Originally designed to combat the effects of air pollution, these Sydney brothers’ face masks are becoming sought after as personal protection equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.
Brothers Elias and Isaac Honor and childhood friend Jack Gordon have always had a passion for business and startups, so for many years were keen to combine their skills and business acumen to launch a project together. Yet it wasn’t until the trio vacationed in China in 2017 and faced first-hand the effects of air pollution that they realised there was an opportunity to be had in the face mask industry.
Air pollution throughout the world is continuing to worsen. Research suggests that breathing polluted air is the same as smoking multiple cigarettes a day. Not surprisingly, considering the air quality issues in China, the friends noticed many Chinese nationals had taken to wearing face masks as they went about their daily business. However, most of these masks were ill-fitting or utilitarian at best and lacked design aesthetics.
The trio began a quest to create ergonomic masks, designed to fit the face perfectly using magic ear loops and memory foam to hug the facial contours. They enlisted the assistance of Sydney uni’s R&D department and began developing prototypes. The effort was two years in the making but after many prototypes and a lot of research, AusAir was born.
Once the brothers’ design was finalised and tested, the masks underwent and surpassed P2 and KN95 preliminary testing, which protects users from fine particulate matter, with their filters blocking over 97 per cent of PM2.5.
A carbon layer also provides additional protection against certain organic vapours and odours. The brother’s P2 masks are also effective at preventing contagious airborne viruses and diseases making them a perfect solution for personal protection equipment during the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, AusAir didn’t just want to create a functional and chic mask, they also wanted to explore the research that suggested fragrances could lower stress levels caused by rising air pollution – and so they developed filters infused with Australian botanicals in a range of scents.
‘There is a unique and very emotive scent when you are in the lavender fields of Tasmania or the eucalyptus forests of New South Wales, and that’s what we’ve aimed to capture. We want to allow people around the world to breathe the smells of Australia wherever they are in the world,’ says co-founder Isaac Honor.
Since developing the prototype, the team has gone from strength to strength, taking out the ‘Most Scalable Business in South East Asia’ award at Sydney University’s flagship Genesis startup competition, which saw them win $5000 in seed funding. They also took out the top prize as part of Sydney University’s Innovation week, nabbing another $10,000 in funding.
Their big break came after receiving three of four available scholarships by the Sydney School of Entrepreneurship, which allowed them to attend ‘China Start’ – an incubator in China where they pitched to JD.com – the second biggest e-commerce platform in China. At this meeting, the wunderkinds managed to negotiate a deal to launch AusAir on the site’s crowdfunding platform in 2020.
Locally, they are doing similarly well. They crowdfunded the project on Kickstarter with an initial goal to raise $20,000 for development. The mask launched in February on the site, and went viral due to Covid-19.
They initially predicted success because of the devastating bushfires at the beginning of the year, but had never imagined a global pandemic, which sent their crowdfunding page into meltdown raising $1.6 million, and an initial production run of 30,000 masks rather than the 2000 they originally planned to make.
The brothers have ramped up production with masks expected to be available in May-June.
Want more? Get the latest coronavirus news and updates straight to your inbox! Follow Kochie’s Business Builders on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Now read this