Both Bob and Jennifer McMahon loved going out to restaurants and being social with friends prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Charlestown couple have been cooped up like everyone else, working from home and longing for the time people could get back out to restaurants and support the industry. About two weeks ago, they were sitting at home and thinking about how people would be comfortable, safe and social while wearing a mask.
It was a difficult combination, but one that came to them that night – giving birth to the ‘Your Social Facemask’ product, a cloth facemask that has an easy to open and close flap for eating, drinking and speaking more comfortable.
“We’re very social people,” said Bob. “Whether business meetings or going out with friends, we would go out about four or five nights a week. We really enjoyed that. Jennifer’s work is in the hotel industry and she has restaurants. This idea came about as we were sitting her in our Charlestown home and we wanted to figure out how people would feel comfortable going out with masks. Jen said, ‘We need a mask with a hole in it.’ Then a light went off. Within 10 minutes we thought about getting a Velcro flap, think it could make people feel more comfortable about going back out to eat.”
Jen said the idea came together very quickly and they had a prototype made that went through some tweaks. They found that it was great for going out, closing it when ordering from a waiter, then opening it to talk, drink or eat with a companion. It’s also good for riding a bike, running, or any activity where you want to quickly close off the nose and mouth when approaching someone.
While it’s not a medical-grade mask, it is good for comfort, confidence and protecting one another when re-emerging into society without anxiety.
“We talked so some people in the industry and every single person said to go for it, so we did,” said Bob.
They contacted a manufacturer in Needham, Rafi Nova, who makes masks professionally and put in an initial order. It quickly garnered a lot of attention and a whole new side career on top of their full-time jobs.
“It’s caught on faster than we thought,” said Jen. “We did an initial order. We had our accountant friend build us a business plan. We thought our order would cover three months’ time, but we sold them all in two weeks. It’s been fun and exciting.”
As part of the venture, the McMahons are looking to support the restaurant industry and have decided to dedicate a portion of the net profits from all sales to World Central Kitchen and Restaurant Strong Fund.
Bob said they are also offering the masks at a wholesale price to local restaurants, whereby they could offer them for sale on their menu to patrons coming back to eat.
“We think it should be the first item on the menu,” he said.
The McMahons lived in Charlestown in the 1990s and lived the community, but moved away to another community. After missing the social scene and the shorter commutes/walks to work, they moved back almost eight years ago. They said they have never regretted it and can’t wait to get back to community events.
“We love Charlestown,” said Jen. “I walk to work and it just makes life much easier and it’s a lovely community.”