Meet my mom friend: Melinda Hwang, Founder, Happy Masks
Quick editor’s note: Melinda shares her entrepreneurial journey launching Happy Masks, while managing three kids at home during this pandemic. I recently resumed my workout classes outdoors and wearing my Happy Mask has been great for breathing (more like panting) due to the beak-shape and keeping sweat off my face thanks to the mesh material. Melinda is offering free shipping to all Love, Mishka readers using code “lovemishka.” This feature is not sponsored by Happy Masks.
Can you share your quick background?
I grew up in Minnesota, and then when I was 13, my dad’s job working as an engineer for 3M brought us to Taiwan. Looking back, I’m grateful for that move for a number of reasons. It led me to meet my husband (while in middle school!) and also resulted in a number of connections that made Happy Masks possible 25 years later. I worked for a number of big companies doing brand marketing for 15+ years before launching Happy Masks. I am also the mother of three kids (ages four, six, and seven).
What led you to launching Happy Masks?
It was an accidental business, to be honest. I was burned out by working corporate jobs, and had my heart set on starting something of my own. In the last year, I had tinkered with ideas around paper straws, jewelry, and pants before landing on Happy Masks. I was actually working on the pants business when Covid hit. My mom, who lives in Taiwan was very worried about us, and sent a box of masks to us back in March of 2020. Soon friends started noticing their unique “beak” shape and how happy my kids looked while wearing them, and asked if I could place another order for them. When they tried the masks, they then wanted to purchase the masks for their families and friends. One thing led to another, and Happy Masks officially launched in May 2020.
What makes Happy Masks different from other masks on the market?
They are a unique combination of protection, breathability, and comfort. Each mask has a built-in nanofiber membrane filter that has been tested by Nelson Labs to block out 99.97% of airborne particles of 0.3 micron size. To put this into context, bacteria and smoke are both 1 micron in size, and viruses are less than 1 micron in size.
They are also incredibly comfortable and feature a unique “beak” shape which makes it easy to talk and breathe.
I remember when I visited Hong Kong / Japan many years ago, lots of people would be wearing masks in the subway, malls, etc. I learned that this was a gracious, self-imposed practice by those who weren’t feeling well wanting to protect those around them. Can you speak more to this practice in East Asian countries?
Most Asian countries are considered mature mask-wearing countries. If you’re not feeling well, you’ll automatically wear a mask and it’s no big deal. And then, during cold and flu season, or for visits to the doctor, almost everyone wears a mask just to make sure they and their kids or elderly parents stay safe. For my own family, I know that even after Covid has passed, we will likely wear masks for the same reasons to keep us and others around us safe.
How are you managing three kids and a budding business in the middle of a pandemic? Any advice for other moms?
Especially in the early months of the business, back in spring of this year when all 3 kids were around all the time, it was so hard. I would end up doing a lot of work early morning and late at night when they were asleep. My husband and I also took shifts throughout the day, to minimize time when they were completely unsupervised. And then, we outsourced what we could - a major thing being cooking! We did a lot of take-out, and still do. We also introduced them to board games that could keep the 3 of them busy and not require a screen. If it doesn’t involve a screen, requires some use of the brain, and doesn’t need us to supervise, it’s a win!
Any go-to self-care / mindfulness activities you enjoy with the kids?
My husband and I do 15 minutes of YouTube yoga together every morning. We love Yoga with Adrienne - it’s easy and fast, and during that time, we keep our phones off and our kids know not to bug us. We also started a practice of taking turns talking about our daily “rose” and “thorn” - it’s an easy way for kids (and us) to learn to pause and reflect on what went well and what didn’t go well everyday.
How do you make time for yourself?
I need to actually be better about this, as I haven’t had as much “me” time as I’d like. I did stop working at night - which has done wonders for my mental health! I found that when I work past dinner, I don’t sleep well as my brain is still processing all of this stuff and I can’t shut it off. I also try not to grab my phone first thing in the morning and read all of the messages and emails I missed. Mornings are spent getting kids ready for school, and I now focus the evenings on quality time with them too. Kids are very sensitive and can sense when I’m there but my mind isn’t - and it always leads to bad behavior on their part!
Where can we buy Happy Masks?
Yes, you can find us at www.happymasks.com, and use code “lovemishka” to get free shipping ($6 value).
Anything else you’d like readers to know about your story or brand?
We are looking for ways to give back to the community, including schools! We recently launched a fundraiser program, where for any masks purchased by a school community, we will donate back 10% of those sales to the school. If your school would be interested, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set it up.
Thank you SO much for your time and thoughts!