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Where are they now? The face mask startups that blossomed during Britain’s first lockdowns

The UK’s first national lockdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic gave rise to a wave of COVID mask startups hitting the market.

While many capitalised on the growing demand for this hot commodity back in 2020, in this ‘post-pandemic’ era, there’s simply not enough room for all of them.

Face mask company founder Andrea Malouf speaks on starting up a mask company during lockdown and navigating her way through a crowded market with fluctuating demand.

Just before COVID hit, Andrea had been taking fashion courses at the London College of Fashion and Chelsea College of Arts in preparation to follow her passion and pave her way in the fashion industry. Shortly after the initial COVID outbreak, she decided to turn her passion into a business designing and producing bespoke ethical masks for companies and charities.

“I had been working in post-conflict development but had only recently decided to pursue a more fulfilling and creative path. The pandemic hit and should have halted my plans, but it felt like the perfect time to dip my toes into the fashion industry by designing masks. I had no experience running my own company so so I worked with a close friend with years of experience and embarked on a steep learning curve figuring out how to start, scale and manage a business”.
Andrea soon found that despite high demand, running her own face mask business wasn’t everything she’d hoped it would be.

“I learned a lot in such a short space of time, but it never really felt like I was getting to be creative. Our clients were mainly businesses with a strong ethical focus who wanted great quality. I loved working with them, but there was virtually no creative element to it. When demand started to dwindle I started thinking about what I could do next and apply all my learning to”.
Like many other mask companies, Andrea found that demand for face masks began to slowly dwindle, but wanted to apply what she had learned to launch a brand with a mission and product she was truly passionate about.

She went on to create Paradisefold, a startup empowering women of all hair types with silk nightwear and hair care.

“I love applying my creativity, I get to focus on what I love and make a tangible difference in women’s lives. Silk hair care for women has been completely overlooked. So many women improvise wraps from pillowcases and scarves because hair wrap options aren’t good enough. They’re frumpy, tend to fall off, the dyes run and the elastic wears out quickly. Many women told us they only wear them because they have to. I love designing wraps that empower women to wear them with pride. Many of our clients care about how they look but don’t want to waste hours every week doing their hair. They want to invest in a chemical-free hair care solution and that’s why they come to us”.