ND juniors launch mask company celebrating residence halls on campus
Alysa Guffey | Wednesday, August 12, 2020
The beginning of the 2020-2021 academic year brought a slew of changes from a mixture of online and in-person classes to exclusively outdoor dining. One of the most noticeable changes is the mask requirement for all students in all campus buildings and outside where physical distancing is not possible.
Each student was given at least three cloth masks to wear, but students were welcome to use other face coverings that they had or bought. At least for this semester, masks are a new reality –– one that two students wanted to ingrain with Notre Dame traditions.
The L+H Mask Company began when juniors Jay Lokhorst and Ryan Hembree, both residents of Stanford Hall, saw a unique way to show dorm spirit. Their website to sell masks was launched July 21 after Hembree and Lokhorst put in a few weeks of work from concept to design to launch. The pair designed masks for all 32 undergraduate residence halls.
“It started off that I wanted to make one for Stanford just for the guys living in Stanford, and then we just thought to make these for all the dorms because obviously wearing masks are very important right now, so we want to make sure that people have masks that they would enjoy wearing,” Lokhorst said in a phone interview.
Hembree said he hopes the masks encourage students in the community to take precautions seriously.
“Just the idea of the company was always just to give people an opportunity to make safety fun, in a sense, because it is a top priority,” Hembree said in a phone interview. “I really want to be able to stay here, but also stay here safely.”
Each mask costs $10, and $1 of each sale will go to Catholic Charities Fort Wayne/South Bend COVID Relief. So far, Lokhorst and Hembree said they have sold roughly 250 masks.
Lokorst said they plan to continue to sell as long as masks need to be worn on campus.
“We’re kind of hoping that you know people will see other people wearing them and be like, ‘Oh, where did you get that?’ and that could help us out a lot,” Lokhorst said. “And I mean it has been fun, so hopefully they’ll keep selling.”
Since the masks are custom-made for each dorm, each mask is made when it is ordered. The pair has a provider that creates the mask with the corresponding dorm design and then ships the product to the seller.
Lokhorst, a business analytics major with a minor in innovation and entrepreneurship, saw creating the company as a learning experience, as well as a way to give back to the Notre Dame community. One of the challenging aspects, he said, was finding an avenue to sell the masks once they came up with the concept.
“I did a lot of research about [selling online] and we found that Shopify is a great way to start an easy online business, but figuring out the best way for us to do it so it would be the most efficient was difficult,” Lokhorst said.
Hembree, an economics major, said figuring out some of the legal ramifications surrounding the company was difficult.
“A big challenge was just getting around like not violating any kind of copyrights so that we wouldn’t get immediately taken down,” Hembree said.
Despite the challenges, Hembree said the entire experience has been both informative and rewarding.
“Just the whole process of going from an idea to a product was, I think, a really awesome experience to kind of see the amount of work and the amount of stuff that goes on behind the scenes before you make your first sales,” Hembree said.