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Backpack company now making masks, keeping staff employed and helping Colorado reopen safely

Posted at 5:25 PM, May 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-04 17:26:37-04

DENVER, Colo. – Many businesses have been forced to close over the past few weeks. Topo Designs was one of them.

However, the backpack and apparel company based in Denver for the past 11 years has partially reopened and it’s back with a new focus.

“One of the things that we have done in those 11 years in Colorado is built a supply chain from the factory level to build backpacks and a lot of that is good sowing talent,” said Mark Hansen, the CEO of Topo Designs.

A few weeks ago, Hansen began pivoting the business from primarily producing backpacks to making thousands of face masks.

“When this happened both our factories began saying, ‘hey should we pivot and help you make masks?’” said Hansen. “The state reached out as well with the need that they had and so we pivoted to learn to make masks.”

Like many states, Colorado was facing a shortage of masks for essential employees and any hope of reopening was hinging on enough protective gear for anyone going outside.

So, the Colorado Mask Project was created, and Topo jumped on board, committing to make 10,000 masks for the state.

“Once we actually got the materials in and got started, we were able to make our first drop to the state in about a week,” said Hansen.

The initial batch went to first responders, and eventually underserved communities, like those who are homeless in Denver.

However, beyond the 10,000-mask commitment, Topo Designs plans to continue this project. The company will sell masks online and use part of the proceeds to donate more masks in Colorado.

“For example, after the state gets their chunk, Children’s Hospital, we are going to be donating a big group to them as well,” Hansen added.

Pivoting to making masks has kept Topo Designs’ staff employed. It’s helping to slow the spread of coronavirus in Colorado, while helping the state to speed up its reopening in a safer way.

“For me, what I am proud of is that we are helping to keep those people working, and we are also able to supply a lot of masks,” said Hansen.

Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering