Coronavirus hand sanitizers big business for entrepreneurs

Pop-up coronavirus supply stores selling DIY kits to prepare for potential pandemic

If people are panicking, there are opportunistic sellers that are profiting. And the coronavirus-related concern is no different as seen with the hand sanitizer shortage and price gouging some have suggested the U.S. is facing at the moment.

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However, the current outbreak that has infected more than 200 in the U.S. has created opportunities for entrepreneurship.

Adilisha Patrom, a 29-year-old Howard University graduate who primarily sells hair extensions under the brand Galaxy 5000, temporarily switched gears to peddle protective face masks, hand sanitizer and bleach bottles, according to a report from WAMU 88.5.

“I’m an entrepreneur 100 percent of the time,” Patrom told the Washington, D.C., radio station.

She set up shop over the weekend in an event space next to her hair extension store and operated a pop-up coronavirus supply store where locals could snag kits that would prepare them for a potential pandemic.

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Patrom shared that she was a face mask wearer before the new coronavirus made its way to the U.S. Her father was diagnosed with cancer in November and doctors advised her to wear them to not compromise his immune system. By the time the virus arrived stateside, Patrom said she felt motivated to help and educate others.

She told WAMU that she asked herself, “What can I do to help people in the community that may not have the resources to go online as well if stores are sold out, where can they go locally?”

The rest fell into place when she got ready to launch her pop-up store. Her already fully stocked face mask supply was joined by hand sanitizers and other cleaning products she was able to secure through her hair extension distributors.

A woman, who declined to give her name, wears a mask, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020 in New York. She works for a pharmaceutical company and said she wears the mask out of concern for the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Unlike some of the price gougers online, Patrom has been selling her products for more reasonable prices – though she admits there’s a small markup considering supply circumstances.

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“It’s not like these crazy prices we’re seeing now,” she said. “I would never charge $50 for Purell."

Instead, eight-ounce bottles of Purell are being sold for $5 at her pop-up shop while face masks range between $5 and $30. Care packages containing Lysol, travel-sized hand sanitizers, masks and gloves cost $25.

Over 2,000 miles away from Patrom’s shop in the state of Washington is Luciano, a single father who seized the opportunity to launch his own door-to-door service selling homemade hand sanitizer.

Purell Instant Hand Sanitizer 2 fl oz bottle. The Purell brand is owned by Gojo Industries.

In an interview with Seattle newspaper The Stanger, Luciano said, “I went to stock up on stuff and I noticed that hand-sanitizer is gone everywhere. I've always been a DIY person and I realized people are charging like $60 for this stuff online.”

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Cooking up his own recipe was an easy task, only requiring “80 percent rubbing alcohol, 20 percent aloe vera juice and aloe gel,” according to Luciano. He sells his bottles of hand sanitizer for $10 each and carried this in a wholesale Chobani box.

Just like Patrom, Luciano is no price gouger, but he does make a profit.

“I really don't want to price gouge. I'm charging $10. I know this is $5 more than it is in the store, but it's $50 less than it is online,” he told The Stranger.

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So far, business has been good for Luciano as he travels throughout different parts of Washington with his do-it-yourself stock in tow. In Seattle, he said, “people were scooping them up.” He’s also been to Skagit and Marysville.

“I've been moving around, trying to stay on top of it,” he told the outlet. “I sold about 60 of them yesterday. In all, I've made about $1,000. I was planning on going to Hobby Lobby and getting a bunch more bottles later today.”

Unlike other traveling vendors, Luciano hasn’t experienced issues making sales. Not even on the Washington State Ferries.

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“I'm not soliciting," he said. I'm just walking around. If someone wants one and asks, that's fine, but I'm not bothering people.”