During the early days of the pandemic, getting into the habit of wearing face masks was a difficult adjustment (or downright uncomfortable) for most people. Anela Dujsic (Morning MBA ’20) wondered how she could change that.
Anela Dujsic (Morning MBA ’20)
“Initially, I think a lot of people felt weird about wearing them. They can feel surgical, and seeing masked faces everywhere was a constant reminder of what a scary and uncertain time we were living in,” explains Dujsic.
She was genuinely touched by the thoughtfulness of her neighbours, who insisted on keeping their masks on in public — before this became a mandated practice and despite the discomfort — to protect vulnerable members of the community. Knowing that masks were quickly becoming a necessity of everyday life, she set out to make face coverings that were just as considerate as the individuals wearing them.
By drawing on her previous experience, MBA education and support from the Rotman community, she’s lived up to that promise.
In June 2020, she launched her new socially and environmentally conscious apparel brand, Considerate Goods, with a series of eye-catching masks that feel comfortable and accommodate a wide range of consumers. Today, her masks are found in high-end boutiques across Canada, and she's shipped her products to consumers across Canada, the U.S. and Europe.
“As I was getting the business off the ground, classmates and professors generously offered their time, energy and encouragement.”
—Anela Dujsic, Morning MBA ’20
Thinking like a business designer and putting her ideas out into the world
In the summer of 2020, Anela found herself with a lot of time on her hands. Shortly after graduating with from the Morning MBA program at Rotman, EILEEN FISHER — the clothing label which Dujsic worked for as an account executive — left the Canadian market, effectively eliminating her role. She took the summer to think about her next steps and to revisit an old hobby, sewing.
When public health officials started encouraging people to wear face masks in public, she designed and sewed her own. Having majored in Business Design at Rotman, she couldn’t resist thinking up ways to innovate and redesign masks so that they would fit people better.
There was certainly room for improvement: she noticed that most masks had elastic loops that hooked around the ear, which made it challenging for those who wear head coverings or were afflicted with skin irritations. Most masks came in one size, so users with larger or smaller faces often felt uncomfortable in them. More than that, she knew that clothes and accessories affected people’s moods and sense of identity, and she wanted to make masks that were fun, accessible and that inspired confidence.
Thanks to her experience working in the apparel industry and her business school training, she had the fundamentals in branding, clothing design, distribution, design thinking and marketing to get going with Considerate Goods.
“More than anything else, the Morning MBA program equipped me with the mentality to go for it and the confidence to put my ideas out there,” she explains.
Leveraging the Rotman Community
Considerate Goods quickly became a Rotman project — former classmates caught wind of what she was doing and eagerly stepped up to help her brainstorm, refine her ideas further and promote her products. A few Rotman professors placed orders for masks and connected her to people in their networks.
“The support was overwhelming,” she explains. “As I was getting the business off the ground, classmates and professors generously offered their time, energy and encouragement.”
One of her Rotman brainstormers was alumna Narjis Premjee (MBA ’19), who knew the struggles of putting on, removing and adjusting an ear loop face mask while wearing a hijab. The two discussed the idea of masks with longer, adjustable straps that could wrap around hijabs and turbans, and they spoke about featuring individuals who normally wear head coverings in Considerate Goods photography. (Premjee took her involvement a step further by modeling masks for the Considerate Goods Instagram account and website.)
“I’m glad I had the chance to contribute to such a thoughtful project that really incorporated the element of inclusion from the start,” explains Premjee. “It’s great to help businesses like Anela’s get off the ground and think about how to include minority perspectives.”
Rotman alumni were also there for some key milestones. Dujsic found it reassuring to work with a former classmate, Kevin Hanley (Morning MBA ’20), on her first corporate order.
When the organization he works for, Turvo, was considering vendors to produce 200 masks for their workforce, Hanley encouraged her to submit samples of Considerate Goods products. Her masks were a hit, and they stood out from the other samples the group had received from other accessories and apparel companies. Within days, Dujsic was working on an order for Turvo — finalizing the sizing, styles, and logo placement.
“It was my first major order, and it could have been a daunting experience, but there was a sense of relief that I was figuring out this process with someone I knew on the other side,” she says. “Because we knew each other from Rotman, I could really trust him in giving me honest feedback and he could trust that I could handle it.”
For instance, Hanley shared that customers might not appreciate why she shipped her masks with the straps loose and untied. (It might be interpreted as an oversight on her part or an extra step for customers.) Dujsic listened to the feedback and for all future orders, she started including explainer cards that made clear that this was done intentionally so that users could tie the strings to the right lengths that suited them.
Ultimately, Dujsic delivered. Now, Hanley’s colleagues are fighting within their families on who gets to wear her masks.
“I had total faith in Anela from the beginning — she had the experience and work ethic to pull it off,” he says.
These past few months are proof that Dujsic has landed on a promising idea, and she has no plans of slowing down. Going forward, she intends on branching off to make other, ethically produced, inclusive and socially responsible products. She’s thinking about what’s next, and how to get there. When it comes time to get into serious planning, she knows who to call.
“When I have time to really reflect and get thinking about the next steps for Considerate Goods, I’m definitely reaching out to my Rotman network to do some brainstorming.”
Written by Rebecca Cheung | More Student Stories »