Lancaster student entrepreneur launches business to satisfy demand for face masks
James Eid, a first year student studying Business Management at Lancaster University Management School, began selling face masks to students on campus when the news of coronavirus in China started dominating headlines at the end of 2019.
The 19-year-old said: "I had just come out of an Entrepreneurship lecture where we were talking about the importance of working with all opportunities that present themselves, and I saw the news about coronavirus in China.
"I went online and ordered some face masks, and before I knew it, I'd sold hundreds to fellow students on campus - before it had hit the UK.
"I only made about £5 overall, but when it came to re-ordering, the prices had increased tenfold. I was really saddened by the profiteering I saw – and thought I could sell them myself without exploiting people or playing on their fears."
When lockdown was announced, James left campus and returned to his family home in north London. After struggling to buy face coverings to visit his grandmother, who suffers from Behcet's disease, James was even more determined to make his dream a reality.
With the support of family and friends, the young entrepreneur invested in specialist production machines from around the world that can produce thousands of masks each day.
His business, Signature Masks, is due to launch this month, and James is expected to employ 20 people by August.
James hopes it will help families and businesses across London and the UK get access to low cost, high-quality masks.
The entrepreneur has already made headway with local businesses, agreeing to supply a number as they look to reopen. He has also pledged to support local charities and communities with masks and is keen for any organisations in need to get in touch.
James added: "As the country looks to get back to work and school, face masks are expected play a key role in limiting the rate of infection - not just for safe travel, but to protect millions of high risk people.
"People and businesses need access to masks easily, regardless of how deep their pockets are. Signature Masks are manufactured in the UK and are produced with the highest hygiene standards which go far beyond the legal requirements.
"While we will focus on disposable face masks for civilians, we do have the ability to produce all types of medical grade surgical masks - should the need arise again. It is also very important to me that we have a ‘fair and honest’ pricing policy which opposes the price gouging seen internationally."
Despite many busy months ahead, James is determined to balance his new venture with study, planning to return to Lancaster in October to begin his second year.
"There's a lot of hard work to be done to ensure I have the right team around me but I'm confident I will manage it," James added. "When I visited Lancaster University I fell in love with the place.
"My lecturers have inspired me, more than anything, and all the LUMS staff have been so supportive - offering advice and guidance, even when it comes to topics I'm not studying! I've been fortunate enough to get private guidance on social media marketing, for example, which has been really valuable.
"I have faith in this venture and the LUMS community and experience is helping me flourish as a business-minded individual."
Prof Angus Laing, Dean of Lancaster University Management School, said: “LUMS aims to challenge its students and push their boundaries to help them fulfil their potential - and James is the epitome of the future leaders we aspire to shape.
"His passion, business sense and determination are admirable. We are delighted to be part of his journey, and look forward to seeing what the future holds.”