2 Minneapolis companies team up to help medical community during coronavirus pandemic

Two Minneapolis companies known for their work in giving back are shifting their focus to help workers on the front lines in the medical community.

Woodchuck USA and Kind Lips are making face shields for hospitals all over the country.

"We’ve had over 2 million units on order since then," said Ben Vanden Wymelenberg, founder and CEO of Woodchuck USA.

Vanden Wymelenberg is used to making custom wood products, and for each order they plant a tree.

"Wood journals, wood flasks, corporate gifting type stuff," Vanden Wymelenberg said. "We’ve planted over 2 million trees across six different continents, and that’s really the ethos of our company."

But when they quickly realized the pandemic was creating uncertainty for business, he saw an opportunity.

"We said, ‘Hey, we can cut these shields on our lasers, and we think we can assemble them pretty quick,’" Vanden Wymelenberg said.

They’re now shipping out 200,000 units every day across the world, and they hope to triple that number in the next week or two.

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But Ben and his team at Woodchuck USA aren’t doing it alone.

"I ran into Ben from Woodchuck and he’s like, ‘Hey do you have a couple extra people? We’re going to start assembling masks. Can you help?’ And I was like, ‘Sure, no problem,’" said Joshua Newmann, founder of Kind Lips.

Newmann is the founder of Kind Lips, a lip balm company giving 20% of profits to anti-bullying organizations.

"Lip balm is a small boutique business that was really fun for me, and I enjoyed it, but this is a whole new challenge," Newmann said.

It’s a challenge both these companies are taking on, and while it’s not business as usual, they’re staying busy.

"We’re 100 times busier on a day like today than what we’d normally been," Vanden Wymelenberg said.

They’re already getting personal messages from those across the country on the front lines of this pandemic.

"They said, ‘Hey, we actually have some of your face masks. I heard you guys were doing this — I just want to say thank you so much and it’s making a difference in our hospital,’" Newman said. "In that moment, it was such a blessing."

Giving back is nothing new to these Minneapolis companies, and they’re proud to chip in once again.

"Let’s work together to make something incredible," Vanden Wymelenberg said.