Passion Project: 86C19 Masks for Meals

Its good to document your thoughts and achievements in life. In this post, I’ll be sharing my thoughts and story on 86C19, the World’s first (and possibly only) Masks for Meals program, a multifaceted passion project built to help.

When the pandemic realness kicked-in, in March 2020, and the government had mandatory shutdowns for all types of businesses, and many locally owned business owners had to layoff and let employees go, leaving middle working class folks (much like myself) in a real funky, unknown predicament, I knew that the strong would survive, and that there would be something I could do to help remind people to be and stay strong.

When I saw the locally owned restaurant network (a network I hold very close to my heart) suffer from Covid-19, in ways super-outside of their control, ideas were coming to me pretty easily. But the idea that we must 86 Covid-19 from our communities and lives, was very clear. As a novice domain collector, avid idea machine, and a longtime lover of the restaurant, bar and hospitality world, I thought about and registered 86C19.com. Not originally knowing what todo with the domain, I found a website 86Covid19.com (now gone) that was a national guide of locally owned restaurants, and I redirected the 86C19.com URL to them to help support.

Slowly, restaurants began their pivot to takeout, and other creative methods to help keep business operating. During this time, I heard about a couple restauranteurs doing very cool, thoughtful things to help get meals to restaurant, bar and hospitality industry workers during this funky time. Seeing restaurant to restaurant trades, and collaborations with purveyors to generate meals for the un and under-employed really inspired me, and the core idea of what 86C19 has turned into hit me like a ton-of-brinks.

This next paragraph outlines the thought process that blasted through my mind in less than a few heartbeats….I present to you, the ton-of-brinks:

“In our heavily populated city of San Jose, the Capitol of Silicon Valley, we’ve been told to wear masks in public to help slow the spread of a virus that was deviating communities across the world. Masks are not accepted by all, but some folks put up with it, some folks love it, and some downright disagree with it. Nonetheless, it’s Summer 2020 and wearing masks is gonna be a small inconvenient necessity for some, and a necessary evil for others….but still required. People in the restaurant, bar and hospitality industries (who are still working) are required to wear masks too. Guests who visit these restaurants are required to wear masks. And with everyone wearing disposable masks, the litter is outta hand, adding to landfills and negatively impacting wildlife, making reusable masks much more attractive and worth while. So we should sell masks with 86C19 on them to promote mask awareness, and help literally 86 Covid-19. AND since they are reusable, it’ll help the environment. AND with the profits, we will buy meals from locally owned restaurants, and give the meals to un and under-employed industry folks for some meal relief, and the cash to locally owned restaurant to continue operating. It’s like the circle of life….Sell Masks, Spread Mask Awareness, create Meal Relief, Support Locally Owned Restaurants, and help limit the impact on the environment…..all in one movement. 86C19.com.

When I introduced the 86C19 concept to my business partner Brian Schwab, he was instantly on board, and we began executing the program. Within less than a week, we had developed a brand, website, marketing plans, and got to work. Of course, the biggest component was finding a reliable printer to handle making the actual masks. We were very lucky to find a San Jose business, Downtown Screen Printers, who not only were able to produce the masks very quickly, and at a very high quality, but they also believed in our 86C19 movement, and donated a deep discount so that we could stack more profits to give for meals. With a supportive printer, our program was catapulted into a successful orbit logistically.

Very quickly we recognized that the 86C19 Masks for Meals program could not only benefit, the hospitality workers, but the adjacent industries, like live music, beauticians, artists, entertainers, and hoteliers, considering people go to the salon before the go to dinner, and folks go to dinner before going to a show/gallery/concert/etc….but since salons and most venues were also closed, folks in those industries needed help too. We also took on being the provider of branded masks to locally owned businesses. Restaurants would purchase the masks from us for one dollar more than our cost (that dollar would go to meals), and the restaurant would sell them to their guests for a small profit. Just another way to help generate funds for these struggling businesses. The program continued to mature and evolve.

As of today, early fall 2021, we have supported four restaurants, provided over a hundred meals, sold almost five-hundred masks, and offered meal relief to the over one-hundred-fifty local folks in need who subscribed to 86C19. 86C19 has also been recognized by the City of San Jose in their #SiliconValleyStrong initiative, picked-up by ABC local news for their Building a Better Bay Area segment, and local radio station 98.1fm The Breeze did a cool, couple minute radio spot on us. By summer 2021, restauranteurs weren’t as worried about the much needed funds (since business was building, and guests were returning) but in need of workers instead, and need for 86C19 to provide meals for out of work folks, turned into the need to continue to promote mask awareness.

Since we started 86C19, the world has been introduced to new and more deadly ‘variants’ of the virus causing the continuation of the pandemic. The basics of keeping your distance, washing your hands, and wearing a mask are still very much important, especially in the heavily populated areas and cities like ours. A reusable mask is still very smart to use, and we’re glad to see more folks using them. I’m also super stoked about the support we received from our family, friends, community, industry partners, and the media outlets that helped share our passion project with the world. Our 86C19 masks for meals movement is something I will always be proud of, and we will continue to use it as a tool (currently to promote mask awareness, and to sell reusable masks with a mission) to generate goodness until the pandemic is gone and done.