Who Was That Masked Man? Ewaliko Does His Pandemic Part
His small shop houses all sorts of inventions. Tucked inside a sign-less, multi-story building in Seattle, people enter through the back.
Mike Ewaliko, a shadow of his former college football self as a middle-aged man, uses this space to escape and create, to make clever machines, software, gun accessories -- a good living.
Faced with self-quarantining at home during pandemic times, the former fearsome University of Washington defensive lineman settled on a way to keep his Precision Shaper Systems business open and essential.
Ewaliko, a man who once wore sturdy facemasks, manufactures protective masks.
Customized Husky masks, Cougars masks, Range Rover masks, Jaguar masks, hospital-grade masks, straight black masks, basic cloth masks.
"People love them and send me pictures," Ewaliko said. "When people walk around with them, other people look. They're very unique."
Ewaliko, who played for Husky coaches Don James and Jim Lambright in 1991-95, first turned himself into a entrepenurial success by using equal parts ingenuity, curiosity and responsibility.
To make these masks, he conducted exhaustive research. He wore prototypes while riding 12-15 miles on an elliptical bike around Seattle's Green Lake or on a mountain bike elsewhere.
Ewaliko wanted to see how different organic materials absorbed the air and how the filters held up before settling on final concepts.
He's enlisted a military veteran who works in the same business complex as a seamstress to sew the high-end masks together.
Similar to an N95 hospital mask, Ewaliko's public offering comes with a grill, plastic inserts that help form the protective shield and prevents the cloth from touching a person's lips.
Using a "Zip the Lip" design, the masks come with zippers that enable the user to have different levels of comfort and added protection.
"You can unzip it and open it if you need more air," Ewaliko said. "In high traffic, in a Trader Joe's, you just zip it back up and go in there."
Ewaliko has produced more than 450 masks and they cost between $30 and $45. He sells them by taking orders through one of his other business ventures -- wedefendusa.com. Promotion mostly has been by word of mouth.
It's a break-even product for him. It's hard to find all of necessary the materials, especially when making the college-themed masks. He does it to help combat the ongoing pandemic and also keep his shop open.
"We're not in business to make masks," Ewaliko said. "We make machines and software. Right now, we're just trying to help people and get masks out there."
While he was a prominent UW player -- he played a big role in the Huskies ending Miami's 58-game home winning streak -- his masks don't exactly follow school parameters.
"We usually sell 10 WSU masks to every four for the UW," an amused Ewaliko said. "It's really weird."