As the days get shorter, the weather more frigid and the pandemic worsens, Sami Densky, 11, finds herself wondering how to stay occupied during the long winter months.
While many of her peers will spend countless hours on FaceTime, TikTok and other social media, Sami, who lives in Pikesville, wants to do something more. That’s one of the many reasons she created her own business selling customized face mask chains.
“Everyone is wearing masks now,” Sami says. “At first, I was going to make bracelets or stickers, but felt people would buy mask chains because they are more helpful than a lot of other things during this time. I started by making one to make sure I liked it, and realized I loved making them and wanted to start selling them. I set up an Instagram account and went from there.”
A Fort Garrison Elementary School fifth grader who belongs to Chizuk Amuno Congregation, Sami set up the entire business on her own, from the Instagram promotion to the company’s nifty name, Sparkles and Stars.
“I came up with that name because if I ever want to change my business, I won’t have to change the name,” she says. “I plan to continue down this entrepreneur path.”
The beaded mask chains cost $9 for one or $16 for two and are all made-to-order, with customers having the option to choose their own colors and styles. Many bear the customer’s name on them, making it easier to keep track of their masks.
Since starting the company in October, Sami, the eldest of two daughters, says she has made and sold more than 100 mask chains, opting to donate some of her proceeds to charities.
“I bought more than 30 winter coats with the money I made and went to the ShareBaby warehouse to donate them,” she says, referring to the nonprofit that provides diapers, clothing and other items to Baltimore’s most vulnerable children. “I chose ShareBaby as the organization I wanted to support because I wanted to help little kids. It’s cold outside, and they could get sick if they don’t have coats.”
Within four days of Sami bringing the coats to their warehouse, ShareBaby placed them in the hands of those who desperately needed them.
“I got to help kids who don’t have as much as me and who really needed winter coats,” she says. “It felt really good to see my hard work pay off for something really nice. I have friends who are thanking me for giving back, and many repeat customers who want to support a good cause.”
Prior to deciding what to do with her money, Sami and her parents, Alissa and Lee Densky, discussed what people in the greater Baltimore community need at this time and how she could help.
“What we learned through our research was that schools provide relief for a lot of children in need,” says Alissa. “With schools being virtual, the need at ShareBaby is so much bigger this year because they are helping fulfill items city schools would typically take care of in years past.”
Alissa says she has tried to find creative and inventive ways for Sami to connect with her friends during the pandemic. She says selling mask chains has given her daughter the opportunity to see some people outside at a safe distance, while also teaching her about social justice and civic responsibility.
“This gives Sami the chance to think about things in a different perspective,” she says. “She is able to see that life is bigger than her immediate circles, and she is learning about business. I’m always trying to teach her new things, and during a pandemic, we are teaching about giving back in a hands-on way that’s meaningful for an 11-year-old.”
While Sami started with ShareBaby, she says she wants to donate to other nonprofits in the community that are struggling as a result of the pandemic.
“I want to choose other charities that will help people quickly, especially as the season changes and it gets colder,” says Sami, who is also working with the Baltimore Hunger Project on its winter gear drive, #OperationWarm. “I want to be able to help people who need extra help this winter and because of COVID-19. I also want to remind everyone how important it is to wear a mask, and how pretty — but also functional — a mask chain is.”
To order or view the mask chain designs, go to Sami Densky’s Instagram page, which is @sparkles_n_stars, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.