#MaskUp: Fashion startup pivots to cloth masks to combat coronavirus

Janelle Wavell-Jimenez, founder and CEO of Stellari, a startup clothing company in Los Angeles, is one of many entrepreneurs using their business to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Wavell-Jimenez was on track to launch Stellari later this year but, amid the coronavirus pandemic, pushed back the launch of her brand and transitioned her capital to the production of face masks that she will sell at cost. Seeking funding to expand Stellari's #MaskUp campaign, Wavell-Jimenez has turned to crowdfunding — and in less than 24 hours has raised enough to donate more than 10,000 masks to those in need in Southern California.

Video transcript

JANELLE WAVELL-JIMENEZ: I was in the middle of, you know, working with manufacturers on producing my dresses, producing my backpacks, and what have you when the coronavirus kind of hit pandemic level. And I kept reading about hospital shortages of PPE, protective wear, and also just all the amazing efforts of kind of people around the country making cloth masks at home.

When I was just-- I was in a factory looking over one of my samples when I realized like, there are people out there who are making hundreds of masks on their own by hand. I have access and relationships with all these manufacturers in Los Angeles. And they can make them, and it's business for them. We can help keep supporting them. And it's also providing a need for just the hospitals and homeless shelters and elderly care facilities.

The cloth mask pattern that we're using is actually developed by Kaiser Permanente and the LA Mayor's office with some of the LA fashion industry. And because it doesn't have elastic or wires, it just kind of-- it just makes the whole sourcing process easier. Because right now the LA fashion district, garment district, is basically is on lockdown, is shut down.

I used my remaining startup capital to kind of seed this effort. But I realized that in order to make masks to scale, I would need to probably crowdfund. Because as a startup, I have no revenue. So there's only so much I can do alone. We were 10% funded within the first 10 minutes.

We're trending on Indiegogo right now. We have raised enough-- as of the last time I checked, we raised enough from us to do a second run of masks, which we are donating to Southern California hospitals, schools, and anyone else who actually needs them. I'm trying to figure out a way to get these to people around the country as well.