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INTERview






Revolutionizing Face Masks: ORÅ Brands’ CEO Talks about Nanotechnology Applications


Alvin Sun

CEO


ORA Brands

www.orabrands.com


Contact:

415-919-8942

alvin@orabrands.com


Interview conducted by:

Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor

CEOCFO Magazine


Published – May 3, 2021


CEOCFO: Mr. Sun, what is the idea behind ORA Brands?

Mr. Sun: The mission behind ORA is to create everyday ecofriendly and sustainable products. We are currently piloting with our ORA Disposable Masks, which is an innovation from the decades old design of the N95. As we have seen in the past year, there were many challenges with the supply chain, especially here in the US, that caused a shortage of quality face masks available to the general public and to front line workers.


Our mission is to create a better product that is made domestically here in the US, while also staying true to our sustainability mission of creating minimal impact with our product and our business model.


CEOCFO: Would you talk a bit about nanofiber and nanofiltration - what that is, how it works and what you have figured out at ORA that is different and better than what else might be available?    

Mr. Sun: If you look at nanofibers, the best way to really describe that from a non-technical standpoint is to think of it as a net. With nanofibers, the holes that you have in these nets are much smaller and able to catch smaller particles, increasing the filtration efficiency.


What we have developed is a way to create a nanofiber-based product that is able to catch particles down to 100 nanometers with a 99% efficiency and related to our current situation with the pandemic in 2020, that allows our mask to catch virus sized particles, whereas most of the products out in the market are more of a preventative; to prevent outgoing particles from going out from the mask wearer. This is extremely relevant in the current condition where there is danger of the Coronavirus.  


CEOCFO: What is the technology challenge in creating a mask that is so effective? Why has it been so hard to do?

Mr. Sun: There has been no real business incentive in the past to create a consumer-friendly respirator. You have industrial respirators that cover the entirety of your face however that is not something you would want to be wearing in the office for 8 hours, if you can help it. The N95 design is a decades old design was created with the intent of usage in construction, medical facilities, chemical warfare, etc. On that note, there has been no innovation or R&D to develop a better mask intended for daily usage.  


CEOCFO: Would you tell us about manufacturing in an environmentally friendly way? Why is that so important?

Mr. Sun: We are dedicated to building out a domestic critical supply infrastructure here in the US. Part of the challenge we faced last year as a country was that so much of our manufacturing has been outsourced overseas. While this may create some cost savings for larger corporations, it is not only susceptible to disruptions as we have seen with the global shutdown last year, but also this model creates a lot of greenhouse emissions for the logistics to be able to provide their products to the markets. Thereby the past year of rushing for medical products for the entire population of US, has an undoubtably negative effect on global carbon footprint. Our products not only maintain and succeed in terms of performance, it is also much more environmentally friendly to produce. The energy required to create 1 Carbon filter can create 25 Nano filters. Not to mention the saving in transportation from overseas to domestically. We benefit further from our supply chain and automation efficiencies. We also use a logistic integration that can allow us to offset the domestic shipping to our customers.


CEOCFO: There was talk about moving much of the manufacturing back to the US, particularly around anything medical, certainly masks included. Has that sustained or have people forgotten about that?

Mr. Sun: I think it has sort of come and gone. However, I think that by now there is a new re-emphasis on the importance of domestic manufacturing. As you saw with last year’s health crisis, as with a more recent incident with the Suez Canal crisis, there are many potential disruptions that will cause major ramifications in the global supply chain.


I recently read an article where many countries are re-establishing their own domestic manufacturing capability as a critical part of their economy. I think in the long run that will help in terms of growing America’s capacity to be more sustainable, more self-sufficient, and grow the economy as a whole.


CEOCFO: Would you tell us about the masks you have available today?

Mr. Sun: We are currently offering two different products lines; one is our consumer-based product that offers a cloth-based shell that houses our proprietary filters. This is really catering towards the everyday business professional. What we want to do is be able to provide the filter efficiency without sacrificing the aesthetic or the comfort of a cloth face mask. We are also actively looking to partner with other mask companies to provide our filters within their cloth products. Our second product, which we are working on building out the manufacturing capabilities for, is our single use disposable recyclable masks that uses our nanofiber material.


We have our single use disposable, which we are currently producing here in Reno, Nevada and that is something that we are working to get on supermarket shelves, and to provide to construction companies, food packaging, and eventually into medical facilities, industries that traditionally require PPE in their line of work that would be excited for innovation in the area.


Further down on our product road map, we are looking to create a consumer compostable product that is perfect for a socially conscious, eco-friendly consumer. It will allow the user to wear the mask and still be safe in most of the environments where air quality is an issue, such as the air travel or maybe an office work environment and be fully compostable after use. That ties into our research and development into biodegradable plastics and other eco-friendly material and our goal is to integrate that into our product line, the goal is to create zero waste products by the end of the year.     


CEOCFO: There is so much noise around masks today. What is your strategy to gain attention so that what you are doing stands out the way it should?

Mr. Sun: As you know, it is a very competitive market. Right now, we are looking at several different initiatives to get the message out there. We are working with distributors and companies to get into some of the big box stores, retailers. Additionally, we have some grass roots efforts through social medial to build awareness on air filtration and the technology behind the product.


We have partnered with institutions such as the USDA and the VA and we are trying to establish our partnerships to be able to provide our masks, our products to their community.    


CEOCFO: What do you understand at ORA about making masks that many of the other designers, developers and manufactures do not understand?  For example, comfort, breathability, filtration, overall effectiveness?

Mr. Sun: Our masks were designed with user comfort in mind. As we all have experienced, wearing a mask for a long period time is uncomfortable, and often irritating. We are working to minimize the discomforts of that experience through design and using better filter material.


Our mantra is to provide superior filtration while allowing people to live as they want to. That means increasing comfort so that daily tasks such as working or exercising is more natural while still providing a superior level of safety. We use nano filter material that overcomes the pressure drop limitations of traditional filtration material. Our nanofiltration solution delivers higher filtration efficacy per unit area as compared to any other conventional filtration solutions. It is 99.99% efficient in capturing particulate matter of size ranging from 100 nanometers, which includes smog particles and viral particles. This method has a longevity advantage as well as a sustainability advantage. Current N95 material uses charge and depth filtration, whereas our product uses surface filtration that will be effective despite washes and loss of electrostatic charge.


CEOCFO: Are you seeking funding, partnerships or investments as you roll out your products and services?

Mr. Sun: We are, yes. We are actively looking for funding partnerships and that will allow us to accelerate our goals greatly, largely in terms of building out these channels and as well as our research and development and new products as well.


CEOCFO: Where does price come into play? How do figure how you can make a profit, have a superior product and still be within range of what people are used to paying or will people pay more for something better?

Mr. Sun: Again, in terms of our business model, we are looking to remain competitive through automation and some of the supply chain efficiencies that will allow us to remain competitive on our pricing verse some of the other things in the market right now. We believe that people will pay a premium for a better product. For example, there is a huge price differential between the KN95 and the N95, which is both the Chinese and the American certification for filtration efficiency effectively. Therefore, we believe that we are priced to a point where we can compete aggressively with the current N95 models and we can create a better product in terms of fit and comfortability, as well as a more sustainable product.  


CEOCFO: What do you and your team bring to the table from past experience that is helping in the development of a successful product?

Mr. Sun: The founder of the company and our Chief Product Officer has a background in material science, we have been in research and development into these nanofibers for the past 5 years. When COVID came along, they saw an opportunity to implement the tech that they have been working on into a relevant product. For myself, I have been working in Real Estate and finance for the past few years and I was brought on to help run the company on an operational level and move things along in terms of the sales and marketing and public relations, the day-to-day operational activities.


CEOCFO: What does your timetable look like at ORA? What do you see in the next six months, the next year?

Mr. Sun: For the next six months, we are currently building out our pilot product production capability. We are looking to expand that by three-fold within the next year. We are hoping to establish partnerships and sales relationships with some of these big box stores and start building out our brand presence and we are hoping to use this time period to build awareness into the different products and just the different material that is out there and the different option beyond 3-Ply masks and the N95; that there are better options that just have not been properly innovated upon.


We are hoping to build out our production capabilities here in the US where we continue to develop our compostable consumer product in line with our scalability initiative and build out our presence in the domestic and the global market.

CEOCFO: There are many companies to look at who are involved with masks and involved with efforts surrounding COVID. Why pay attention to ORA? Why should ORA Brands stand out?  

Mr. Sun: We have a very unique product. We are in the forefront of using nanofibers in our product to create something better than what the current standard is. The Gold Standard of N95 is a design that had been developed in the 1970s and has not really changed since then.


We think that there is a way with modern technology and understanding of different material sciences that we can create a better product that will allow people to breathe better, be more secure and be safer when it comes to harmful particles in the environment. We feel we can create a more sustainable product that creates less harmful impact for the environment as well.


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“Our mission is to create a better product that is made domestically here in the US, while also staying true to our sustainability mission of creating minimal impact with our product and our business model.”
Alvin Sun


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