MARQUETTE — Many are still struggling to find equipment to protect them against the coronavirus. One local business found a way to provide people with masks, while employing people in the community.
Beth Millner, owner of Downtown Marquette’s Beth Millner Jewelry, is selling these unique masks. They come in children’s and adult’s sizes, and they’re available in a variety of colors and patterns.
What makes these masks so special is the added comfort features many others don’t have. Millner is offering masks with ear savers, comfortable elastic straps, and a crafted nose piece courtesy of Dan Perkins Metal Roofing.
“It kind of started with the nose piece, and then I quickly started thinking, ‘If this many people want the nose piece, how many people want the mask?'” explained Millner. “And how many people aren’t on Facebook or don’t have access to that? And so I started thinking about masks, and my main studio assistant was sewing at that point and donating masks. And quickly thereafter, I started thinking about how we could distribute these, but I also didn’t want a model where I’d be making money off of them.”
Millner was able to hire 9 people part time to make masks and 1 person full time to help with the production. The masks are sold on a sliding scale in order to help the most people, and to ensure Millner and her staff are breaking even.
“I basically have a bottom price, which is less than what it costs us to produce, and then I’m educating people by showing them the actual amount it costs to produce it, not including any profit for the business,” said Millner. “And then we’re allowing people to pay above and beyond. So some people are paying very low; some people are overpaying. And then it’s just balancing out. We figured out our actual cost to produce these masks, paying people fair wages, and putting a small portion in my overhead over it, like the cost of running a website.”
Millner says being able to keep the staff members helping to make the masks employed was an important part of this process for her. She wanted to do something to help those in need, while making sure community members were able to collect income during the pandemic.
“I think it’s important that we definitely volunteer and we get things out in the world, but I also think it’s important that we pay people for work,” Miller said. “I’m really happy to be able to employ a family out in Deerton. One of the people in the family had 12 hours of work with her other job, and then the other ones didn’t have work. I’ve been able through this to get her sewing machines, and people lent me some equipment that they weren’t using. And now she’s teaching her husband and kids in their twenties how to sew and they’re making masks. So this is empowering people to have something to do in a time where either you’re really bored or really busy.”
The best way to order a mask or mask supplies is by ordering online at bethmillner.com. Anyone unable to order online can contact a staff member by phone at (906) 226–3540.