Summit Middle School students start mask business during quarantine
SILVERTHORNE — When schools closed in response to the novel coronavirus on March 13, Zane and Caleb Rode didn’t stop learning. With the help of their neighbor Thekla Schultz and their mother Lisa Rode, the brothers got to work creating their own mask business.
Mesa Masks, named after the road the Rodes live on, is more than your average lemonade stand. The brothers have made nearly 200 masks, some of which they’ve donated and others they’ve sold.
The idea started with Schultz, who was looking for something to do while in quarantine.
“We’re retired and I have a ton of time on my hands and I was thinking about what would be useful,” she said. “I’m not a person who likes to sit around. So, Lisa and I got to talking about it and just this idea of ‘Let’s make a kid business.’”
While the boys have received help from Schultz and Lisa, most of the operation falls to them. Each brother has a specific role. Zane, 10, cuts the fabric, while Caleb, 12, sews some of the fabric and creates the ear loops.
Until now, Schultz has been in charge of most of the sewing, but Caleb will take over that part of the process soon.
The two Summit Middle School students started with a mask design that involved tying rubber bands together and sewing them to Velcro tabs to create the ear loops — a solution for when elastic was hard to find. Now, they’ve shifted their design to use fabric ear loops that are much easier to make.
“With the new mask design Caleb doesn’t have to sew on the tabs anymore, so it’s easier to make and it’s better than the previous ones,” Zane said.
The masks also feature a pocket on the inside, which allows people to insert a filter for better protection.
Running a business isn’t easy for anyone, especially for a sixth and seventh grader, but the boys have used the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of entrepreneurship.
“I’ve learned that there’s profit money,” Caleb said. “So you get materials to make that product and you have a certain amount of profit, you try raising that profit as high as you can, making sure your customers like it.”
In addition to making the masks, the boys helped launch a website and create a logo for their business.
Zane said he wasn’t too keen on the business idea at first, but he’s happy to be making money. The best part of the business for him is being able to work with his brother.
“That is the one part I do like, it’s pretty nice,” Zane said. “We don’t usually get to do the same thing at the same time.”
So far they’ve sold masks to a number of customers, including Doozie Martin, program manager of the Friends of Dillon Ranger District. Martin bought 10 masks with a $15 donation for each.
“A lot of us had lemonade stands or big pretzels or something and sold them around the neighborhood,” Martin said. “This was something that they were able to help their community out with while kind of learning some valuable lessons in business and customer relations.”
Lisa believes the business has been an educational experience for the kids.
“Homeschooling was tough,” she said. “In a really challenging time, (it’s) teaching them the value of keeping busy and teaching them things that I feel are a little different than what they might learn in the classroom.”
So far the boys have each made around $200. They both plan to put $100 into savings. Zane plans to use the rest to improve his gaming system and build his own computer. Caleb is using the money to redo his room, which includes constructing a new bed. Eventually, Caleb would like to use the money to complete his lifelong goal: owning a snake.
“You’d have better luck living homeless than getting a snake,” Zane said of the likelihood he convinces his mom to let him get one.
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