An Auckland woman who was made redundant due to the coronavirus pandemic and set up a business to create a job for herself is experiencing a surge in demand for her face masks.
Ayla Bligh, a former sales account manager, who started face mask and scrunchie business By Mishco on August 19, says she is selling up to 50 face masks an hour and has received orders from as far as Britain and the United States.
"It's been pretty crazy, I haven't stopped - I've been working every day until late since that day," Bligh, who funded the business with her final paycheck, told the Herald.
"The demand for face masks has been huge."
Less than two weeks since inception, By Mishco has broken even and is now turning a profit. The Pakuranga business was set up with $2500 capital.
Its face masks are made by two women - who also lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic - working full time to meet demand. The masks sell for $19.95 or $24.95 with a matching scrunchie.
Bligh says the unprecedented demand for her masks came after she posted on the New Zealand Made (Chooice) Facebook page last week.
She did a live stream on the page on Friday night and received more than 100 orders.
"The only reason I made a mask was because I needed to wear one on the plane returning to Auckland and I didn't really want to wear a surgical mask.
"I decided to make the matching scrunchie, and decided to post on a few social groups on Facebook to see if anyone else wanted to buy some as I had a bit of leftover fabric - I quickly sold out of that, and then a friend said 'Maybe you should start a little business and see how you go,'" said Bligh, who studied fashion design at university.
By Mishco has, so far, sold 500 masks. It has just sent out its first order to Los Angeles, and recently received an order from Britain.
Bligh said she was preparing to begin marketing into those countries as the need for face masks and opportunity in those countries was much greater and was creating smaller size masks for children.
Bligh told the Herald she had "got away with being able to keep her job" during the first round of lockdown, but in July she was made redundant from the large textile company.
"I have been looking for a job and ideally I still would like to find a job but this is definitely keeping me busy in the meantime," Bligh said, adding that her former boss had given her contacts to help her find fabric for her business.
She almost did not start the business due to the nationwide elastic shortage, but instead decided to use hair ties for the elastic portion that goes over the ears.
"Now I officially have two ladies that are helping and that was another one of my original ideas: when the orders started getting bigger and bigger I couldn't keep up with the sewing and I thought it would be cool that there would be opportunity for other people who had lost their jobs to help me and share the profits."
One of the staff members has a home workshop and usually makes clothes for fashion brands, but that had dried up overnight following the first lockdown. By Mishco has three other people on standby to start work as orders increase.
"That's kind of the goal now going forward. Women have been really affected by this whole [pandemic] and there are lots of people who can't work and, especially in lockdown, this is something they can do," the 31-year-old said.
Approximately 90 per cent of the 11,000 redundancies caused by Covid-19 so far have affected women, according to Stats NZ's June quarter labour market statistics.