Lake Zurich veteran turns idle Wheeling business into charitable face mask, shield enterprise
Faced with his Wheeling wholesale printing business drying up during the COVID-19 pandemic, Adam Frank has pivoted to selling face masks and manufacturing face shields, with plans to donate a portion of proceeds to fellow veterans.
Frank, 38, a U.S. Army veteran who lives in Lake Zurich, owns Frankenstitch, where he works alongside his father, Howard Frank.
The company bought enough material for about 150,000 face shields and so far has sold about 5,000. The shields are made with recycled plastic from a manufacturer in Illinois, he said.
"We had all the equipment capable of producing all the components, basically sitting idle," Adam Frank said. "We pretty much put everything we had to buy the raw plastic."
The company also has bought and sold more than 200,000 masks ordered in bulk from China, including basic masks and KN95 masks, Howard Frank said. The inventory Friday stood at about 85,000 face masks and 4,200 KN95 masks, with more on the way, he said.
Frank said he's committed to helping veterans. Frankenstitch has donated face masks to VFW Post 1337 in Mount Prospect, and he plans to donate some of the sale proceeds to the post's "Poppy Day" fundraiser to help veterans in need, he said.
"Adam is a very generous young man and I can tell you, he just wants to do good things," said Dutch DeGroot, service officer for the post, whose fundraiser is at gofundme.com/f/poppy-campaign-vfw-1337.
Frankenstitch started when Frank was 15 and his father, who was on a racing car team, suggested his son start making money with logo embroidery for the team and financed the purchase of embroidery machines.
His parents kept the business going while Frank served in the Army after high school, including a tour in Iraq. Father and son grew the business together over the succeeding years, switching to wholesale in 2012, Adam Frank said.
The mask and face shield enterprise meant taking a risk and investing lots of time and research, Adam Frank said. He learned about things like medical-grade nonporous closed-cell foam, and making adjustments like using polypropylene webbing material -- typically used on backpack straps -- due to a shortage of elastic, he said.
The company got a loan and several people pitched in financially, including a friend of his father and his girlfriend Baiba Kolodny, who runs the cutting machines, he said. "Everybody wanted to help," he said.
Frank is part of the #StillServing campaign by Veterans of Foreign Wars, part of the organization's national initiative to bring attention to how veterans continue to serve after their time in the military.