The past year has taught us all to be a little more flexible and innovative in the way we work. San Diego small business Lutema manufactured parts for projectors in the before times. But when schools closed and the country was short on masks, these childhood friends and founders stepped in to help.
Hear the story of their huge business pivot in the video interview. Or if you’re trying to low-key read this during a Zoom meeting, enjoy the transcript below (lightly edited for clarity).
Eddie Phanichkul 00:06 – Hi, I’m Eddie Phanichkul.
Amir Tafreshi 00:08 – I’m Amir Tafreshi. We are the owners of the Lutema brand at MI Technologies.
EP 00:14 – And we manufacture masks and PPE equipment.
AT 00:20 – We grew up in San Diego, California. We went to High School together, Junior High together. We were friends since software programming class. And, you know, designing class and Eddie was a designer and I was a software guy.
EP 00:38 – 2020 was a pivot year for everybody, right.
AT 00:42 – The pandemic hits. Schools are immediately shut down our business in the projection lighting industry was 80% schools. We had to pivot. You know, we decided to do our best to first of all help with the with the situation that was going on. With regards to the shortage of PPE that later on happened in March, April, May. The crazy price hikes that were coming on at the same time.
EP 01:13 – Yeah, at first, we were just sourcing masks, but then, you know, we would get junk product, you know, like stuff that would break.
AT 01:19 – Prices are ridiculous, and the quality was just not there, you know, at least not to the American standards.
EP 01:25 – We didn’t want to just bring in junk quality product. We decided manufacturing would be the way to go because we have this manufacturing infrastructure and experience, right.
AT 01:37 – That’s kind of how we decided to start making these masks with the highest quality raw materials.
EP 01:45 – There’s there’s a void in the industry, right? I mean, there’s, there’s these bigger companies like 3M manufacturing these very sterile, very plain masks that are used in hospitals. And then under, you know, FDA guidance, we produced a product that met and exceeded the standards. But we’re also fashionable and you know, multicolored and really great quality.
EP 02:11 – The testing process is very strenuous, but you know, our masks are 99.9% efficient, but we follow FDA CDC guidance for the manufacturing of our product and at the end of the day, we wanted to build a high quality premium product and I think we have.
AT 02:27 – We’re hoping that the economy comes back every everybody restaurants, everybody successful. We’re planning on, you know, our core business coming back.
EP 02:40 – We want to stay in this marketplace and manufacture for hospitals.
AT 02:44 – We do our best to make sure we fill the needs of the market. If tomorrow the market is not there, then great because that means the economy is booming and there’s no disease. Until then we’re producing top quality masks with top quality raw materials that are comfortable for everyday use for the general public.
If you liked this story, there’s so much more on Main Street Living. It airs every Monday night at 9pm on your local YurView channel – check local listings for the reruns.