East Bay entrepreneur shifts business to PPE manufacturing, donates thousands of face shields

It’s been a hectic but rewarding last couple of months for Arash Malek. On March 1st, Malek got back from a trip to Italy and one week later the country went into lockdown. He saw the coronavirus pandemic unfold right before his eyes, “It was like watching a tsunami hit shore in a way,” he said.

His trip oversees meant Malek had to start his coronavirus quarantine once he got back to America, so he’s had a lot of time to think and worry about how the virus is affecting the country.

“One thing that really got me was when I saw pictures of nurses crying and scared for their lives to go to work,” said Malek.

After talking to his mentor, the East Bay entrepreneur knew there was a demand for personal protective equipment and wanted to do something about it. He started by making face masks, but quickly realized he could go one step further.

Malek’s company, Scent Wedge, makes air fresheners for Tesla, but he decided to temporarily change the focus. With the same laser cutter he uses for his products, a rubber band, transparency sheet and acrylic plastic, Malek is now making face shields for health care workers at no cost to them.

“If more people on the front line are fearing for their lives and don’t have the proper equipment necessary to do what they need to do then collectively we’re all screwed,” he said.

He’s been at it for nearly 30 days and has donated more than 5,000 shields all across the country and to hospital staff right here in the Bay Area, “I immediately brought it to my work and tested it out,” said Carlo Montenegro, a respiratory therapist in the North Bay.

Montenegro helped Malek fine tune the design of the shield to make sure it’s effective and comfortable. He then shared the shields with his coworkers, “They’re very grateful someone went out of their way to make it and give it to us for free,” said Montenegro.

Malek started this project with his own money but donations have helped. He says giving back to even one person makes this worth it, “That’s the kind of the thing that’s getting me through quarantine too, going from being helpless to having a significant purpose,” he said.

Malek has repurposed his company’s website to take donations and requests for shields. If you want to help go to www.ScentWedge.com.