Burgeoning UK mask market offers startup opportunities

With face coverings already a legal requirement in England on public transport, and in shops and supermarkets from 24 July, the face mask market is booming

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Altering the way we work, socialise, shop, and more, there’s no denying that Covid-19 has rapidly changed the world, perhaps forever. But these changes have given rise to some unique business opportunities. 

One of the most visible differences in the covid world has been the rise of mask-wearing, whether through choice or by law. So how are entrepreneurs attempting to answer this newfound need?

Vending machines

Launched during lockdown, Essex-based startup Maskey offers masks in a range of designs for adults and children, and is the first company to offer mask vending machines in the UK. 

Vendamask machines can accept contactless payments, and hold up to 450 coverings, which are washable and reusable, and made in the UK by a repurposed tailoring business.

The machines are made to order and can be installed in a number of days. And with 10% of the profits donated to a charity set up by the founder that helps provide vital supplies, Maskey’s impact goes beyond face coverings. 

Homemade masks

While face coverings are fast becoming an everyday essential item, there are concerns for the environmental impact of this additional waste. As non-washable or disposable coverings can’t be recycled, they have to go in regular rubbish bins. 

For some, this has created an opportunity to sell face masks online. For example, Etsy – the online marketplace known for its focus on vintage and artisan products – has dedicated sections for ‘handmade mask’ and ‘face mask’, with the latter having 667,381 results at the time of writing!

Many of the sellers on Etsy offer masks in a range of different colours and patterns, and they’re often described as washable or reusable. However, the Etsy page states that “Etsy sellers can’t make medical or health claims”.  

Transparent face masks

Even though disposable face masks and cloth-based face coverings are offering a quick fix for some, there is still more that can be done, especially to make face coverings more accessible. The potential solution? Transparent face masks, as reported by Wired

Being able to see a person’s mouth while they’re talking means that people with hearing loss who use lip reading can communicate more easily, as well as potentially reducing the chance of communication mistakes in general. 

Two companies that offer transparent face masks include Cliu, based in Italy, and the Leaf mask, from Redcliffe Medical Devices in the US. Both projects are being crowdfunded. 

The benefits of Cliu’s mask are three-fold. Not only is the clear mask more accessible for a range of communication requirements, it promotes sustainability through its production process and long term usage. Plus, it has a dedicated app that can inform you about the quality of breath and air, as well as local outbreaks. 

Redcliffe Medical Devices’ Leaf product is the first mask in the world to be FDA registered (the U.S Food and Drug Administration), as well as offering sterilising and ventilating features.

Understandably, there’s a great demand for face masks, and it shows no signs of slowing down. This offers entrepreneurs a chance to be creative and innovative, and provide products that help society. 

Written by:
Scarlett writes for the energy and HR sections of the site, as well as managing the Just Started profiles. Scarlett is passionate about championing equality and sustainability in business.
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