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Montreal teen starts PPE business to help others

Montreal high school student sets up her own business during pandemic
An enterprising Montreal teen has come up with a way to have a summer job and help sick children. Vanessa Vassalos has opened a PPE pop up shop on Parc Avenue and as Gloria Henriquez explains, the aspiring pediatrician plans to donate a portion of her profits to the Montreal Children's Hospital.

With school officially over, many students are on the hunt for a summer job amidst the continuing coronavirus health crisis.

But one Montreal student went a bit further and created her own business — one that aims in part, to help sick children.

From Tuesday to Saturday, you can find 16-year-old Vanessa Vassalos at Essentiels COVID-19.

It’s a personal protective equipment pop-up shop located on the Mile-End’s Parc Avenue, one that the Miss Edgar’s & Miss Cramp’s School student started from scratch.

Read more: You might be wearing your mask, gloves wrong. How to use PPE properly

Vassalos says she was looking for a meaningful summer job that could also help people during the pandemic.

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“I was very, very nervous! At first, I wasn’t even sure if I should keep going with it,” Vassalos told Global News of her idea.

Vassalos says she tried enlisting some of her friends but they backed out.

“They weren’t sure if it was going to do too well, they didn’t want to risk it so it ended up being me on my own,” the teen said.

For weeks, she says she researched local suppliers that were approved by Canada’s health agency, Health Canada and then negotiated the best possible prices.

The shop sells hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, face shields and goggles, U.V. light wands, gloves and face masks, among other items.

Montreal makes masks mandatory inside
Montreal makes masks mandatory inside

She was able to set up the business with a loan from her dad that she vowed to pay back, and by getting her stock on consignment.

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“I was like wow! That’s awesome, and she’s serious,” said her mother, Annie Kostopoulos.

Vassalo’s store is set up in a family-owned locale, exactly where her grandfather started his first business when he immigrated to Canada from Greece.

“I’m very proud of her,” said Kostopoulos. “Sometimes I feel like she’s the mom and I’m the daughter, she’s very mature.”

READ MORE: Planes, salons and grocery stores: Companies that require masks in Canada

Sales — online through her website EssentielsCOVID19.com and walk-ins —are slowly picking up: Vassalos already has repeat clients.

“I was worried at first it would be kind of capitalizing on the moment, but it isn’t, it’s actually for helping everyone,” said client Jordan Gasparik who had first visited the shop on the weekend and was back on Wednesday.

“It’s basically one-stop shopping at prices that are not only competitive but cheaper than some places.”

But what clients don’t know is that Vassalos — an aspiring pediatrician — is planning to donate part of her proceeds to the Montreal Children’s Hospital.

“See? Now don’t make me cry,” said Gasparik when she heard about the initiative.

The young entrepreneur plans to keep her shop open until she has to go back to school, but she is not ruling out the idea of keeping the shop open if it continues to meet a need.

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Diving into a new alternative to PPE
Diving into a new alternative to PPE