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'Be Silly Project' embraces masks while giving back

"Show us your mask. Let's normalize it. Let's do this together," said Laura Heurung with the Be Silly Project.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — A Minneapolis-based business has teamed up with local manufacturers to get masks to those who need them on the front lines. 

The "Be Silly Project" is also encouraging people to share photos of themselves wearing their masks on social media in an effort to normalize the practice.

"It's gotta feel weird when we can't see each other's faces or smiles when you pass someone in the street. It's not normal that we're wearing masks. So it's like, we're all going to do it and be safe. So let's just be silly together," said Laura Heurung, co-founder of the sustainable swimsuit brand Wild Isles Swim

Heurung said the project started as a way to support the local sewing teams they work with after they stopped their summer swimwear orders. 

"I wasn't even really worried about our company because we still both have full-time jobs and it's been a really fun entrepreneurial experience. But I was more worried about these sewing teams, that have been local forever, all of a sudden being out of work," Heurung said. 

So Wild Isles Swim started raising money to make masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) for those on the front lines. They partnered with three local sewing networks, including Clothier Design Source

The Twin Cities company typically works with small startup companies and established brands on their development and manufacturing. 

Credit: Heidi Wigdahl
Clothier Design Source has switched to making masks and PPE.

"We helped launch their first couple orders for them to get masks donated to local hospitals. From there, it's really given us a platform to be able to convert our whole manufacturing facility. We have 99% of our capacity going to making PPE and masks. We're currently making masks for organizations such as the Minnesota Department of Health, VA hospitals, the Navy, USPS," Operations Manager Kellie Kronberg said. 

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When companies first started feeling the impact of COVID-19, Kronberg said they had considered layoffs. 

"Within a couple of hours that changed. So we've actually had to hire more people. We've started a second shift in manufacturing and it's really allowed us to keep our staff on 100% of the time... and then again, additional people. We have a lot of sewers that we also have working as contract sewers and so we're really helping people that were laid off get some financial stability back in their lives as well," Kronberg said. 

According to Heurung, the Be Silly Project has raised about $60,000 so far through individual sales of masks and donations. They use a buy one, give two model. 

Money raised goes directly back to wages for sewing teams and materials. 

Heurung estimates they've donated about 2,500 masks so far across 30 local organizations. They've also shipped some to hospitals in hot spots like Seattle and Boston. With the money they've raised so far, Heurung believes they'll be able to donate 7,000-8,000 masks. 

Credit: Be Silly Project
Heurung estimates they've donated about 2,500 masks so far across 30 local organizations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages people to wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. 

The Be Silly Project has a social media campaign that encourages people to share their photos wearing masks. 

"Show us your mask. Let's normalize it. Let's do this together," Heurung said. 

If you'd like to support the project, you can buy masks here or donate to their GoFundMe page. They also are accepting mask donations. 

Organizations can also request help through their website. 

KARE 11’s coverage of the coronavirus is rooted in Facts, not Fear. Visit kare11.com/coronavirus for comprehensive coverage, find out what you need to know about the Midwest specifically, learn more about the symptoms, and see what companies in Minnesota are hiring. Have a question? Text it to us at 763-797-7215. And get the latest coronavirus updates sent right to your inbox every morning. Subscribe to the KARE 11 Sunrise newsletter here. Help local families in need: www.kare11.com/give11

The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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