Daisy Garcia Montoya
While students adjusted to distance learning due to COVID-19, Northeast High School graduate Francisco Nuñez relocated temporarily outside the U.S. and started a mask-producing business.
Nuñez was getting ready to travel to New York City for a conference when the coronavirus outbreak began. Instead of attending, Nuñez traveled to his hometown of Uriangato, Mexico, northwest of Mexico City.
Citing that his immediate family is located in Mexico and the number of cases of COVID-19 were significantly spreading at the time, Nuñez said relocating was the best choice.
“I was looking for something to do because my brothers and I were stressing at home. I told them we should go to Mexico,” said Nuñez. “I was planning on just taking a break out there, not only from work but also from being inside the house.”
As the outbreak continued to spread in the United States and the demand for personal protection equipment (PPE) was so high, Nuñez saw an opportunity to convert local garment shops in Mexico into making masks.
“They start to say, you know, that this is going to last like a year, I’m thinking about this and I had money like I had cash on hand. So I said, you know, I’m just going to risk it and you know, do something,” said Nuñez.
Nuñez reached out to connections he had made with UN Advocate members for guidance. Then he started to check on providers, suppliers, workers, transaction and shipping rates and TSA regulations at the border to get his business started.
“And suddenly I was already doing it. I was ordering big shipments of material and paying people, so you know, providing employment for people in Mexico. As a salesman myself, I’m selling,” said Nuñez. “Material providers may come from China, and then the masks are produced and assembled in my hometown.”
Since establishing his business, Nuñez has helped bridge connections between shops in Mexico and potential clients in the United States. By helping the local shops in his hometown with finances and investments, Nuñez has created business between Mexican producers and American consumers.
Wanting to provide more than a plain mask, he decided to expand the designs available for the masks to make them more personalized, such as adding local KC sports team logos. He wanted his masks to become something people wanted to wear when they went out, instead of something they had to do for health and safety concerns.
“I’m not going to make just PPE because you know, masks are boring. I’m gonna make this fashionable so when you go to an outside event, people say ‘hey, that’s my sports team.’ I’m not only saying it’s for coronavirus, it’s for everything outside of it as well,” said Nuñez.
As his business was growing, Nuñez decided to give back to the community by donating 180 masks he personally designed to Northeast High School.
“I designed some Northeast masks because I just like the Northeast a lot. This area has been really nice to me. So I just made these masks and donated them all to the school,” said Nuñez.
Outside his business, Nuñez has shown strong academic and leadership skills. In less than a year of being a member of the Northeast community, Nuñez has been involved in JROTC, Chess Club, the UN Association of Greater Kansas City, and the KCPS Student District Advisory Committee (SDAC), a committee where student-leaders provide their feedback on what KCPS can do to better serve students.
“His mind is like a sponge. He just got a certificate with the United Nations. He has traveled around the United States, Canada, Mexico for academic purposes,” said Roberta Holt-Kipper, the food pantry manager at Northeast High School. “He’s well-involved and is at the top of his class.”
Holt-Kipper said that Nuñez was a regular volunteer at the food pantry as well as the clothes closet at the school, often offering his help during his free period or lunch. “He is a joy and overall an entrepreneurial spirit,” she said.
As for the future, Nuñez said that his main focus will remain on developing his own business expertise. Nuñez said he hopes to eventually own his own investment brokerage firm and is currently working on obtaining his investment licenses. In educational terms, he said he would like to earn his MBA from an Ivy League university or Stanford University within the next couple years.
When asked what advice he would give other students during these times, Nuñez said, “Students shouldn’t change their goals, I mean if they have a goal that they really want to happen, they shouldn’t just stop because of the pandemic. Know what you want and keep persisting on it.”