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Duo turns mask-making hobby into thriving business

Lisa Bays and her daughter Katie Bays began making and donating masks at the start of the pandemic to help their neighbors in Zionsville, Ind. A year later, they reflect on how their sewing hobby grew into a successful business.

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As of Feb. 2, 2021, masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the U.S. and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

As the U.S. began shutting down due to Covid-19 in March 2020, Lisa Bays and her daughter Katie Bays used their sewing skills to provide masks for their neighbors in Zionsville, Indiana.

As word about their sewing abilities spread, demand grew and they began running out of fabric. They started asking people to drop off supplies in exchange for making masks. “It kind of quickly became a full-time responsibility,” Katie said.

Lisa worked at home as a forensic toxicology lab administrator from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m., then made masks until 11 p.m. Katie, who had recently been furloughed from her retail job, worked on masks across the kitchen table from her mother. Eventually, they were both working more than 12 hours a day on masks. “We were still doing a boatload of donations, but at the same time, also, (Katie) needed to earn,” Lisa said. “There was no news about returning to her job, so we had to make a decision.”

By the end of April, their sewing hobby had grown into a full-fledged business. To keep track of incoming orders, they started a Facebook page and an Etsy shop and named themselves The Furloughed Masketeers. “If we can provide this little service for somebody and it allows them to continue functioning in the world, then great,” Lisa said. According to Lisa and Katie, by October 2020, they had customers in all 50 states and several countries.

In April 2021, just over a year later, the duo estimated that they’d made over 10,000 masks. “We’ve always said that we will be grateful if we get put out of a job,” Katie said. “Because that means that people are healthy and things are getting safer, and we’ll be grateful to find the next thing to do.”

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Kaiti Sullivan

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Episode The must-have cover-up