Culinary Entrepreneur Ellen Bennett Pivots Her Apron Brand Into a Mask Manufacturer Amid the Coronavirus
Ellen Bennett is the founder of Hedley & Bennett, a high-end apron brand beloved by the likes of Martha Stewart and Momofuku's David Chang. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Bennett has switched her company from producing sophisticated culinary gear, to manufacturing masks for those at risk, reports Fast Company.
As a business owner, Ellen Bennett was feeling the effects of the coronavirus pandemic personally. She not only worried about the virus’ spread, but how long she could afford to pay her employees at Hedley & Bennett, the gourmet apron company she’d founded seven years earlier. In compliance with California’s order that non-essential businesses close, Bennett sent everyone working in her LA factory home. But after hearing about Christian Siriano, a designer who’d begun making masks to combat the shortage of medical supplies, she was inspired. “It was like someone flung a brick at my head,” Bennett says. “I’ve always been a wake-up-and-fight kind of a girl. And I thought, ‘This is game time.’”
With the help of a doctor friend, Bennett developed a prototype for a mask in just 24 hours, and quickly moved to mass-manufacturing it. Though the masks aren’t medical grade, like the N95 masks that protect against tiny particles, they are still valuable for those who must continue to work under risky circumstances. Bennett’s masks are ergonomically designed to fit the wearer’s face, and are made out of a breathable fabric that can withstand frequent washing. A high-efficiency particulate air filter, or HEPA filter, is inserted around the nose and mouth area to help remove particles of a certain size.
“I have seamstresses on hand ready to work and lots of supplies we can use right now,” Bennett says. “The key is being able to design a mask quickly and get it out as fast as we can.”
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