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What the CEO of Specialized Bicycle had to do get a million masks

  • Mike Sinyard, CEO of Specialized Bicycle, one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of high-end bicycles, is paying for 1 million masks to be manufactured out of his own pocket.
  • But, he tells Business Insider, what he thought would be an easy task turned into an almost impossible one between regulations preventing countries from exporting masks and price-gouging.
  • So far, he’s obtained 40,000 masks, and he finally found a contract manufacturer to make the rest, which will be delivered within a few months.
  • Sinyard says its become the responsibility of business leaders to take on a social role, especially when government efforts are falling short, and people’s lives are at stake.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

It was the pictures of nurses coming to work wearing trash bags for protection against COVID-19 that riled up Mike Sinyard into doing something. 

Sinyard is founder and CEO of Specialized Bicycle, one of the world’s largest high-end bicycle manufacturers. Its bikes can be seen all over the roads and trails among those who are willing to spend big bucks on their sport. The flagship S-Works bike frequently graces the podiums at mountain biking world cups and pro WorldTour races.

The private company, with an estimated $500 million in sales back in 2011 — the most recently published data — was founded by Sinyard in 1976 in the sleepy little town of Morgan Hill, California, the southern outpost of Silicon Valley. It now employs about 600 people worldwide, including the impacts from a layoff of 46 people (about 7% of its workforce) last week, mostly in Europe, where COVID-19 has been raging in bike-loving places like Italy. As part of that layoff, Sinyard is forgoing his salary and his top management is taking pay cuts, reports Bicycle Retailer’s Marc Sani.

About a month ago, Sinyard heard the tales of hospital staff struggling to get enough protective gear and vowed to do something.

He looked to his own network of Asian manufacturers that produce all sorts of products for his company, from complicated bike parts to clothing. 

“Initially, we were stunned at the significance of this. We have a lot of colleagues in Europe and Italy,” he said. After reading the story of the nurses wearing trash bags. “All the sudden I became obsessed with this thing.”

At first, he thought his team could manufacturer face shields, as they love engineering and building stuff, he said. But then he realized that spinning that up would take too long. The immediate need was (and still is) professionally manufactured face masks, both N95 and surgical masks.

So he vowed to buy 1 million face masks and have them imported to the US. He also needed to procure masks to protect his employees. Bike shops are essential businesses in the US and have remained open.

“So I thought, ‘Oh this easy. No problem,'” he says.  But it wasn’t. With the whole world trying to buy masks, Sinyard ran into one road block after another. “Asia, Oh my