Skip to main content

The City Journals

Sandy woman creates mask lanyard business after her special needs programs are canceled

Feb 11, 2021 02:25PM ● By Heather Lawrence

Business owner Kelsey Fitt models the “Be Kind” mask lanyard she created for Special Needs Beads. (Photo courtesy Michele Fitt)

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

Masks can be hard to keep clean and keep track of—should you hang it on your rearview mirror? Wear it even when you’re driving alone in your car? Keep it in your backpack?

Kelsey Fitt of Sandy came up with the perfect solution—a handmade lanyard, similar to one that keeps track of reading glasses. Kelsey started making stylish lanyards for friends, and before she knew it, a business was born. 

“I saw a friend wearing one and thought to myself, I could make that. So I did,” Kelsey said.

Kelsey’s parents helped her set up a website, www.specialneedsbeads.com. Her mom helped her make some creative designs—Kelsey’s personal favorite is the University of Utah lanyard. 

“Kelsey set a goal to sell 100 units. We told her if she did that, we could go to Disneyworld. We went live selling them on our website www.specialneedsbeads.com Nov. 2, and two months later she had sold over 800 units,” said Michele Fitt, Kelsey’s mom and business partner. 

Kelsey saw the need for lanyards in some of her programs. She has Down syndrome, and many of her friends at special needs activities had a hard time remembering to wear their masks, or they would set them down and forget where they were. The lanyards made it easy to keep track of masks. 

“I make all of them myself. I string the beads and make lots of different kinds. They have necklace clips on each side. You clip it to the sides of your mask,” Kelsey explained on a Jan. 4 appearance on “Good Things Utah.” 

Michele loves that the business has focused Kelsey’s time and talents and given her purpose during the pandemic. 

“Kelsey’s 29 years old, and once she aged out of the school system, she relied on all her activities like Day Camp and the Special Olympics to keep her busy and social. People with Down syndrome are immunocompromised, so when the pandemic started, all of their programs shut down,” Michele said. 

With her activities canceled, the business has been the perfect way to stay busy. “Now that she has this business, she’s got work she enjoys. It’s been so good for her self-esteem,” Michele said. 

Kelsey wanted to help other groups whose programs were affected. She contacted some of her former teachers and asked her sister, a special education teacher, to tell her which programs needed donations. 

“She decided that a portion of all her sales would go to help special needs groups, especially some of her former teachers and schools,” Michele said. 

An alumna of Hillcrest High School, she donated money to their special needs program to buy art supplies. She also donated to Kauri Sue Hamilton School in Riverton, a school in St. George and other special needs programs.  

“Many special needs classes have field trips, but that all had to stop. So Kelsey thought that by donating money to them for art supplies, she could help their classes stay busy and keep learning,” Michele said.  

Kelsey has filled orders for her lanyards and necklaces, which are priced $10-$15, all over the country. But her favorite client is also her most famous one.  

“It’s Santa Claus!” Kelsey said. “On Christmas I left out milk and cookies for him. He ate them, and left me money and an order for a lanyard. He wanted one for Mrs. Claus!”

On Kelsey’s website, customers can choose from 30 different styles in kid or adult sizes. There are basic colors and some with more personality: Utah Jazz, Mickey Mouse, “Be Kind” and several others. They’re also on Instagram at Special Needs Beads. 

“In addition to all she has learned, they’re just a great product. They’re handy for when you’re out running errands or eating. They keep the mask clean because you don’t have to set it down and you don’t lose it.

“Kelsey loves her business and making the necklaces. She just wants everyone to be safe,” Michele said.