreditation from both MPI and MBIE, Janne was able to sell her masks along with a locally made hand sanitizer from Back Road Soap. She also sells face shields supplied by TechMedics.

“Demand has dropped off now but I am still selling a few masks a week. There is a lot more information now from health professionals around the world that masks might be a good idea – even just to stop the spread of colds.”

Janne’s masks can be purchased from her shop at 49a Main Street, Oxford or online from jannzcraftshop.com.