The Ugley Mask Company founders Craig and Joanne Osborne reflect on a busy first 15 months in business
Having founded The Ugley Mask Company during the pandemic in July 2020, husband-and-wife team Craig and Joanne Osborne reflect on the last 15 months and discuss what the future holds for their business...
How has this last year been for The Ugley Mask Company?
It's been amazing and we've been extremely busy. The support we've had from customers and businesses alike has been phenomenal.
New customers are still finding us through recommendations and social media, and we have a very loyal local customer base who come back to us for a mask refresh or a new design.
We've had a lot of customers who have made the switch from disposable to reusable masks because of the environmental impact – a hot topic right now!
What makes an Ugley Mask so unique?
Our background in fashion has given us an appreciation for quality – good functional design with an aesthetic appeal.
All our prints are created in our office at home in Ugley by Craig, who also works freelance in the fashion industry and uses his knowledge to create new designs.
We realise that the market is saturated with masks now, but we always focus on providing an excellent product at a fair price and a good customer experience.
We've just designed our autumn/winter collection which will be available this month.
Can you tell us a bit more about your supplier?
We remain in a partnership with our supplier in Istanbul, who we know from our days working with fashion brands like Ted Baker and White Stuff.
It's so true that you are only as good as your supplier, so we work hard to nurture that relationship. We know they look after their employees and pay a fair wage, which is very important to us.
You are well known for great customer service, why is that so important to you?
We have both been fortunate to travel the world during our fashion careers and we've experienced both ends of the scale in customer service.
A good experience stays with you, and we always said that if we had our own business one day that a good customer experience was vital to create a lasting impression.
What have been your business highlights in the last year?
We've worked on some lovely collaborations and our partnership with the Henry Moore Foundation is a highlight for us. It's such an inspiring place and there's a fabulous team of people there.
We designed and produced bespoke masks for staff at a local gastropub and for staff and students at Arthur Findlay College in Stansted.
At the height of the pandemic, we made mask donations to Uttlesford Foodbank, to a local care home in Stansted and to staff at local schools.
We even had the opportunity to donate some masks to a hospital in Punjab. When we received a wonderful photo of the nurses in their Ugley Masks it made the world feel a lot smaller indeed!
How have your lives changed during the pandemic?
When Craig was made redundant in July 2020 that was the end of his four-hour daily commute to London. We've loved working from home, and it gives us more flexibility as a family.
Don't get me wrong though, lockdown was often very challenging! We recognise that the return to work and commuter life is tough for many, so we're grateful for our situation as it stands now.
What does the future of The Ugley Mask Company look like?
We are always thinking of how to diversify into other products. We stock some beautiful, fine gauge, cotton rich socks which have been very popular.
For now, our focus is to continue to supply masks to our customers for as long as we are needed.
We continue to expand our wholesale business and we are now stocked at fashion boutiques in Scotland and Ireland, Epping Forest gift shop and, more locally, at Folies of Stansted, Elsenham post office and the Henry Moore Foundation in Perry Green.