How to make money selling face masks

So it’s official. You probably want to learn how to make money selling face masks because the advice seems to have changed.

After telling the world for weeks that face masks do not protect from the virus, it appears that over 100 doctors have expressed their frustration over “official inaction” over the issue of wearing masks that are not necessarily surgical masks. Either way, the business person in me who also wants to contribute meaningfully to the well-being of others, spotted an opportunity to make money selling face masks.

I decided to write this post for the other business-minded people who also see the opportunity, but are too afraid to act because perhaps they don’t think it would be feasible. Short answer – it is, and I’ll prove it.

Is it profitable to sell face masks?

for which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?

– The Bible

So, let’s ask some questions –

How much can you sell masks for?

A quick search on Jiji.ng reveals that reusable face masks sell for between ₦200 – ₦1,000 each.

How much can you make masks for?

If ankara cloth costs ₦350 per yard (approximately 36 x 51 inches), and each mask requires 2 x 6 by 10 inches to make, then each yard of cloth would probably produce 25 – 30 masks.

This is approximately ₦30 per mask minus labour, thread and other materials – all of which we will cover in a little while.

Will people still buy masks in a month?

So, what actually inspired this post was a tweet I saw from someone I respect in the tech space:

This is no doubt a great idea, but whenever I’ve brought forward a product suggestion specific to the Nigerian market, I’ve been faced with a why-it-won’t-work response. In fact as a true Nigerian, I’m doing it now.

Nigeria search data – face masks

In the absence of a fortune-teller or app, cold hard data is our best option. According to Google, more people in Nigeria have searched for face masks since March 22 than since the beginning of the year. Can you guess why? And the dotted line at the end tells us that even more people are likely to search for face masks in the future.

From a business perspective – why is this important? Are searchers searching because they are angry about face masks and are discussing how dangerous they are for the environment? Or are they searching because they are looking to buy face masks? Given the current pandemic, it would be safe to place a bet on the latter. So, how can we give people what they are searching for and make money selling face masks?

First, let’s make them.

How to make face masks

Because I am not an expert, I am referring to the CDC (American Center for Disease Control and Prevention) for advice on this.

What you will need:

  • Sewing machine (₦24,000) or sewing kit (₦1,500)
  • Elastic for sewing (₦400)
  • 1 yard of cloth (₦350)
  • Scissors (₦200)
  • Tape (₦200)
  • Pack of sealable plastic bags – ₦1,000
  • Total capital – ₦3,650 (without sewing machine) or ₦26,150 (with sewing machine)

Step 1: Cut out two pieces of cloth, each 10 inches by 6 inches. Put one piece on top of the other – you will sew the mask like it was a single piece of cloth.

Image credit – CDC.gov

Step 2: Fold the long sides and stitch together. Then on the short side, fold the double layer of fabric over and stitch together, leaving a gap for the elastic.

Image credit – CDC.gov

Step 3: Run your elastic through the gap on each side of the mask. These will be the ear loops. You can use a large needle or a bobby pin to thread it through, then tie both ends. If you cannot find elastic, you can improvise with strings.

Image credit – CDC.gov

Step 4:  Pull on the elastic to make sure that the knots are inside the hem. Bunch the sides of the mask together and ensure that it fits the face. Then stitch the elastic in place to make sure it doesn’t slip.

Image credit – CDC.gov

Step 5: Pack masks in bags – packs of 5, for example.

How to market your masks online

Once you have created your first 30 masks, you will need to take photographs to market your product. Take photographs of you wearing the masks to show how they fit, and also take photographs of the masks in the bags to show customers what they are likely to get.

It’s time to pound the streets and advertise your masks on every online channel you can get. If your customers are there, you want your products in front of them. Share photos on your Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter, Nairaland, Jiji.ng, Konga, Jumia or even start a Youtube channel helping people stay safe during this time. Don’t pay for advertising just yet – see what feedback you get and whether there are any improvements to consider.

Pricing is up to you, but if you don’t have a sewing machine, it makes sense to price your masks in a way that reflects your labour costs. On the other hand, you will produce faster with a sewing machine and it will take a bit longer to break even. But if you’re really struggling, maybe the best strategy is not to invest in a sewing machine until you have proven that you can sell the product and there is a demand for your products?

Bear in mind that your estimated costs of production based on 30 pieces:

  • With sewing machine – ₦871 per piece
  • Without sewing machine – ₦131 per piece

Try to advertise packs of 5 at ₦5,000 including delivery within your local area and see if that works. With a high margin, you have room to negotiate discounts.

This is a great business to help you take your mind off the negative things going on in the world, while actually contributing towards a solution. You can start with less than ₦5,000 as you can see, so let me know if you are planning to try this out in the comments below!

2 Comments

  1. Treasure April 29, 2020
    • Ethan May 8, 2020

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