When COVID-19 hit Canada this past winter, Victoria local Ellen Young wasn’t sure what she would do. As a new mom, she felt reluctant to return to work during such an uncertain time. Determined to be a part of some sort of solution, she began to brainstorm ideas for how she could support her community. A self-proclaimed serial hobbyist, Ellen is always looking for creative outlets in her life and had a particular love for sewing. That’s when she decided she would start making face masks.

Ellen started by creating the classic mask style and was selling them by donation, however, their popularity quickly skyrocketed and before she knew it, she had already sold over 300 masks. It was at this point that she decided to turn her hobby into a business. With a background in marketing, she was excited at the opportunity to utilize her education and experience. With a website set up, it was an interaction about the masks with a close friend which was a turning point for her new business.

Ellen’s friend relies on lip reading and was having difficulty communicating with everyone wearing masks. This is when Ellen created her very first windowed face mask. Once she made them available for public purchase, it quickly became apparent that Ellen had found her niche in the mask-making market.

Ellen’s business has evolved quite a bit since she first launched it. In the beginning, there was a shortage of elastics, so she used miscellaneous fabrics to create the ear ties, discovering a new ear tie that some customers preferred. She also has just found anti-fog plastic for the windowed masks, which she is now using. Ellen says that she is always open to feedback and new ideas to continue to elevate the masks and provide support for those who need it.

Ellen has created hundreds upon hundreds of masks to date. Including a set for Power To Be’s program team. “Power To Be is an ideal client for me, I have a tendency to always think about accessibility and I’m so excited to have their team utilizing the masks,” says Ellen. Power To Be staff have been using the windowed masks while on program to increase accessibility. Windowed masks make lip reading possible and allow for facial expressions to be visible, which can be very important for some of our participants.

With clients ranging from government entities to customer service, and now Power To Be, Ellen has received very positive feedback on the windowed masks. “People have been very receptive to the masks, and the feedback I’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive. It has been such a great experience, and people are very keen right now to support small businesses which is incredible. I’m a natural problem solver and love that I’m able to contribute to a solution right now”.

Be sure to visit Ellen’s website and check out her amazing windowed masks! You can also follow her business on Facebook at @maskswithellen.