African designer breaks into mask industry, giving back to Memphis community and abroad

Watch: African designer breaks into mask industry, giving back to Memphis community and abroad

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Health officials at every level now recommend wearing a mask in public. It’s also one woman’s passion and she’s using that passion to support others.

When you walk into the Mbabazi House of Style, the colors and patterns hit you before the door can close.

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Inside you’ll find dresses, jewelry and now one of its big sellers are face masks.

“I was like I’m just going to do a 100 of these, so it was like a challenge to me to sell 100 and be able to pay my rent,” said Mbabazi House of Style owner Grace Byeitima.

When the pandemic started in March, Byeitima said she initially posted the masks on her social media pages.

Once those sold out, she added them to her website.

Then the CDC recommended wearing cloth face masks in public in early April and Beyitima said her website exploded with orders.

“We were watching the website like, ‘oh my gosh these are so many orders’ and because we weren’t using our website,” she said. “On a Wednesday, we shut down the website because we were at like 500 orders and I was there’s no way, we’re going to, I was working as fast as I could.”

She found support to help her meet the demand in her own backyard, hiring other immigrants and refugees.

“You know people were like ‘how are you going to handle it?’ And we basically put together a team of about I would say we’re worked with 20 people, 20 different seamstresses,” Byeitima said.

So far, Beytimia has completed 3,000 orders for masks.

But she said it’s one of her latest orders that hit close to home. She just finished a bulk order of 500 masks for The Works Incorporated, a nonprofit in South Memphis.

“They’ve been distributing food to senior citizens and the masks were part of the package that was going to them so it felt really good,” Beytimia said.

Sewing back into the Memphis community that has supported her each day.

The impact of these masks isn’t just in Memphis

Beytimia says thanks to the profits from that last bulk order and support from immediate family, she was able to give back to her home country of Uganda.

They just donated enough money to buy food for an entire community.

If you’re interested in learning about this business and how you can purchase one of those masks, CLICK HERE.

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