Helping the Community with Affordable Masks
By Jill Kemp —
Starting a brand-new company is somewhat familiar territory for George Zheng, founder of Herogard. Five years ago, he started Leep Foods, a company that supplies oyster and maitake mushrooms to area supermarkets.
Herogard literally started only a few weeks ago. Incorporated on April 3, the startup began providing U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved protective face masks to area businesses and to individuals through Herogard.com. More than 80,000 masks have been provided to Wegmans.
Zheng took on the challenge of expediting the launch of Herogard.
“Although I initially didn’t know how to do digital fulfillment and run an e-commerce company, I enjoyed the challenge of learning,” Zheng says.
It’s second nature to him now.
Produced in China, Herogard masks serve as a better alternative for people than cloth masks. In fact, research has shown that medical face masks made from fused fibers are three times more effective at blocking small particles. Ultimately, these masks trap 98 percent of virus particles, a much higher percentage than homemade masks.
“The benefit is that we are affordable for the everyday person,” Zheng says. “I want to help a critical part of our communities.”
Masks are donated to essential workers with every purchase made through the website. The first beneficiary of mask donations was Foodlink, the regional food bank serving 10 counties in Rochester and the Finger Lakes.
“These were great for our kitchen staff because they cannot wear the cloth masks that people make at home,” says Mark Dwyer, communications manager at Foodlink. “Our first delivery was of 2,000 masks and last week, we received an additional 4,000 masks.”
Mitch Gruber, chief partnerships and strategy officer at Foodlink, says the donation enables staff to safely prepare meals and provides personal protective equipment for food pantries.
“We can’t thank them enough for protecting our staff and our partners,” Gruber says.
Next, the company plans to approach other businesses. More than a million masks are due in Rochester at Herogard this week.