“Want a free mask?”
Plymouth State’s budding marketing professionals are having excellent results with their latest business venture: highly in-demand and functional merchandise that is priced to move. Members of the Marketing Association of Plymouth State (MAPS) are producing attractive cloth face coverings for distribution to students, faculty, and staff, as well as hand sanitizer, all at no charge.
MAPS has produced 2,000 masks to date in a variety of styles, including nose bridge and pleated models. “They have different colors to match different outfits,” said Sam Mullett ’24 approvingly, as he and his friends happily accepted the free offerings.
Rob Kendall ’21 and Kyle Hall ’21 spent this summer learning to sew, meeting with suppliers, and gaining first-hand experience in running a cottage industry. The pair are MAPS’s president and vice president, respectively, and Kendall also serves as director of Statement, the University’s in-house embroidery shop and student club. With their planned summer internships in pandemic limbo, Professor Brad Allen, MAPS’s faculty advisor, knew that both students were looking for ways to make a difference and give back.
Allen suggested two vitally important projects: providing the University community with masks and hand sanitizer. “It’s been an awesome opportunity,” says Hall. “It’s very gratifying to see your work every day.”
Sustainability is a focus of their efforts. Hall was inspired after talking to friends going to other colleges and universities who were being supplied with boxes of disposable masks, rather than reusable models.
The two students began with no prior background in sewing, but quickly picked up skills after a local quilter brought a machine to campus and provided basic lessons. They redesigned Statement to accommodate mass production of reusable face masks and a hand sanitizer refill station, helping students, faculty, and staff have a healthy return to campus while reducing single use item waste.
The production process includes several jobs, including prep work, ironing, sewing, and distribution, and additional project volunteers have included a nursing student, among others. Students from all majors are welcome. Their work takes place in the “Statehouse,” the small campus building that serves as Statement’s home. “It truly is a makerspace,” observes Allen. The University purchased necessary materials in bulk, at discount prices offered by helpful local firms, and MAPS has provided the labor gratis.
Early in the summer, Allen, Kendall, and Hall met with Cold Garden Spirits of Canterbury, NH. The distillery has since supplied hundreds of gallons of hand sanitizer, which MAPS has bottled and distributed in University classrooms and offices. Other suppliers include North Country Quilting of Rumney, NH, which sources high-quality, preshrunk batik cotton. North Country also helped obtain the necessary elastic and gave expert assistance when machines were uncooperative.
MAPS had a preexisting relationship with Madeira USA, the Laconia, NH-based market leader in high-quality machine embroidery thread and embroidery supplies.The firm provided valuable guidance regarding mask styles. After initial prototypes earned an enthusiastic thumbs up from the University Police Department, MAPS put its mask production into high gear.
“We see what’s going on right now, with schools opening up and some having to send their students back home,” said Jakub “Kuba” Kubkowski ’21 a business management major with a focus in sales. “MAPS took the initiative this summer to try to make as many masks as we could to help out and give to the community. We’re helping as many students as we can to have masks, to try to keep the virus spread from getting too big so we can continue having in-person classes.”
Although the masks are free, Barbara McGahan, director of Healthy PSU, sees another side to what MAPS is “selling.” “Looking at it from a community/public health perspective, it’s the concept of all of us being safe together,” she notes.