Auckland woman sets up sideline making affordable face masks

Business owner at sewing machine
Auckland resident Lynda Palmano is using her sewing skills to make re-usable face masks which she sells on Facebook for $10 each. Photo credit: Supplied.

An Auckland woman is using her sewing skills to make extra cash while helping locals protect themselves against COVID-19.

Just before Auckland went back into COVID-19 alert level 3, Lynda Palmano, a part-time medical receptionist, made a batch of re-usable face masks for a friend. 

After listing the extra masks on the 'NZ Made Products' Facebook page for people to buy, demand for her homemade masks took off and her new home business, 'Little Birdie' was born.

"Within an hour, I sold the 30 masks I'd made and I woke up the next morning with more requests - it was quite incredible.

"I'm currently sitting on around 500's grown into something more than my wildest dreams," she said.

Priced at $10 per mask plus postage, the mark-up isn't huge. Time is spent sourcing elastic and fabric, which she buys in two-metre lots to avoid getting stuck with a design no one wants.  

After cutting the pattern in batches, including a filter pocket, each mask takes around 10 minutes to make.

"I know alot of people charging more. People have said to me: 'you should put your prices up, you're too cheap', but I also have a conscience," Palmano said.

"We're not here to make millions: it's to cover costs and help people."

A sewer with experience in pattern-cutting, the woman said she felt privileged to be using her skills and helping people feel less vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"You're giving people security and helping them out."

She's spotted many of her masks worn by locals out and about in the Stonefields community.  The 'Kiwiana' theme, such as a silver fern or fantail, had been popular.

"I keep thinking everyone must have one by now but when I get more fabrics in, the orders come in again - people want spares," she added.

A report by online jobs website SEEK in July, showed that of 4000 Kiwis, 31 percent showed interest in taking on a sideline to supplement their income within the next six months.

Lynda is one example of how the COVID-19 pandemic has created an opportunity to turn untapped skills into a sideline business.

"I could do this five day's a week at the moment - it's just so busy."

Examples of re-usable face masks sold on the Little Birdie Facebook page.
Examples of re-usable face masks sold on the Little Birdie Facebook page. Photo credit: Supplied.