Home Wisconsin 2020 Staff Picks: Black-owned Rock County business offers custom masks — plus...

2020 Staff Picks: Black-owned Rock County business offers custom masks — plus matching scarves and more


We’re looking back on some bright moments in a difficult year, and asked each member of our team to name a few of their favorite stories. This is one of Robert Chappell’s.

Jennifer Franklin picked a very interesting time to start a business.

Franklin, who was born in Beloit and now lives in Evansville, has been sewing her whole life.

“I’ve been sewing, thanks to my mom, since I was about six years old,” she said in an interview Basically just been making my own outfits and outfits for friends and things like that my whole life. Just kind of got excited and decided to try and make it something official, I guess.”

She finally made it official, launching Monarch Ambition LLC in January 2020 to make custom clothing for women, men and children — two months before the economy ground to a halt due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

A couple weeks after things shut down, however, she found a new line of business.

Seeing a Facebook post about someone wanting to buy a cloth mask to help prevent coronavirus from spreading, she thought she could give that a try.

“I thought, ‘Hey, I might as well look it up and see if it’s something I could do,’” Franklin said. “Just basically went from there and started making them. Friends were definitely asking for them because they work in warehouses and things like that, that weren’t shutting down.”

Franklin found a pattern online and started offering the masks in early April. So far she’s sold about 60 around Wisconsin as well as to customers in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, New York and Missouri. 

Jennifer Franklin. Photo supplied.

Franklin said she’s also expanded the line to include matching head scarves and even skirts, to create a whole pandemic ensemble.

Franklin said she’s still continuing the main clothing business, and hopes to ramp that part back up to full strength before long.

“I’m still definitely doing clothes and orders like that,” she said. “I’m hoping definitely before prom season next year and homecoming this year I’m even hoping that we’ll be back to normal and things like that, just because those are good times of year and people always want something custom at that time.”

Until then, though, anyone in need of a custom mask — and matching scarf and skirt — can order one through Monarch Ambition’s Facebook page. A full-scale website will launch June 2. Adult masks are $10 and children’s masks are $5. Monarch Ambition only accepts Paypal or Cash App payments at this time.