Two young UVM alumni are among business leaders pivoting their operations to address critical medical supply shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic. Isaac Howe ’08 and Colin Jaskiewicz ’10, are co-founders of Orucase, a San Diego, California-based manufacturer of fabric cases for air transport of bicycles and other accessories. On March 22, Orucase announced beginning production on protective face masks to help bridge supply gaps.
“With our vast experience in producing sewn products, we asked ourselves what we could do to help out in these trying times. We have teamed up with our production partner in Mexico and are completely retooling our lines to meet this need,” Howe said. “We are ready to roll out both consumer-focused face masks as well as medical-grade masks to help out front-line medical workers both in the USA and Mexico.”
Orucase is prepared to ship the consumer masks immediately and in the last stages of procuring fabric for the medical masks, with the capacity of making up to 500,000 per week, Howe said. Proceeds from the sale of the consumer masks will be used to facilitate additional production of masks for medical workers and those employed in essential industries. Orucase will distribute masks consumer-direct via their website at orucase.com, as well as working directly with medical facilities and charities in the United States and Mexico.
The business partnership between Howe, a biochemistry major, and Jaskiewicz, a mechanical engineering major, began with their friendship on UVM’s cycling team, where both were standout riders and club officers. (Jaskiewicz won the collegiate national championship in road cycling in 2009.) They founded Orucase in a garage on Burlington’s South Winooski Avenue in 2012 and have since grown the business steadily, earning honors such as “Gear of the Year” from Roadbike Review for their handlebar bag named after Vermont’s iconic Smuggler’s Notch.