Jenn Nidoy never expected to be considered a hero for selling home sewn masks in the middle of a pandemic.
While Nidoy honors the ‘thank you’ messages she receives from her customers, she does not need a thank you. All she wants to do is to provide someone with a mask that keeps them safe, preferably with a design of their choice to remind people that masks can be fun.
Nidoy’s first mask was for her four-year-old niece Mia, who refused to wear the masks her pediatrician gave her. The masks were uncomfortable and unfamiliar to Mia, but with no other options, it seemed that she would not have a choice.
That is when Nidoy, along with her daughter-in-law, Taylor, brainstormed on how to make the right mask for Mia. It turned out that comfort, color and a size adjusted for her small face turned out to be the right fit.
Much to Nidoy’s surprise, people began reaching out to her after seeing Mia’s mask on Facebook. As interest grew, it became clear that the next step would be to start her own business.
“I’m just going to try,” Nidoy said, recalling how she first assumed the business would not go anywhere. “I looked in the first week and I had 50 sales.”
It became clear to Nidoy that she was going to need help filling the orders.
That is how her niece, fourth-year chemistry major Marina Balza, became involved.
“I’ve been sewing since I was a kid,” Balza said. “My family has always been really artsy and crafty.”
Balza helps sew, but she also is involved with the marketing of the business. She created their business cards and combs through the website on the daily to double check that everything is worded correctly and looks presentable.
Niyama Design Studio offers masks with images of Disney characters to Harry Potter designs. The name Niyama is a Sanskrit word for healthy living, which became important to Nidoy over the years as a single mother.
“Nine years ago we were homeless and we were surfing everyone’s couches,” Nidoy said. “Every cent counted. I started to learn the value of money and how to be healthier living green.”
Nidoy was determined to remain at home to raise her four children, oftentimes working side jobs and catering gigs to bring in extra money. Although challenging, it taught Jenn Nidoy how to be resourceful and to find happiness in what she already has, a lesson she has passed down to her children.
That devotion to her family made Nidoy pause as she invested more time and savings into the business.
“We live in such a small apartment and I’ve taken up over half the living room,” Nidoy said. “I feel guilty, [but] that pushes me. I better make something of this.”
Their dining room table, an old sewing table with a large wheel at the bottom, quickly had to be converted to Nidoy’s office space. Family meal time, an important tradition for the Nidoys, proved difficult to do, but for daughter Elisabeth Nidoy, all that mattered was supporting her mom.
“She has always had that entrepreneurial spirit,” Elisabeth Nidoy said. “She never gave up. She kept pushing. When it came time for me to kind of do that for her, I was like, ‘Absolutely Mom, let’s figure out how we can do this.’”
Jenn Nidoy and her family have sold over 450 masks since they first began producing.
“The one thing I didn’t realize with a small business is that it’s 24/7,” Elisabeth Nidoy said. “She’ll get orders at two in the morning or messages at 10 o’clock at night. This is a lot of hard work. This is all day everyday.”
Except, in the past few weeks, it has not been work all day everyday.
Louis DeJoy was appointed postmaster general for The U.S. Postal Service in May, and has since implemented widespread change within. DeJoy has eliminated overtime for thousands of employees and removed multiple top executives in charge of daily operations. This, combined with President Donald Trump’s recent criticisms of the USPS, has caused delays in mail across the nation.
Soon after, Jenn Nidoy started to see that packages were not being delivered on time or being held at distribution centers, forcing her to process refunds and send new masks.
“When it’s a small business, it’s cutting deep into the pockets,” Elisabeth Nidoy said. “She has to make a whole other mask and pay for the shipping again. This is her business. This is her livelihood. It’s devastating to watch her go through this and not have any other recourse.”
Despite these worries, Jenn Nidoy knows that she has found what she wants to do. It comes as no surprise to her, as her family has had a long line of successful seamstresses.
As Jenn Nidoy works on an order and through the fear that it could be her last, she feels proud to see all that she and her family have overcome.
“Our motto in our family is keep moving forward,” Jenn Nidoy said.