Q&A: There’s no masking young entrepreneur’s success

This week we chat to young female entrepreneur Maddy Scarf. When Maddy first launched her business, Tecmask, five years ago she was ridiculed and told that the concept was never going to work here in Australia. However, sales of the unconventional patterned designer surgical masks have boomed, going from an average of 1000 products per month to more than 336,970 units in January 2020 alone across Australia and New Zealand.

ISB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for TECMASK??

MS: The idea was born after I travelled to Japan and noticed a large proportion of the population wearing plain, stark and clinical-looking face masks. It was such a surprise to me that a country known for its fashion and culture hadn’t considered making a popular item like the face mask, fashionable. This led me to engage in research and development to set out on a mission to create a product that incorporates both elements of function and fashion. It was hugely important that TECMASK offers the same (if not better) filtration benefits as well as being a more stylish piece that can be incorporated into one’s everyday attire.

ISB: What was the biggest challenge in getting the venture off the ground, and how did you overcome it?

MS: I would have to say that the biggest challenge was the initial exercise of trying to educate the market. When we launched in 2018, the Australian market wasn’t too familiar with the idea of face masks – they had preconceived perceptions about their use. However, following the bushfires and then the recent coronavirus outbreak, the use and benefits of face masks were quickly brought to the forefront of people’s minds, which made this exercise much clearer.

ISB: The bushfires and then Coronavirus have led to a massive rise in the use of face masks – how have you managed to meet the spike in demand?

MS: In satisfying these high demands, we had to be conscious about remaining loyal to our existing customers so we could implement maximum order capacity for both consumers and retailers.

While we are currently having product shortages with our classic TECMASK five-pack, we are conscious about prioritising the manufacturing of disposable masks for health care workers and those who are ill and vulnerable. Whilst we are eagerly awaiting our next production, we have created the Hygiene Pack to continue to fulfil the demand for masks. We recently have had to implement a maximum order per transaction for this product, too, to manage demand.

ISB: How do you see the business developing in the next few years, with Coronavirus hopefully behind us but awareness of face masks greatly increased?

MS: I am very optimistic about the awareness of face masks being greatly increased after the pandemic. I believe people have experienced the requirements and benefits of face masks; which will lead to an organic increased demand for face masks within the market. Although we have always been committed to educating the market on the uses and benefits of face masks, this circumstance has provided us with a greater outlet to continue to educate people, whilst allowing us to service their needs in a fashionable, fun and stylish way.

ISB: And, finally, what is the number one lesson you’ve learnt on your journey you’d share with others looking to start their own business??

MS: I think the most important thing is that you have to believe in yourself and your product first. People will then begin to see your passion, and this will organically act as a sales tool for you as you develop and expand your business. You also need to acknowledge that the journey will never be linear and you need to grow a tough skin to manage the difficult days and all the criticisms that come with owning your own business. But I think its equally important overall that you need to surround yourself with a team who are passionate about what they do; as well as believe in the brand and in you.