Pandemic precaution, but make it fashionable


Candice Mayfield

UNO student Sophia Ridder turns pandemic into profit with Etsy shop “Soph by Soph” selling hand-made face masks. Pictured is the shop’s top-selling national park themed collection. Photo courtesy of Sophia Ridder.

Sophia Ridder, a senior majoring in journalism at UNO, is turning the COVID-19 pandemic into a profit with her Etsy shop “Soph by Soph.” The business is booming amidst the demand for one particular precautionary safety measure: face masks.

“I saw other people doing it, and, in my opinion, I thought I could do it just as well if not better, so I thought I might as well try it,” Ridder said.

Face masks are among the list of recommendations put out by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), assisting in the prevention of the novel coronavirus.

“Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus,” says CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield.

Ridder is doing her part to “flatten the curve” by selling an assortment of handmade face masks. She set up shop virtually in late May and was pleasantly surprised with the results. Her initial push was for hair accessories, but when her face masks sold out, she knew that her market needed to adjust to the demand.

Her inspiration for the designs stems from personal interests such as the great outdoors and hiking. This interest sparked the perfect idea for a national park-themed face mask collection that has since become a top seller for Soph by Soph. She explains the popularity of the novelty collection to be because of the authenticity of the design.

“Nobody else was doing anything like it and no one else really sold anything like it,” Ridder says. “I really think that’s why it became my top seller.”

With ample free time as a result of COVID-19 impacting her internship and summer job, Ridder filled her days with her new business. She made use of the materials she had at home, but with demand through the roof, her supply became slim. This served as the perfect excuse to buy new cute items to add to her growing collection.

“Although people don’t have much disposable money right now, face masks sell because if they have enough money to splurge, they are going to buy themselves a cute mask.”

With the holidays just around the corner, the rise in demand for festive-themed face masks will also be skyrocketing soon. Ridder says if there’s a need for these, she is going to do it.

“Honestly, I hoped we wouldn’t have to get to that point,” she says concerning the topic of holiday-themed masks. “I plan on doing Halloween masks, but I really hope that there won’t need to be a reason to do Christmas masks. I hope it doesn’t get there and that it calms down by then.”

Ridder shares the secret to success in starting your own shop is to know the current market.

“You have to be smart about what you think will actually sell, so just be aware of the current situations when you market your products,” Ridder says. “If you’re thinking about trying it, I would definitely say give it a try.”