Thirteen-year-old Cassidy Busby isn’t going to school right now. She’s remote learning as the pandemic continues.

But Busby is still keeping busy. She’s using her time out of the classroom to run her own business, focusing on a product that helps kids who are physically at school.

“My mom had taught me from very young to be an entrepreneur,” said Busby. “And in my opinion, I think the goal in life is not to receive a paycheque and be the one who’s handing out the paycheques.”

Busby is the founder of “Bug-a-phobia,” a specialty online mask store with a focus on school safety.

The store’s main product is a colour-coded and numbered set of masks dubbed the “School Week Mask Kit.”

Each kit includes fifteen masks, enough for a single student to change their mask three times every day during the school week.

A colour-coded system is used to differentiate between the days of the week and every mask is numbered from 1-3, making it easier for students (and teachers) to keep track of mask-changes throughout the day.

Busby says she came up with the idea for the mask system while watching Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam on the news.

“She had said that children have to be changing their masks three times a day at school, and I thought, well, I know if I was at school I’d forget to do that,” said Busby.

“So I thought, maybe I can use this in a way to come up with a business plan.”

Entrepreneurship runs in Busby’s family and she hasn’t been alone in launching Bug-a-Phobia.

Busby’s mother, Carla Deroy, runs a beauty and education storefront in Winnipeg.

Deroy is keeping her daughter at home during the pandemic. But in the weeks before remote learning courses were provided, Deroy didn’t want her to not be learning at all.

So, Deroy encouraged Busby to think up a business idea and helped her work out the logistics.

“I have always taught (my daughters) that I don’t want to fish for them,” said Deroy, “I want them to be able to fish and be able to support themselves and be self-sufficient.”

Masks for adults – embroidered with catchy sayings or one-liners – are also on sale at Bug-A-Phobia. But the school safety masks are the business’s priority.

Busby and Deroy reached out to principals, school division superintendents, provincial officials and even the prime minister to market Bug-A-Phobia’s school mask system concept.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t put in an order (Busby said she did get a personalized response, which was encouraging) but, after only a few weeks in operation, Bug-A-Phobia has its first major buyer with an order for 500,000 masks.

Busby couldn’t disclose who the buyer is, since the deal isn’t entirely formalized, but she’s thrilled at the chance to get her business off the ground.

“Today in bed I woke up and then my mom was at my bedside,” said Busby. “She’s like ‘Cassidy, you won’t believe what just happened.’ So now we have a deal for 500,000 masks."

“I’m pretty excited about that.”