How Waterloo Region’s Entrepreneurial Spirit Is Supporting COVID-19

Seth Partridge

The relationship between government and business is an interesting balance act. The government’s relationship with business revolves around the policies they create that form the environment for doing business. Businesses, on the other hand, partly fund the government through the taxes they pay. Businesses are also the economic engines of a country and are responsible for a great deal of innovation.

It’s a fairly consistent and predictable relationship…until a crisis hits.

In the case we’re in with COVID-19, the economy has slowed, an unprecedented number of people have lost their job, and we’re facing a unique challenge in healthcare as the demand for critical medical supplies cannot be met by the current supply.

Governments are doing their best to step up, but they can’t do it alone.

That’s where savvy entrepreneurs, especially in the Waterloo Region, stepped up to help.

Pivoting business in a time of need

The supply of certified medical masks for frontline medical workers and first responders has been shrinking. Shipments from overseas are delayed and take time. Worse yet, some of the masks we’ve received in Canada have been faulty.

Cue the entrepreneurial spirit.

Kevin Puloski, President of Pund-IT Technology, Director with Mountain Valley MD (CSE: MVMD) Life Sciences, and member of the Entrepreneurs Organization Southwest Ontario (EO SWO), saw a need for locally sourced materials, and locally manufactured masks.

He researched material specifications for an Ontario-based manufacturing setup and contacted one of his clients: Steve Wagner of Barbarian Sports Wear Inc., and Salus Marine Inc. Steve’s company is a world-renowned manufacturer of sports and safety equipment.

In the past, Steve has worked with leading manufacturing companies like Cooper, Bauer, and Nike. He saw this as an opportunity to work with Kevin to transfer his manufacturing experience to the world of medical supplies.

While they started out trying to solve the problem of getting an N95 equivalent type mask to the front line, they quickly realized that there needed to be much more testing and buy-in from the medical community.

So they pivoted and created an innovative 3-Ply mask with similar design and specifications as the N95.

Not only are the materials locally sourced and made, they have added designs on the external shell.

The goal of this is to create masks that appear friendlier compared to the look of the medical masks, while protecting the public. As an added bonus, their masks are reusable, not disposable.

The company, Barbarian Medical, was created in 3 days. Manufacturing began within one week. And today, they’re working with the Ontario Medical Joint Task Force and McMaster University and are testing to see if these reusable masks are effective and safe enough to be used in the healthcare industry.

Amazingly, the new mask making company had about 5000 units ordered on the first day.

Local solutions to global problems

By creating a supply chain for these masks in the Waterloo Region, lead times for Canadian orders of masks will drop dramatically. Medical teams can be confident with the certifications of the product, and Canada can become more self-reliant in serving the needs of the heroes that make up front line medical staff and first responders.

“We’re all in this together, it’s time for everyone to help where they can.” said Puloski.

Necessity is the mother of invention and the spirit of entrepreneurship is stronger than ever in the Region of Waterloo.

It’s so great to see organizations not let obstacles get in their way and find unique and creative ways to solve problems. You can check out all of the unique styles of masks at How Waterloo Region’s Entrepreneurial Spirit Is Supporting COVID-192020-06-12Intrigue

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