Finding something productive we could do with our time during a global pandemic was part of our goal. But finding a way to help those around us who were in need was paramount. Once the idea was created to start a mask company, one that would donate crucial safety gear to those in need after every single item sold, the pace of our efforts snowballed.
Join us as we look back at the milestones of the past 18 months as GiveAMask.ca.
Our first brainstorming session – the one where GiveAMask.ca was born, was March 27, 2020.
Our plans to create this company coincided with the general population really beginning to understand that the initial closures imposed mid-March were going to be extended, and that medical masks were increasingly challenging to find. We reached out to local seamstresses, and by April 2 had placed an order for 100 cloth masks to be hand sewn. Our website – GiveAMask.ca – was launched April 13, and by April 20 we had orders being shipped out to our first customers. Noting that buyers were becoming interested in the appearance of their masks, we began allowing customers the choice of colour for their masks on May 12.
As sales started flowing in, so did the need for quality reusable masks throughout the community. People were reaching out to local services agencies – food banks, shelters, and aid organizations – so this is where we focused our mask donations. Throughout the month of May we delivered our first donations to Feed the Need Durham and The Daily Bread Food Bank Toronto. Our ideas were turning into successes, and we were proud to be helping!
In honour of the LGBTQ2S+ community and quieter than normal Pride celebrations, we launched our Pride masks in June 2020 – these were also our first masks with designs. These were immediately followed by the launch of unique and fun t-shirts on our website. By the end of the month, a new donation batch was delivered to The Good Shepherd Centres in Hamilton.
With new and expanding mask mandates across Canada in June, the demand for masks continued to grow. July 1st saw the launch of Canada Day masks. This was followed by more donations throughout the month to North York Harvest, The Compass Mississauga, and The Good Shepherd, as well as to the YMCA Sprott House in early August.
By July 13, we had reached a whopping milestone of 1000 masks sold or donated!
With the pending re-opening of schools in the fall, after months of remote learning, we launched our second generation of redesigned masks over the summer. These included small sizes for children, and larger adult sizes and were simply dubbed the GiveAMask II. With steady sales through the summer, and into September, we boosted our visibility by acquiring Ontario Made certification status. Late September included our first out of province mask donation to the Edmonton Food Bank.
By November, 1000 reusable masks had been donated by GiveAMask.ca!
We finished of 2020 with the launch of winter themed gift sets. With the anticipation of better things to come in the new year, and a cautious continuation of our goals – we began setting our plans for 2021.
The new year was to be one of increased connection with new and existing charitable partners. In January, a mask design competition for the Eating Disorder Support Network of Alberta (EDSNA) was launched. The winning design became available for sale on GiveAMask.ca on both t-shirts and masks the following month.
Similarly in February, a design competition was introduced in partnership with The Good Shepherd. These newly designed t-shirt and mask options were unveiled in early March. Additional designs were also released for The Compass. In each case, sales of these products came with targeted spring donations back to the organizations associated.
On March 24, 2021, we renamed our GiveAMask II design to the Unity Mask - just in time for the one-year anniversary of the GiveAMask.ca website!
With the coming of spring, we were filled with renewed energy – and the promise of vaccines for all. This guided us to the create Perfect Pairs and Mask Bundles. After a year of masking, these protective items had become fashionable accessories – colours, designs, and accessorizing with wardrobes was important. Once again, a new array of Pride designs were released in June, to continue to support our friends in the LGBTQ2S+ community.
We wanted our local communities to look good, but better yet – to feel good. With that in mind, our Put Us Out of Business campaign was launched. With avid mask wearing well established in much of the country, and a swift uptake of vaccinations, the possibility of us no longer being needed was met with feelings of excitement and honour.
As of August 23, 2021, we are so proud to have sold or donated a total of 2167 masks. Wow!
With donations out to Feed the Need Durham in late July, a rapidly dwindling supply of merchandise, and a well-stocked and masked population around us, we could see that our work was almost done. The goal had been to help those around us – we accomplished this. We made some great friends along the way, learned valuable lessons about running a business, and developed a new level of respect for community-based organizations across Canada. Sales will continue until the end of August 2021, and final donations will follow.
Thank you. Stay well. Stay safe.