Face masks an important part of Oxford business

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By SHELLEY TOPP

When Janne Clare’s 7-day-a-week business was ruled “non-essential” during last year’s Covid-19 lockdown she considered taking a holiday.

“To begin with I did think I should use the time in lockdown to have a holiday,” she said.

But instead of that the owner of Jannz Craft Shop, in Oxford’s Main Street, decided to do something to help others by making reusable, biodegradable face masks and the sideline is now an important part of her business.

Initially Janne had searched online to find a face mask she could buy just for herself.

She found plenty to choose from, but none of them impressed her.

“They had too many layers, the quality of the fabric and lining were not great and many were using gauze as a lining which is dangerous as you can breathe in gauze fibres,” Janne says.

She decided to make her own mask using her sewing machine and materials available in her craft shop and eventually decided to sell them through her business.

Making the masks was a challenge, but, as a “non-essential business”, getting Government approval to sell them provided an even bigger hurdle to clear.

“I had to get accreditation from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to change this (non essential business) status so I could sell the masks,” she says. “This involved a lot of emails, phone calls and research.”

Although face masks have been declared mandatory during the current Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, during last year’s lockdown Government officials told Janne masks did not provide protection against the virus so they were not considered to be an essential item she could sell online.

“So I did more research and changed the thinking from the virus’ to spreading your bugs to others’.”

Eventually she was given Government approval to sell her masks with accreditation from MPI and MBIE.

Janne provides a pamphlet with each mask outlining how to care for it and how long the mask can be used.

Each mask comes with a custom-made strap, made by Kaiapoi-based TechMedics, using 3D printers, which enables the wearer to adjust it for a comfortable fit.

“The strap also stops any chafing or discomfort from the elastic behind your ears,” she says.

Janne also sells face shields, made by TechMedics and hand sanitiser made by Cust’s Back Road Soap.

Although demand for Janne’s masks dropped off after New Zealand’s lockdown restrictions were lifted last year, interest has increased again during this lockdown.

“There is a lot more information now from health professionals around the world that masks might be a good idea even just to stop the spread of colds,” Janne says.

Her masks can be bought from Jannz Craft Shop 49a Main St, Oxford, or online from jannzcraftshop.com.