N.B. company uses sale of face shields to support World Health Organization fund

·2 min read

Bouctouche Bay Industries normally made equipment for growing oysters and components for lobster traps in the days before the pandemic.

Now the company, in Saint-Édouard-de-Kent, N.B., is a mass producer of face shields. It recently launched a new campaign to donate money to the World Health Organization's COVID-19 solidarity fund.

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on Canadian companies to help make essential equipment to fight the virus, BBI switched gears and started to make face shields as part of the protective equipment for front-line workers.

Since then, the company has sold 750,000 units across the country and in the United Kingdom.

But a criticism the company heard from its U.K. clients was the face shields weren't fashionable.

"They thought they were a little bit masculine, a little bit industrial looking," Steen Gunderson, president and CEO of BBI, said about the standard blue and orange mask.

Pierre Fournier/CBC News
Pierre Fournier/CBC News

Gunderson admits the company was in a whirlwind getting into the PPE business at the start of the pandemic and fashion was overlooked.

"We kinda got caught off guard with the perception from the high-fashion point of view," he said.

Hair salons in the U.K. asked the company to make a pink version of the face shield and Gunderson obliged. "There's no reason why we couldn't do pink," he said.

But the company saw it as a chance to make a campaign around the new pink face shield. It decided to donate a dollar from the sale of every pink face shield to WHO's fund.

"Let's do something that's quite important and make an effort to, in our own little way, help fight and see if we can get this thing beat," said Gunderson.

Money donated from Canada will go to the Canadian chapter of the fund, and the U.K. donations will go toward the U.K. chapter.

Gunderson said the campaign will continue as long as the virus is around.

Submitted/Steen Gunderson
Submitted/Steen Gunderson

The new campaign launched this month. So far, the company has made 5,000 pink shields.

"I know we're not making a massive difference," Gunderson said. "If everyone does their bit, these little gestures add up pretty quickly."

Gunderson said that once the company got through the initial wave of demand, it focused on making the face shields more comfortable.

The company is now able to produce 23,000 face shields in 24 hours. That used to be the output for a week.

Gunderson said the real heroes are the people on the front lines, but he's happy to play a small part in helping the fight against COVID-19.

"It's a really proud thing for us to be able to do."