Nomad Goods Switches Gears to PPE Production

By Joanne A Calitri   |   April 9, 2020
Nomad Goods Switches Gears to PPE Production

Our town’s local premium consumer goods brand Nomad Goods, Inc., founded by Noah Dentzel and Brian Hahn, took on the COVID-19 urgent need of single use masks for frontline workers on March 18, and have ramped production to over a million masks per week with shipping in two to three days worldwide, utilizing their iPhone case factory as a dedicated cleanroom for production of masks.

Noah discussed with me in our interview that this is a rapid-response to a rapidly moving virus, and while there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the changing environment of COVID-19, his company’s mission remains the same: to get the most masks to frontline responders, and people in need, as quickly and efficiently as possible, “We are talking about our overnight, net-new production, meaning that these masks would not otherwise have existed, which puts more supply out there and hopefully drives the price down. If we are truly able to help, let’s give it all we’ve got and bring true value to the table.”

Here’s our interview:

Q. Asian people have been using disposable three-layer face masks, PPE masks, for years in their native countries. Was this the prompt from your suppliers in Hong Kong there to switch gears to produce and distribute masks?

A. In many Asian countries, it is indeed much more culturally commonplace to wear PPEs, in a way that still feels a bit out of place in Western countries. Recent success in some Asian countries like China and South Korea showed that PPEs were an effective tool in the fight against COVID-19. As such, and given our close relations with our Chinese suppliers and their own recent experience in battling COVID-19 through strict quarantine and PPE measures, there was an immediate connection that we could harness their manufacturing abilities to help fulfill some of the need for masks on our own shores. This is an unprecedented move for Nomad, but these are unprecedented times. We recognize there are uncertainties and that we will encounter challenges given the quick pace necessary for the best chance to make a meaningful impact. We’re driven by the call to serve, and not by profit, and we will take every measure possible to streamline the delivery of highly needed medical equipment at the lowest cost and fastest way possible while determining allocation based on medical need. We will be donating any profit to help fight against COVID-19.

Nomad’s iPhone case factory constructed into a dedicated cleanroom for the production of masks

CDC finally announced the requirement/suggested use of masks for everyone in the U.S., when did your company start this production, and where were the first masks distributed?

We began discussing the idea on the night of March 18, and we were in production a couple of days later and shipping within one week. We went from concept to shipping in under six days. Compare that to a typical product cycle of closer to six months. If we were gonna make an impact, we needed to move fast. Although the initial PPE masks are not N95 respirators, medical professionals around the world have found these effective in reducing transmission. Our goal is to provide masks to those who need them most at the lowest cost possible. We are distributing supplies on critical needs basis, according to the following priority system: Priority 1: Medical professionals, Priority 2: First responders, and Priority 3: Essential businesses and personnel who are at risk of exposure to COVID-19.

These are one-time use masks?

They are intended as one-time use masks. However, there has been such a shortage of masks in the U.S. that many people, even doctors, have been reusing one-time use masks, because they’ve found that that’s better than nothing. This has influenced our sense of urgency to make and ship masks, fast. Ours are disposable three-layer facemasks (also called isolation masks or medical procedure masks). Particulate filter is tested at >98% bacterial filtration efficiency, meeting FDA testing standards. Polypropylene non-woven fabric, melt-blown filter, nose strip.

What organizations are you donating the profit of the masks to?

Right now, we’re using any profits to reinvest in making additional masks to donate masks to frontline responders in need. The demand has been enormous and we’re doing everything we can to get the most masks to the most people as quickly as possible. There is no specific list as that also is evolving. If you know of a group in need, please reach out to us at

What is your weekly production yield and what is the limit of masks per order?

We’ve been ramping up production steadily since we began this, and our production numbers have grown from fifty thousand to already a couple million masks, and that happened fast. While we’re used to ramping production for things like an iPhone case launch, we’ve never quite seen such a huge surge in demand, which really highlights how intense the need for more masks is.

What countries are you shipping the supplies to right now?

We started off with the U.S., but we’re expanding to countries around the world that need supplies. This is certainly a global fight, and it will take a global effort of collaboration if we’re gonna have success at beating this and holding it back. We live in a connected world and we’ll have more success by collaborating.

Are you still able to ship in two to three days large quantities?

Yep. One of the areas where our team and setup is particularly strong is in international shipping and logistics. We have a warehouse in Hong Kong, and of course our home warehouse here in Santa Barbara, and we’ve shipped pretty much from everywhere to everywhere and can do it quickly, inexpensively, and effectively.

Do you forecast that the priorities in shipping will change and if yes, to where/who?

We do expect to expand more internationally as well as to areas outside of the major current epicenters like New York, Louisiana, and Washington state. COVID-19 is moving fast and we want to make sure that people in its path have the supplies they need so they can help prevent transmission and flatten the curve so our medical infrastructure is not overwhelmed.

How long does the general public have to wait to be able to order the masks?

We expect to open orders to the general public in the coming days, however, at the time of this interview, we are still shipping primarily to frontline responders.

Are you working with Direct Relief here in SB or other like organizations to distribute the masks?

Not at this moment, but the scope of our program and the partners that help us fulfill our mission of efficiently getting masks to people in need is expanding on a daily basis and we are open to any collaborations that help us help others.

Do you have a plan to distribute the masks for the local SB community? Will you prioritize school kids, elders first?

We’re actively working on this and we have already arranged for several hundred thousand masks for the Santa Barbara community.

Are you branching out to other needed supplies, like gloves, gowns…?

We are looking into a handful of other medical products which are currently in short supply and we may pursue them if we see that we can get production running quickly and cost-effectively. Just three weeks ago we wouldn’t have thought we’d be making masks, so I can only imagine where we’ll be with these initiatives three weeks from now.



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