RALEIGH — Chris Evans, who just launched his sixth company, Aries USA, to make high-performance, high breathability face masks, said this one is different from most startups.

“Most startups with a business no one is in yet, expect the market curve to start small and go to big. This market starts big and we hope it will get smaller,” Evans said in an interview with WRAL TechWire.

Evans is probably best-known for his software startup, Accipiter, advanced biomaterials firm Tethis, and Next Century Spirits, as well as his public speaking.

Aries, which employs about ten people and outside contractors, raised $1.2 million at the beginning of the year from regional and local angel investors. Its face-covering uses a fabric engineered at North Carolina State University that provides high-level performance and breathability.

“We’re adding an electrostatic charge to a different fabric that’s only one-layer thick,” Evans explains. “It breathes like a layer of cotton but offers medical-grade protection.”

Is this for real?

When people try them, he said, “They get this look on their face — is this for real?”

Sold for $15 a box, the product is initially aimed at corporate and retail buyers who want to provide employees with comfortable protection they must wear all day.

Triangle entrepreneur launches Aries USA to manufacture breathable, high protection face coverings

“We are ramping up a manufacturing facility in Sanford that will hire based on need.” The technology just runs a different material through current manufacturing equipment, which is another advantage.

“We discovered that many companies geared up for COVID-19 and now have additional bandwidth and resources available to outsource, so we are utilizing several manufacturing facilities as well as our own to meet our demand and keep American workers employed,” Evans said.

A mask-wearing culture

“Currently all products and materials are 100% made in the US and masks are manufactured in NC and SC. We don’t release costs, but depending on order quantities, masks run $1.50 – $3.00. Each mask is designed to be worn for 5-day, or a 40-hour workweek. Masks are packaged in a pack of 5 which delivers a month of use, significantly reducing waste compared to daily disposable masks.”

Regarding mask-wearing after the pandemic, Evans predicts, “I think where we will land is as a mask-wearing culture. Some people will always wear a mask, others sometimes. We’ve gotten used to them, so why not? Don’t bring a cold home with you.”

Every new startup requires a learning curve, Evans said. “You have to learn a new vocabulary and invest in it. Every company is an opportunity to learn a whole new field and bring innovation into it.”

You have to consider things such as how you’ll be listed against the competition. Since most lists are alphabetical, a company name such as Accipiter or Aries, which begins with “A,” is an advantage.

“It takes a lot of work to get people to do things differently” when launching new products, Evans said. But the pandemic led to several changes likely to remain important even after it fades, such as teleconferencing.

“Starting a company during a pandemic was odd,” Evans notes. “It was more than a month before I met anyone face-to-face and nearly all the money we raise was from Zoom conferencing.”