11:45:44 pm on
Saturday 19 Sep 2020

Entrepreneurism in a Crisis
David Simmonds

The covid-19 is a public health emergency, of that there is no doubt. It is painful to see hoarding taking place, especially when the most sought-after items show up on the web, re-sold at multiples of the original price. Yet, there are entrepreneurs developing innovative new products to take legitimate advantage of the opportunities the crisis has provided.


New products originating in the County.

Three new products, with their origins in Wellington County, Ontario, aim at the shortages of the most sought-after items. The items are masks, hand sanitizer and toilet paper. Each is a necessity of these or all times.

As to masks, Cherry Valley resident Jemima Fyffe has noted the prevalence of mask wearing, as men and women make their way around in public and how boring the masks look. “They’re all white or grey or hospital. blue,” she said. Then she saw that supermodel Naomi Campbell had made a fashion statement, of sorts, while boarding a plane in Los Angeles wearing a hazmat suit, goggles, a blue face mask and pink latex gloves.

Then Fyffe turned on her television and reminded herself “The Masked Singer” was the most popular show around. “I concluded there must be a demand for customized masks.” This fact is borne out, she notes, by the universal reverence shown to the artwork on NHL goalie masks

Fyffe started a company, Hazmask Incorporated, which turns out bespoke germ-catching face masks. “You send us your facial measurements and a paint-colour sample, then we’ll ship you 50, 100 or 500 masks within a week,” she says. It also turns out the Chinese manufacture she is using has a contract to produce Halloween masks for trick or treating, so she is able to offer stock masks featuring cartoon characters like Homer Simpson, Sonic the Hedgehog and Donald Trump. Fyffe figures, that if the crisis lasts another month, she will earn almost what a County based Airbnb makes in an entire season.

The hand sanitizer idea comes from a Rossmore resident, Toby Filcher. He explains it this way, “I was listening to all these public health people go on about the importance of washing your hands. I noticed that they always go on to say that you should not touch your face. I checked my own behaviour and realized I was constantly touching my face.

“What I plan to do is market a face cream that makes it painful for you to touch your face. It’s an alcohol-based product that uses crushed jalapeño peppers as its active ingredient. Put this on and I guarantee you’ll not touch your face more than once.


A jalapeño pepper cream removal product.

“The good thing about the product,” says Filcher, “is that it will create a market for our companion product, a jalapeño pepper cream removal solution. We haven’t quite worked out the formulation, yet, but we are confident it will be available within a few months of our initial product.” Filcher is seeking venture capital funding to help launch his products. 

The third product is the most ambitious. The Picton based husband and wife team, of Gerry and Susan Blenkinsop, put it this way. “Why should all toilet paper look the same? All the commercials do is distinguish a product by a claim that it is softer than its competitors. We want to make toilet paper with attitude, that’s fun to use.

“For instance, we’re close to securing the right to reproduce old Eaton catalogues and we’ve found a special new paper that has the look and feel of an old outhouse catalogue, but that dissolves in water as easily as regular toilet paper. Using our product can be an exercise in nostalgia for a simpler time, without the corresponding need for an outdoor facility.

“Another product we’re looking at is having clients personalize their toilet paper so it can be embossed with a family crest, a Latin motto or a quote from a great thinker. If we do this on a large enough scale, the price point will come down to a level that will make our paper almost as affordable as the ordinary stuff, if you can find it.” The Blenkinsops claim financing is in place and are looking for a partnership opportunity with a local pulp mill. 

In addition to masks, sanitizers and toilet paper initiatives, during our research for this story we also became aware of work being done on personal space enforcement technology. A six-foot diameter electric hula hoop is apparently undergoing testing at a workshop in Frankford. In Desoronto, a scent-based approach, in which an individual would emit an unpleasant odour, not unlike a fart, that could be detected by those standing six feet away, but not by the wearer, is being studied. A razor-edge square dancing crinoline is also under development in Tamworth and we have heard of fashion designers, in Toronto, working on “large wingspan haute couture.” Undoubtedly, we have only skimmed the surface of what will collectively be a massive innovative effort.


Hoping for remarkable success.

At this time of crisis, amid the panic and shortages, it is heartwarming to see the enterprising spirit can rise to meet the challenge. It is also instructive to realise how true it must be that so many business startups end in failure. Let’s hope the ingenious ideas here mentioned are all remarkable successes.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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