A new UK start-up – set up amidst the Coronavirus crisis – is now selling more than 3,500 of its fashionable face coverings each week after just five weeks of trading – with demand set to soar as mandatory rules for wearing a covering come into force today.
Maskey, which has manufacturing bases in Essex and London, was behind the UK’s first mask vending machine, called Vendamask, in Chigwell, Essex, last month. The company also allows anyone to buy its face coverings directly from its website – maskey.uk
Ahead of today’s new rules that see face coverings become mandatory in England on public transport – with advice to wear them elsewhere in places such as hospitals – bosses believe demand for its £6-£15 colourful cotton cloth coverings will grow hugely.
Maskey now has 10+ vending machines in operation with 20 or more new ones expected to be installed in the next few weeks – many of those during this coming week. Three are near London tube stations, including one in a dedicated Maskey shop in Woodford, Essex.
The company’s sudden growth has given employment to people who found themselves without any due to recent economic shocks with 12 machinists making 2.5k per day of the face coverings to keep up with orders. It aims to build up to stocks of 20,000.
Founder Adam Freeman said: “We have continually scaled up our production over the past few weeks to meet increasing demand, taking on new machinists, finding more space for them to work and making more room to build up stock to meet the increasing orders that will come due to the changes in the rules.
“We have been inundated with requests from shopping centres and businesses too and all are keen to have their own vending machine installed for staff and customers.”
Maskey’s technology also allows it to personalise the face coverings with logos or names, which is proving popular among many companies. It is also now exploring making a mask that has a clear window around the mouth, to make it easier for lip-reading, for example. The inspiration for that came because Maskey’s own co-founder Russell has a brother with hearing loss.
Maskey’s fashionable face coverings come in a range of patterns and are washable. There is also a range for children aged five to 13.
The vending machines – some of which can hold up to 450 coverings – have a reader for contactless payments from cards or smartphones and are made to order then installed within days. Areas with them now include Chigwell, Loughton, Woodford, Basildon and Southend in Essex as well as Luton and Slough.
Adam added: “We’ve been stunned by how fast we have grown. The idea came about from seeing machines being used in other countries to make masks easily accessible, convenient and comfortable for people.
“We do not claim our masks have any scientific or medical benefit but as we have seen from Government, local Government and scientific recommendations, covering your face is believed to help to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and we hope by creating masks that look good, more people will feel comfortable to wear them.
“Based on conversations I am having now, I believe we will have 50 vending machines in place around the UK by the end of July. All the businesses we are speaking to want ways to keep both staff and customers safe at this difficult time. It is clear they feel that while not compulsory to wear everywhere, these face coverings offer people confidence to get back out and about in this ‘new normal’.”
Maskey’s face coverings are available to order by members of the public for individual use or by companies for their offices, workplaces, restaurants, pubs, public spaces and many more. Personalisation and branding is an extra charge.
They are made by machinists who wear a mask and gloves. They are then steamed and placed into a plastic covering. Maskey’s factory has mandatory face mask and gloves rules.
Mr Freeman is donating 10 percent from the profit of every mask sold to the charity he set up called Lenderhand (Registered Charity Number 1161794). Already during the coronavirus crisis, it has recently raised more than £40,000 to help people in need with things such as food and everyday necessities while also donating much-needed PPE supplies and food parcels to hospitals and care homes across London and Essex.