Here's what the Nomad production scene looks like during COVID-19. | Credit: Courtesy

On a regular day, Nomad Goods typically produces rugged and minimalist phone accessories. Founded in 2012 through a Kickstarter campaign for an ultra-portable phone charger, the Santa Barbara–based company is built on out-of-the-box thinking.

After learning about the shortage of medical supplies for COVID-19 frontline responders, cofounder Noah Dentzel had a characteristically unorthodox idea: “What if we made face masks?”

The website was live by the next morning. Within six days of the announcement, the company had shipped out 50,000 masks.

In support of the COVID-19 response effort, operations at the company have been reprioritized to produce disposable three-layer face masks and KN95 respirators. The face masks are currently pending FDA approval and are priced only to cover the costs of production — in fact, they’re being sold at a loss to the company. 

The Nomad team

“One of the things that drove us to do this was seeing the reports on the news — people overselling these masks by way too much,” said Dentzel.

In response, the company has prioritized the medical community, first responders, and essential businesses for first access to supplies. Limited amounts are available for purchase from the general public. Through a partnership with Lompoc-based dental supply company DenMat, hand sanitizer is now being sold, as well.

The operation was made possible by the company’s close relationships with its Chinese suppliers, which shifted to producing face masks for the Chinese medical system during the initial COVID-19 outbreak. Having a warehouse in Hong Kong, where the outbreak was contained early, enables Nomad Goods to ship supplies anywhere in the world within two to three days.

Demand has been high, said Dentzel, with the company receiving orders from medical organizations, hospitals, clinics, and fire departments “from all over the country and internationally, as well.”

Here’s what the Nomad production scene looks like during COVID-19.

That’s forced the Nomad team to take on new responsibilities. Office managers have started invoicing. Purchasing staff have shifted from filing consumer goods orders to medical supply orders. And instead of conceptualizing next-generation iPhone cases, product team members have started researching next-generation face masks.

In some ways, the chaos of this unprecedented initiative reminds Dentzel of the company’s early start-up days. At a time when people are separated and quarantined at home, the mission has united the team under a shared cause.

“If it ends up being two more weeks, if it ends up being two more months, if it ends up being another year — as long as we can help, we’ll be helping out,” said Dentzel.Nomad Goods is currently researching the possibility of producing additional medical supplies such as gloves and thermometers. View more information about the medical supply initiative or donate here.

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