CORAL SPRINGS, FL – Ever since she was furloughed from her job as a hotel sales director, Kyra Poulos has been working harder than ever.
The Coral Springs mother has turned her hobby of making home décor and small gifts for friends into a fast-growing business of making face masks for anyone in need of them – including healthcare workers who get their masks for free (technically, they pay $2 in shipping charges).
With her portable sewing machine, Poulos, 37, makes close to 80 masks a day in between schooling her 5-year-old daughter Toula, making meals, cleaning the house, and finding time to spend with her husband, Sam, who has taken a role in the business by being in charge of logistics and shipping. Often working from 8:30 am to midnight, she has converted her craft table in the garage into a small factory, churning out fabric masks with the precision of a professional seamstress.
In the past two weeks, more than 700 of her multi-colored masks have made their way across the country, and more than half have been donated to workers in hospitals, medical offices, hospice care centers, and other medical facilities in 15 states, including Broward Health Coral Springs, she said.
“It feels good doing something good for someone and giving comfort to people,” she said.
Poulos began sewing masks just days after getting furloughed from Morlin Hospitality Group, which operates Hampton Inn and Suites and Residence Inn in Coconut Creek. She did it through her store on Etsy, an e-commerce website focused on handmade vintage items and craft supplies. Around the same time, the website’s CEO put out a call to encourage craft-makers to fill a national void in face masks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged everyone to wear masks in public.
“I accepted the mission,” she said.
It wasn’t hard to get started since Poulos already had close to 50 different fabrics from her existing business on Etsy, which she’s had for years as a fun, side gig. She learned to make masks by watching do-it-yourself videos on YouTube and other websites.
“For this, I just winged it,” she said. “I’ve loved sewing since I was a little girl.”
Poulos grew up with her mother and grandmother sewing pillowcases, curtains, clothing and even vestments for her father, a Greek Orthodox priest. She used to make blankets for friends in high school and college.
“I was the old lady out of my college roommates,” she said, laughing.
Now, her hobby has paid off.
Word got out about her masks through social media. She got orders from friends and then strangers across the nation. To get more supplies, she’s had other local craft makers dust off old fabrics in closets and drop them off at her house.
“Some of these designs are from the Kennedy Administration,” she said.
At $8 a mask (which includes fabric, labor and built-in expenses for free masks for healthcare workers), it’s not a business she wants to turn into a full-fledged operation. She plans to go back to her sales job once the coronavirus outbreak ends.
For now, she just wants to help people, especially healthcare workers, get through these tough times.
“This is so fun,” she said. “It’s amazing that I can do something to help out others.”
To visit Kyra Poulos’s Etsy store, click here.