24 year-old entrepreneur Robyn Ham is one of 21 recipients to receive the latest Canada’s Volunteer Award.
In 2020, Ham co-founded the company Sask Masks, making and selling reusable cloth masks then donating the profits to local charitable organizations.
The company was started with her twin sister, Jana Ham, and friends Jordan Tholl and Ryan Selinger.
“We sewed about 50 masks in the very first day and then that night decided to launch our business,” remembered Ham.
In a matter of a week’s time, the business had expanded to include volunteers and 36 laid-off seamstresses to keep up with the demand.
Sask Masks donated a total of $51,500 to 13 local charities during their year of operation.
The company mainly supported the Regina Food Bank, YWCA Regina and Carmichael Outreach, the remaining organizations were selected by businesses who made bulk orders through Sask Masks.
Ham was nominated for the award by her marketing professor at the University of Regina, Lisa Watson, who was the catalyst behind Sask Masks.
Watson offered a $1,500 loan to those who could start a social business during the pandemic to help the community.
“She definitely got the ball rolling she was the snowball that started it,” said Ham. “So I think that push that she gave us. We wouldn’t even have thought or saw it as an opportunity to start a business.”
There was a virtual award ceremony held for all the nominees, and Ham said it was “pretty special” to be nominated by her teacher.
The group saw the challenges non-profit businesses were facing with the pandemic, and built their business model around helping the community.
In addition to local charities, Sask Masks also partnered with Variety the Children’s Charity of Alberta to bring their work to Saskatchewan. With the disability program, Go Baby Go, Sask Mask helped to provide three adaptive toy cars for kids.
“I had no idea it would take off the way it did and have that much of an impact,” said Ham of starting the business back in 2020.
Not only did the business help local charitable businesses and those who rely on the organizations, but it also helped inspire others.
“It was a hard time for a lot of people, so it inspired others to give,” she said.
While the sun has set on Sask Masks as masks became more accessible for the public to buy, the impact the business venture had still remains.
Ham, who graduated from the U of R in December of 2020, has always had an entrepreneurial spirit and wants to create another business to help the community in a social economic or environmental way.