For the university's Panthers Protecting Panthers plan to work, FIU needs masks, and a lot of them.
FIU recently put out a bid for a large batch of washable cotton masks. The winner was Michael Jerome '98, who is the founder and CEO of Vu Promo, a company that specializes in promotional items.
"A friend of mine knew I was selling masks. And he said, ‘Well, why don’t you contact FIU? You’re an FIU alumnus, and I’m sure that they would welcome doing business with their alumni," Jerome said.
It was Jerome's first connection back to FIU in a while. A graduate of the College of Business, Jerome decided to attend FIU in the 90s mainly because it was close to Haiti, his home country.
"I knew that I wanted to study business. And FIU had a great business program. So I was really sold with the combination of the quality of the program and the proximity to my home," Jerome said.
After commencement, he returned to Haiti to help his brother manage their family's business, a large format printing company. But in the early 2000s, the political situation there shifted and led Jerome to leave.
"Things got pretty rocky. I decided to make a change and moved back to Miami," Jerome said.
In 2004, Jerome started the company that he continues to runs today, Vu Promo.
"We’re in the promotional products business. We brand all types of products. Hats, bags, pens. It was kind of a really great fit for us and FIU," Jerome said.
So when Jerome learned of the university's bid for masks, he submitted an application and sent out quotes and samples right away.
“We even supported them because there was a meeting that the board members were having at some point, so I offered a complimentary set of masks for the board members. We kind of worked together through the process and I think they appreciated the fact that I was very flexible," Jerome said.
About 100,000 washable cotton masks were ordered from Vu Promo. Many departments at the university requested their masks be FIU-branded, but not all 100,000 were customized.
For Jerome, reconnecting with his alma mater for business was a cool experience.
"I was really grateful for the opportunity. I think this is my first connection back to my alma mater. I graduated in 1998, so however many years after, I’m grateful to have the opportunity to provide a product from my business and it makes me really proud," Jerome said.