Multi-award winning mask maker turns to Business School for global market insights

19 March 2020
Postgraduate students collaborate with face mask startup AusAir
As demand for protective face masks grows, innovative local startup AusAir has turned to postgraduate students at the University of Sydney Business School for analysis of key international markets ahead of its product launch.

The Master of Commerce students will look at a number of foreign markets as part of a Strategy, Innovation and Entrepreneurship course and report on the local customer base, supply chain resources, cost structures, sales channels and potential business partners.

AusAir is particularly keen to break into the China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan markets where concerns over air pollution have risen significantly. However, AusAir's Isaac Honor says the company is prepared to "proactively and aggressively" market its products around the world.

"Once our global markets have been identified, we will need help to determine what our go to market strategy should be," Isaac said. "This will include segmentation, messaging and distribution channels – direct selling, selling through physical retailers or online platforms."

Brothers Isaac and Elias Honor and friend Jack Graham co-founded AusAir in 2017 while studying at the Business School. AusAir won the Business School's prestigious Genesis competition for innovative startups and promising entrepreneurs in 2018 as well as a $10 thousand Student Innovation Challenge Award.

AusAir co-founders Jack Graham, Isaac Honor and Elias Honor.

The company has recently raised nearly $700 thousand through the crowdfunding site, Kickstarter, which will be used for manufacturing and global marketing.

Unlike many masks already on the market, the AusAir mask comes in several sizes, is ergonomically design and is made from memory foam which creates a plush seal around facial contours.

The reusable masks, which feature a washable skin and botanical filters, passed preliminary P2 and KN95 testing and block over 97 percent of PM2.5 – fine particle matter often included in air quality reports.

"The market is dominated by products that focus on pure utility, but we want to allow people to express themselves while wearing a mask that's comfortable and extremely breathable," said Elias Honor.

"Our partnership with AusAid has significant benefits for the company and for our students," said Dr Maria Rumyantseva, a lecturer who teaches the Strategy, Innovation and Entrepreneurship course and has a research interest in the commercialisation of science-based, new-to-market inventions.

"We did a similar market evaluation for AusAir in 2018 and I am pleased to see the company return to us for analysis two years later."

With a unique mix of international backgrounds, our students could deliver analytically rigorous analysis of international markets combined with the first-hand knowledge of these markets.
Dr Maria Rumyantseva

"Along with domestic students, our current cohort includes students from China, India, France, Germany, Ghana, Malaysia, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam to name just a few. This is a truly valuable asset and a source of knowledge AusAir and other startups participating in this course could benefit from tremendously," Dr Rumyantseva said.

"This new AusAir project will include a high level of work-integrated learning (WIL) which is particularly important for students hoping to enter the job market with a keen understanding of the world beyond university and a good sense of how their job is integrated within a global community," she concluded.