A mask is quickly becoming that all-season, fashion-forward and required “must have” accessory to function in a COVID-19 pandemic world.
At one time - which now seems so long ago - covering one’s face with a mask was sometimes frowned upon. Now, it’s a public health mandate and, in certain parts of the nation, the law. Health professionals consistently remind people that COVID-19 is primarily spread through respiratory droplets. Face masks and face coverings help prevent the spread of the virus by keeping droplets out of the air and off surfaces.
As the Monroe-Woodbury-Tuxedo communities continue to tackle with issues tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, a Monroe-Woodbury High School senior has taken an entrepreneurial approach to required mask wearing by creating her own small business called “Sam’s Masks.”
‘I watched a video’
In March, when just about everything in New York State shut down, Samantha Larkin of Monroe decided to take her love for sewing and apply that to making masks.
“I watched videos on how to make them,” said Larkin. “I wanted to show what young people can do. A lot of people don’t realize kids can sew.”
With the support of her parents, Larkin took fabric she already owned, acquired more and launched “Sam’s Masks” on Instagram and Facebook. Through social media and word-of-mouth, she promotes her grassroots business by showing off her products and offering to create custom masks to fit the wearer’s personality, creating unique face cover couture.
“We pick fabric based on what we think people will like,” Larkin said, “like sports, food, designs for little kids, floral patterns.”
A single mask sells for $8, or three for $20. Special occasion masks are $15 each, and her new reverse pattern masks are $12 each or three for $33. They can be washed with other laundry but air drying is recommended to maximize the lifespan of each. She also sells lanyards for $2 to attach to masks.
With delayed first Communions and Confirmations now taking place, Larkin is getting a lot of requests for her specialized white floral laced masks to be paired with that special attire. She’ll also make fancy masks for other special and now allowable occasions like small weddings where making a fashion statement is a must.
If there’s a special request, she’ll figure out a way to make it a reality.
Hundreds of masks have been ordered already, demonstrating the continued power of social media. Already, she has more than 450 followers on Facebook.
All orders can come in adult or children’s sizes. Larkin knows masks are required for any student returning to school, and she hopes -particularly for the little ones - that having a colorful mask representing a student’s personality will help them better accept the requirement of wearing one. She’s also preparing a line-up of thicker cotton and fleece masks for the winter months.
“I have orders coming in every day,” Larkin said. “People tell me they look amazing. I want to be known for great quality work.”
Larkin is taking her profits and setting them aside for college. She aspires to study early childhood education at either SUNY Oneonta or St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill.
“I think it’s important to wear a mask so nothing spreads and hopefully the spread will decrease,” said Larkin, who is president of the school’s Interact Club, a member of the school’s Everyday Friends Club and Kindness Committee, a LEAD freshman mentor, an Ambassador Girl Scout and dancer at Terpsichore the Dancerschool. “The Class of 2020 had a rough ending. For my class, the Class of 2021, I hope things get better.”
But, she also knows the importance of giving back.
Larkin has donated masks to local police agencies and this past week, presented the Monroe-Woodbury School District Bus Garage with more than 100 masks. The idea is bus drivers will keep masks onboard their buses and provide masks to children who forget to wear them to the bus stop.
She even recently cheered up the staff of Daylight Donuts in Monroe by giving them donut-patterned masks to wear in the shop. And, she’s working with the Monroe-Woodbury Girl Scout Service Unit to offer Zoom video meetings to teach interested troops about how to make masks.
Because she’s planning to become a teacher, Larkin knows there’s a teachable moment in her work.
“I’ve learned about business and that is can be tough but as long as you keep your mind to it, it’s doable,” she said. “I’ve learned about time management. This shows that I can do things, anything that I put my mind to. I’m very happy with myself, very proud, and my mom is, too.”
To learn more, visit Sam’s Masks on Facebook and Instagram.