If your excuse for not wearing a mask out in public is you "can't find it" or "forgot it at home," not to worry. The IRIS Companies in Maidencreek Township has got you covered.
In July, IRIS released a new "face mask holder," a lanyard that can be attached to a mask then worn around the neck, ensuring a facial covering is always within arm's reach.
"It seems like easiest, simplest product ever, but it's so convenient," said Meghan Diamond, marketing director and graphic designer for The IRIS Companies. "It makes me feel more secure because I know I'm not going to lose it."
We've all been there — leaving the house without a mask out of habit or hurry, or simply misplacing it. One common, albeit imperfect, solution is hanging it from the rear view mirror in a vehicle until needed.
But what if you're at your workplace? At the beach? Have kids?
"I personally use it when I go on walks with my son," said Diamond. "I don't wear my mask, but if people are around, I can put it on.
"I have the mask holder on right now actually. I'm at my desk wearing it, so every time I leave my office or someone comes to see me, I have it."
How IRIS invented the mask holder
Diamond's anecdote about using a mask holder at the office weaves seamlessly into the story of its origin.
IRIS co-owner Dave Gehris is regarded as a friendly boss who goes around the building saying hello to each of his employees on a daily basis — doing just that in the middle of our call. But in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it's imperative everybody wear a mask when speaking.
It just so happens IRIS specializes in photo identification, credentials, badges and, most important in this case, the means to display them.
With a little ingenuity, an existing product became something else entirely.
"We were talking and sometimes I forget where I put my mask," said Diamond. "So because we custom-make lanyards all the time, we have attachment objects.
"Dave put it together and we wore them. You can't even feel you're wearing the lanyard, which is great. It's light as air."
Gehris tinkered with different models before Iris settled on the final product, both lightweight and customizable. He had the perfect test market at his fingertips, too.
"We have people here with ages ranging from in their 20s to their 70s," said Diamond. "Once we got everybody's opinions, we all kind of as a company came up with this face mask holder."
Not just for a pandemic
While everybody would like to see us go back to a time where masks are no longer a necessary part of everyday life, there's no telling when that will be.
Even after the coronavirus is tackled, though, the mask holder is still a practical item that IRIS expects to continue selling.
"I think it's going to be a great product for healthcare workers, hospitals, clinics," said Diamond. "Or education. I think schools will have face masks ready and on hand for quite some time because testing isn't as quick as it should be."
Diamond added some schools are already ordering mask holders with the school's names and colors.
The product has the potential to take off outside of Berks County, too. Owned by Gehris and Lindsay Schwegmann, The IRIS Companies produces identification solutions for everything from mom and pop shops to the Super Bowl.
"When we say identification, sometimes people think like a business card or an ID card," said Diamond. "It's way more than that.
"Pretty much any time you see a credential or lanyard, it's most likely from us. People are shocked because we're in Fleetwood."
How to get a mask holder
Potential customers can learn more about the mask holders at lanyards.com, then either call IRIS, send an email or chat online to place an order.
Mask holders are advertised at $40 for a pack of 25, $60 for a pack of 50, with bulk ordering options available. They come in one standard length, but two different sizes, over a dozen stock colors and breakaway or non-breakaway style.
Length and designs can be customized.
Since the mask holders gained traction, Diamond says phones have been ringing off the hook at IRIS.
"So many people are absent-minded with their face masks," said Diamond. "This is — I don't want to use the word lifesaver, but it's very, very convenient."