DURHAM: When COVID-19 hit Ontario, many small business owners were faced with not being able to continue with their normal business activity. Joyce Hancock, owner of her custom clothing design and alteration company, in north Oshawa, was no exception.
Having years of manufacturing and retail as her background, she quickly decided what items she could make which would be needed during the nation-wide shutdown. She designed a high quality 3-layer fabric mask. Aiding Ms. Hancock in the effort to start this new online business, Hancock Masks, was her nephew, Chris Heijdens from Montreal. Hancock Masks was launched in March.
“Certainly, with the initial sales we couldn’t keep up. We were three, four days behind on orders, just because we were selling hundreds of masks per day. Things slowed down a little in June, [as the] initial wave of people looking for masks had theirs, and then the warm weather [hit]. But once businesses started reopening, [and] masks [became] required,… the phone [was] ringing off the hook,” Mr. Heijdens said.
Joyce Hancock designs and makes custom clothing and accessories, specializing in creating classic, comfortable clothing that fits ‘real bodies’. She knew, at the early age of 7, she wanted to have her own business designing and making clothing and fashion accessories. She graduated from Centennial College in Fashion Merchandising, and in 1983 created women’s fashion accessories she sold to Eatons, Simpsons, Holt Renfew and many independent retailers across Canada. This moved her to set up her own factory at King & Bathurst, in the heart of the garment industry in Toronto. Having been raised on a dairy farm in north Oshawa, she moved her business back to Oshawa in 1991. Her business stayed in the fashion accessory and home décor accessories until 1999, when she became a Husqvarna Viking sewing Machine dealer. She was the Top dealer in Canada, specializing in high quality customer service, and leader in education. She closed her dealership in 2012, after the passing of her husband, and started her custom clothing design business.
“It was really switching from what was largely a service business to a direct to customer online retail business,” Mr. Heijdens said, explaining the process of transitioning the business to focusing on mask sales. “Every week was another challenge. We started by shipping masks… just [by] taking them to the post office, then printing off some of our own labels, and now having a completely automated system, where we can package and print and [ship] all in one. We’ve had to set up an online store and invest in print, digital, and social media advertising, so every week has had a new challenge,” said Mr. Heijdens.

Chris Heijdens is an entrepreneur as well, with over a decade of software development experience, specializing in product design in digital strategy, development, distribution, and sales. He has a wide breadth of experience in video game development, art and cultural sectors, legal tech, and the performing arts. He co-founded Tristan Interactive, a technology and design start-up business, catering to museums, galleries, and cultural institutions.
The ‘Hancock Masks’ offer an excellent selection of designs and prints in four sizes, featuring a choice of head elastics and ear loop elastics. Information can be found by going to hancockmasks.com. You may place an order online or call Joyce & Chris, at 905-442-8961, and have it shipped to you or readied for pick up at Joyce’s Home studio in North Oshawa.
“The masks are a triple layer mask, featuring a 100 percent cotton layer on the inside layer next to your face. We have a synthetic moisture barrier in the middle. That adds extra moisture protection in the middle. Then, on the front is going to be your designer fabric, which is also a woven cotton,” he said. “We have a contour wire in our masks that lets you mould it around your nose, so you don’t fog up your glasses.”
Customers have shown their support for Hancock Masks since the launch. “I’ve never received so many handwritten cards from customers, after they pick up their masks, thanking us for the masks and the service we’re doing,” Mr. Heijdens said.
For more information, go online to hancockmasks.com.