Alumni Face Mask Project Exceeds Expectations

We wanted to share a press release highlighting the Alumni Association's initiative for alumni-owned businesses hitting a pandemic milestone. We are proud of our face mask project helping produce a 817% increase in sales for alumni businesses!

Highlights from the press release include:

  • The MN Alumni Market reached top 1% of fastest-growing businesses on Shopify in 2020.
  • 27,000 donated face masks provided to vulnerable medical patients, family caregivers, and University of Minnesota students living in on-campus housing.

Full Press Release

alumni face masks

The COVID-19 pandemic created life-altering economic challenges for University of Minnesota alumni business owners. In the earliest days of the pandemic, learning that alumni business owners were struggling and other alumni wanted to take action to support them, the University of Minnesota Alumni Association addressed the challenge by partnering with alumni entrepreneurs and consulting with University of Minnesota public health experts to create a reusable maroon and gold face mask. The mask was then sold in the Association’s MN Alumni Market, an online boutique that sells only products made by University of Minnesota alumni-owned businesses. For every face mask sold, one is donated to healthcare providers for use by medical patients and their family caregivers as well as U of M students in on-campus housing.  The face mask project will continue for the rest of 2021.

In April 2021, the Alumni Association assessed the one-year results of the face mask initiative and discovered that after the face mask was added to the MN Alumni Market, sales increased 817% for alumni-owned businesses across the digital marketplace. It also helped catapult the Alumni Market into the top 1% (in terms of growth) of over one million businesses utilizing Shopify in 2020. In addition, 27,000 face masks have been donated to medical facilities for use by vulnerable medical patients and their family caregivers. Masks were also donated for use by U of M students living in on-campus housing. 

“The University of Minnesota Alumni Association is proud to collaborate with alumni entrepreneurs and University of Minnesota experts on initiatives that provide value to alumni-owned businesses and contribute to community well-being,” said Lisa Lewis, Alumni Association President and CEO. “The results of the face mask program tell us that U of M alumni are both talented entrepreneurs and philanthropic consumers who look for opportunities to assist one another while protecting the vulnerable and others in need. The Alumni Association is honored to support their efforts.”

alumni face masks

The masks are produced by Synergy Imports, which is owned by U of M alumnus Corey Kopacek (B.S.B. ’98). They are distributed via the Alumni Association’s MN Alumni Market by Jessen Media, a product development and marketing company owned by alumnus Mark Jessen (B.A. ’86), who also serves on the Alumni Association’s board of directors. 

“As the effects of the pandemic started rippling through the economy, our company’s sales declined significantly,” said Corey Kopacek. “Searching for a new revenue stream, we were able to partner with the Alumni Association on the Buy One Give One mask project that not only helped save our business, but also impacted the lives of so many U of M alumni and friends who supported the program. It was very special to be involved in a program that helped connect and impact so many people in a positive way.”
 
“The Alumni Association has been a strong partner to alumni business owners during one of the most challenging times many have faced,” said Mark Jessen. “Doing business in the MN Alumni Market’s digital space has helped some companies weather the COVID economic storm. This is exactly the kind of support alumni need from their alumni association right now. As a University of Minnesota graduate and business owner, I’m grateful the University of Minnesota Alumni Association was there for so many alumni entrepreneurs when they needed it most.”

“The generous support we have received from the University of Minnesota Alumni Association and other businesses, organizations, and people has helped our health system face the unprecedented challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said M Health Fairview Chief Quality Officer Abe Jacob, MD, MHA. “Their maroon-and-gold donated masks not only helped keep our patients safe – they also served as a visible reminder that in times of need our community would be there for us.”
 
“From the start of the pandemic, we at Housing and Residential Life understood the value face coverings would bring to the health and safety of our communities,” said Susan Stubblefield, Interim Director, University of Minnesota Department of Housing & Residential Life. “This has been a critical element in the Maroon & Gold Sunrise Plan, which enabled students in residential housing to have a positive on-campus experience. We are grateful that our U of M alumni made the generous donation of masks. The masks provided through the MN Alumni Market were made available to any student living in residence halls and apartments, making them easily accessible.”

Shop all our MN Reusable Face Masks here. New bulk pricing is now available!