A love story that becomes the meeting point for transparent trade in our protection against COVID
I moved to Berlin this March to get contact to the unique Startup ecosystem in Berlin and develop my own business ideas in this dynamic place. After a few weeks living in this beautiful vibrant city – the world was hit by the corona virus. Suddenly I was locked in the city of Berlin with no tourists, empty streets, closed museums, no theaters, no startup events. On the other side the pandemic gave my girlfriend and me plenty of time to discuss the possibilities for doing business in this new situation.
At the beginning of the pandemic we assumed that medical face masks and other safety material for hospital are scarce and production capacaties would by far not fit the current global demand. So we discussed importing medical face masks from China – due to business contacts my girlfriend had there. After some thinking this seemed to be a difficult path, because we would compete and cooperate with players that have much more resources than we had.
Like everybody else we followed the news and observed, how the government of Jena, counting 110’000 inhabitants, decided to introduce a duty to wear face masks. They said these can be made out of cotton and do not need to meet medical standards, even a scarf would be enough. Obviously there was a scarcity of masks, so the citizens of Jena helped each other by sewing cotton masks at home.
Here our fist business idea kicked in – why not create a marketplace, were sewers could promote their home-made cotton face mask and some part of the German face mask demand could be satisfied? We decided to develop a first website and after 3 weeks it was online. From that point, further research by my girlfriend showed, that many large textile producers in Germany were planning to launch in one or two months their own face mask collection.
Hobbyist sewers or tailor shops would probably not be able to compete economically with this new supply. Furthermore, we realized the existing sewers were expensive to reach and currently already booked out with sewing masks for their existing clients, so the interest of sewers and tailor shops for joining our platform was modest – one in three tailor shop was willing to join.
The problem we faced was not seeing what was happening so quickly inside the textile market. From this point on, we altered the business idea to the problem we faced – the lack of knowledge of the features of face masks, their price and where to buy them. We assume this is a larger market and the entry barriers are much lower than in the sewing market.
Here the new name was born – Maskenplanet.de. In our daily work we felt like being on another planet, on a maskplanet. We altered the prototype to be able to compare non-medical face masks based on several features they have. When a user made up their mind, they can click on a link to reach the webshop of the supplier and buy the mask there.
Economically, we would earn at a later stage with affiliate fees and create affiliate contracts with suppliers. At the beginning we see ourselves as a news product for our customers. Currently we are finalizing our webpage and starting promoting it with different marketing tools. The first few users of our website show, that they stay quite long on our page – which is very encouraging.
By mid of June we will decide how to continue – currently we work on important questions like can we reach customers at reasonable costs? How fast can we grow? Will producers accept our affiliate offer? Do we stay local or do we like to scale quickly?
We expect that distributing a drug or vaccine will take at least 18 months. For this period, if we can answer the questions above positively, maskenplanet might help to make the pandemic less severe, by encouraging people to buy and wear non-medical face masks. That outcome would make us proud!.
An History of
Marc Loeb, graduated business economics at the University of Zurich in 1999. He worked in several business controlling functions with Hero AG, Novartis AG and Allianz AG until he joined the local family controlled department store Loeb AG in Bern, Switzerland. There he was active in several financial and strategic functions. Currently Marc works with early startups to improve their business idea. His work on Maskenplanet.de started in April 2020.
Victoria Ivanova, graduated Diplomat the Petersburg State Transport University and MBA & Law at the University of Rostock in 2011. She worked with innovative Management Concepts and business IT decisions functions with DB AG daughter and Siemens AG daughter until she joined the building industry in Berlin, Germany.
There she was active in controlling and financial functions. She is currently the most involved collaborator in her boyfriend's project Maskenplanet.de