July 17, 2020
Rising sophomore Hart Bridges decided out of boredom and necessity to make his own reusable masks when he went home to Gaffney, South Carolina, after the COVID-19 pandemic moved UofSC classes online in March.
The accounting student worked for his hometown movie theater the summer before he came to South Carolina, but they were closed because of the pandemic. Hart Bridges had been watching TV and kept seeing all of the news broadcasts about the mask and other personal protective equipment shortages, so he decided to take his savings and create his own mask supply company, which he later named Rosleck Safety.
“Once my dad, Stacey Bridges, helped me determine the right mask and manufacturer, I had to create an online store and website so that people could purchase the product,” Hart Bridges said. “I wanted the website to be easy to use. I realized most of my customers were elderly and needed a simple way to purchase masks. I put many hours into the company and before I knew it, I had established a stable supply chain and created my own online store.”
Stacey Bridges, who works for Carolina Cotton Works in Gaffney, South Carolina, helped connect his son to manufacturers; his own business was able to help produce some of the masks. Hart Bridges sold all of his original mask order on the first day he opened his website.
Local news stations later featured stories about Rosleck Safety after Hart Bridges sold more than 10,000 masks in his first few weeks.
Owning his own company as a freshman in college has already taught Hart Bridges some valuable lessons.
“I learned in business that you get out what you put in,” he said. “It's easy to get discouraged when running a business, but I kept working at what I wanted to accomplish.”
Hart Bridges said he has always wanted to be an entrepreneur and own his own company someday, so that’s one of the reasons he chose to attend the Moore School.
“The atmosphere at the Darla Moore School of Business fosters creative ideas and the pursuance of those ideas,” Hart Bridges said. “I had hopes of starting my own business one day, and the longer I stayed at the Moore School, the more attainable this seemed. The classes and teachers are so professional, and the course content is applicable to real business transactions. I remember seeing the principles of accounting I learned in [my freshman course] come to life when I balanced my books [for Rosleck Safety].”
Hart Bridges said manufacturers and other industry executives initially did not take him seriously because he was so young, but he said his professionalism and dedication to building his new company won them over.
While he’s already sold thousands of masks, he’s also donated more than 500 masks to Cherokee Medical Center and the Gaffney Police Department.
Hart Bridges began Rosleck Safety selling premium cotton masks, KN95 masks and custom printed masks, but he has switched to only offering bulk orders.
“I want Rosleck Safety's future to be solely dependent on large orders,” Hart Bridges said. “I have got my inventory right where it needs to be to process large orders for businesses, hospitals and churches. With rising cases and no sign of an incoming vaccine, the need for masks isn't going anywhere.”
Hart Bridges plans to run his company remotely when he returns to the UofSC campus for his sophomore year in August.