Fairfield High School senior Claire Epperson juggles schoolwork, a nearly full-time job at a day care center, and now her own budding business making cloth masks.
Epperson learned to sew earlier this year from her mother, Janelle, who began making cloth masks in May once it became apparent the pandemic would last for months.
“I had never used a sewing machine before, so it took me a long time to learn,” Claire said.
Over the summer, Epperson started making masks for her friends and family. She got great feedback from them, and thus Epperson decided to start making masks for a broader audience. She started a business called “Masks by Claire,” and created a website, MasksByClaire.com, where customers can browse and purchase masks of various colors and designs.
Epperson estimates she’s made close to 500 masks this year, and sold more than 300 through her website. She makes the masks as the order comes in, because she tailors them to the size and design that the customer wants.
“I have to be on the ball when people order, because I don’t want them to wait around forever,” Epperson said. “I have to be diligent in keeping an eye on fabric to make sure it’s not running out.”
Epperson fills what little free time she has with mask-making, which occupies two to three hours on weeknights and six to seven hours per day on weekends. She’s worked as many as 40 hours in a week at Community Child Care Center in Fairfield, though she’s planning to cut back to focus more on her schoolwork, which includes two advanced placement classes this semester.
Epperson said she plans to continue her business through the end of the school year but is not sure what will happen next year when she goes to college.
“I’m hoping that by that point, we won’t be wearing masks,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the day when there’s not a need for my business, but it will mean things have gone back to normal. Maybe by then, I will have come up with some other product instead of Masks by Claire.”
In the meantime, Epperson will save the money she makes for college. She hasn’t made a final decision but just learned she was accepted to Drake University in Des Moines, so she’s leaning toward going there.
– Andy Hallman