Ambitious College Student Supplements Lost Income By Making Facemasks

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Ebonie Smith, 21, is a college student armed with the determination to meet her educational goals, despite unexpected events that unfolded because of the coronavirus pandemic. The junior who attends Mount St. Mary’s University located in Emmitsburg, Maryland, was suddenly required to return home to Anne Arundel County, when the university shut its doors over six weeks ago following Governor Larry Hogan’s executive order.

“It’s a huge transition. Granted my school is very small. It’s just that I’m used to living in an apartment on campus. I have four other roommates. I’m used to seeing my friends. I usually do homework in the library. I’m always around a group of people. It’s different because now I’m isolated,” Ebonie said adding that she utilizes distance learning through Zoom and other online tools. “I still have homework to do and exams to do online. It’s just like school, I’m just at home.”

Smith’s on-campus job was also interrupted. The college student told her mother, Veronica Smith, that she needed a job, since her campus job no longer existed. Ebonie gathered her thoughts and found a way to turn a challenge into an opportunity. She learned to sew from her grandmother when she was in middle school. Now, she remains busy implementing plan B to find work— making facemasks.

“I told my mom I could make masks and sell them for a really cheap price. I was just thinking $5 bucks. It’s really cheap and good quality material,” Ebonie said. “And I felt like if I make it that cheap, I could get sales and get the money that I need. My main motivation— I needed a job. I’m saving money for books for my summer classes, because I’m double majoring at school. I need three more classes, in addition to the ten that I have to take for my senior year.”

Veronica Smith is a single parent of two who has been laid off from her job until May, because of the pandemic. She supports her youngest child’s effort to give entrepreneurship a try for the first time, in between taking classes online. Cutting the patterns out before her daughter pins and sews fabric for the masks is one way that she has been helping Ebonie as she does something positive and constructive while she is at home.

“Sometimes, I iron the pleats for her and help her out with different things, because she needs an assistant,” Veronica said. “She just wants to be independent, and I’m very proud of her.”

Ebonie explained that her masks are a good quality, despite the cheap price. Cotton provides a protective barrier and the masks are machine washable. The college student added that the simple, two-layer masks don’t come with filters but she makes them while complying with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) standard. Instructions to take care of the reusable masks with patterns and designs are included to maintain quality and color.

When facemasks were primarily worn by essential workers and individuals with an immune deficiency or other health challenges, Ebonie made facemasks for herself and her mother and her brother who is an essential worker. However, after Governor Hogan mandated that facemasks were to be worn by everyone in Maryland going to any retail outlets, drugstores and public transportation, her business venture took off. People wanted facemasks made by Ebonie. Orders are still coming her way from word-of-mouth. Friends, family, former teachers from Glen Burnie High School where Ebonie graduated, business card referrals, advertising on social media through her personal Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram accounts are all reasons Ebonie quickly evolved into a busy entrepreneur.

“I think what really encouraged me is I make kids sizes as well, and everyone was like, ‘We’re having so much trouble finding kids’ sizes. I sell to any and everyone. Kids, adults and essential workers— everyone wants masks,” Ebonie said. “This is the first time that I actually took a stab at [entrepreneurship]. I took the leap, and it worked very well for me.”

Ebonie is currently creating specialty print facemasks for $7. Stock is limited but she will continue to make standard designs. You may find Ebonie Smith on Facebook or Instagram. Ebonie offers free delivery to customers near Severn, Annapolis, Glen Burnie and many neighboring towns in Anne Arundel County. Facemasks can be mailed out of the area.

Need masks? Reach out to Ebonie on Instagram at @EEEBBBBYYYY or Facebook at www.facebook.com/ebonie.1998