College of Business > News & Events > DePaul Business Student Launches Face Mask Company During COVID-19
By Nadia Alfadel Coloma | Photos courtesy of Lauren Pingad /
June 18, 2020 /
Posted in: Students, College and Schools /
Before she came to DePaul, Lauren Pingad knew she wanted to use entrepreneurship to help people. What she didn’t know was that she’d start her first business venture, Fashion Masks, to help people during a global pandemic. Today, Pingad is studying management and entrepreneurship at the Driehaus College of Business, with a double major in Chinese studies and a minor in international business. She was wrapping up her junior year when she and her mother, So Hui Nye, a draper technician at DePaul’s Theatre School, launched Fashion Masks in April 2020.
“This all started because we wanted to help my grandmother,” Pingad explains. “She lives in a nursing home, and back in mid-March, when the COVID-19 numbers in my grandmother’s area were on the rise, we wanted to provide her with a quality mask for protection. The idea for Fashion Masks evolved from there.”
The mother-daughter duo teamed up to start Fashion Masks with Nye taking the lead on production and Pingad focusing on operations and marketing. Their company sells premium quality face masks that Nye sews in the home she and her daughter share in Indiana. Pingad’s stepfather also helps with managing the business’s finances.
“With my mom’s background in fashion design and her experience working in the costume shop at DePaul’s Theatre School, and me being savvy at running the business side of things, we thought, why not put our skills to use?” Pingad says. “It was great, too, that while we were starting our business, I was taking an entrepreneurship class that focuses on creativity. Having both experiences side-by-side really enhanced my perspective on managing Fashion Masks.”
What makes their masks unique is the focus on high-quality cotton fabric, adjustability and fit. The masks were designed with comfort in mind, says Pingad, contouring around the shape of the face with an adjustable strap.
It’s no surprise that comfort is a priority in the design of their masks, as Pingad is also currently working on a prototype product that helps alleviate the irritation that PPE can create on medical workers’ faces when masks are worn for prolonged periods.
Fashion Masks also has helped part of the DePaul community. Knowing how COVID-19 has impacted employment for people in the entertainment industry, Pingad and her mother recruited Theatre School alumni who studied costume and production design to produce the masks alongside Nye. Their small team, which operates in Nye’s dining room, has made and sold nearly 1,500 masks since the business started.
Besides selling directly to customers on their
website, which Pingad manages, they also have launched business-to-business sales by partnering with at least 15 different real estate businesses, apartment complexes, hotels and medical clinics, primarily around downtown Chicago, to provide custom masks with logos to those businesses’ employees.
“Networking and access to mentors has been the best part of being at DePaul’s business college,” Pingad says. “Bruce Leech [executive director of the Coleman Center for Entrepreneurship] has been a huge resource. He’s been helping me with new ideas and connecting me with professionals who can help me, especially on the marketing side of things since that’s an area I’m trying to develop.”
Long-term, Pingad and Nye plan to open a production factory and continue expanding their business-to-business sales. “I’ve always wanted to help people in some way, which is why I decided to study entrepreneurship and minor in international business. I feel like entrepreneurship gives you the flexibility to have a positive impact on a lot of people. Knowing I can start a business here or anywhere around the world is exciting to me.”