Three secondary school students have developed a 95 per cent particulate filtration, reusable and washable mask. Their design has been tested by the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute. Siblings Joshua, Elijah and Cianna Riley launched the multi-layered cloth mask as the Tiger Mask brand on July 3. Business Day spoke to the Rileys recently.
The project started at the beginning of the pandemic in TT, when the fear of contracting the covid19 virus caused a shortage of hand sanitizer due to panic buying. Cianna, 15, decided to make do-it-yourself sanitizer for her friends and family, to keep them safe.
Inspired by her sister’s generosity, Joshua, 19, tried his hand at designing and making a mask.
Impressed by their children’s care and quick response to the pandemic, their entrepreneurial parents, Ian and Jacqueline Riley, stepped in and decided to use the opportunity as a teachable moment. Ian, president and founder of Diamond Interiors, sought the assistance of their CEO Kurt Chatnath and other business associates to help their children create a brand and turn their ideas into a business.
“These kids got a lot of support from experts in the business,” said Chatnath.
With the support of family and friends, the siblings followed through with research on creating a superior alternative to the cloth masks being used by the public.
Their aunt, Nicole Riley, donated a sewing machine and an embroidery machine was given to them by their neighbour, Jason Farrell.
Each of the Riley children adopted a role in the business. Joshua, a QRC upper six student, became president and founder of the brand and handles the day to day running of the business. Elijah, 18, who is in lower six at Hillview College, is co-founder and director of research and development and Cianna, a form four student at Bishop Anstey High School, is the business and product developer.
“We have spent a significant amount of time teaching our children the core principles of business, and shared with them our many experiences, which we hope they can learn from,” said their father, Ian.
To ensure they were putting out a quality product for public consumption, the team said it was important to them to have the product tested. Chatnath said the teenagers, in their anxiety, wanted to get the product out quickly but their parents, in their wisdom, reminded them who they were doing this for. “It was for the safety of their family first and their fellow citizens after.”
Physicist and calibration lab manager Miguel Andrews conducted the research. He said the masks are similar to surgical masks. He said although it is not the same grade as the recommended N95, the masks are a “suitable alternative (to cloth masks) for the public.”
When asked if the masks could be used to filter Saharan dust as well, Elijah said 95 per cent of Saharan dust particles are between one and 2.5 micrometres. “Our masks were tested for filtration of particles between 10 and negative one (-1) micrometres, so based on that, our masks are able to filter Saharan dust as well.” Andrews agreed that the mask is also suitable for other activities such as carpentry and masonry, where people will come into contact with fine dust particles.
Although they are all still in secondary school, they have high hopes for their future outside of business. Elijah is aiming to attend the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to study robotic engineering. Like her brother, Cianna is also interested in attending MIT, but is not yet sure of her area of study. Joshua said he has developed a penchant for videography, but all of them would like to incorporate their individual areas of interest with entrepreneurship.
“You know in university, you have a thesis project? This experience has been like that,” said Joshua. He said his biggest take away from the project was learning to collaborate and network with others.
Elijah said before beginning this project, he would never have thought himself capable of building a brand from scratch. “Now that I’ve done this, it made me understand how realistic it is to create a product.”
Cianna said, “Sometimes you want to hurry along to the next step, but with the guidance of our parents we learned that to get the quality we wanted, we have to finish the task at hand. It’s not a race of the swiftest.”
The masks come in three styles, including an ear loop design and single and double straps to the back of the head. They are priced in US dollars at $30, $35 and $45 respectively. They said the cost of their materials, which are imported, and the quality testing done on the masks were the reasons for pricing in US.
For more information on how you can order, visit tigermask.co, call Ian Riley at 773-7288 or email email@example.com.