Austrian Exchange Alumnus Starts a Face Mask Business

There are certain people in this world that just have that entrepreneurial spirit

Ahmet Bozkurt is one of them.

As soon as the COVID-19 pandemic started, Ahmet launched a business with his childhood friend to mass-produce face masks. 

At 24 years old, Ahmet is a current student at the Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU). We met Ahmet through his participation in the Generation Next Youth Leadership Initiative: an exchange program funded by the U.S. Embassy in Vienna to inspire a generation of Austrians committed to increasing mutual respect and tolerance for cultural differences.

When we heard about his venture, we had to talk to him to find out what inspired him, how he’s making this business work, and what his entrepreneurial plans are for the future.

Ahmet and Onur hold up their masks in front of the Austrian mountains
Together with a childhood friend from Salzburg, Ahmet (L), a 2017 #WeAreGenNext International Exchange Alumni, recently created Die Maske Österreich to address the shortage of protective masks, particularly among vulnerable populations.

Building a Face Mask Small Business

Ahmet was quick to realize that there was a shortage of face masks when he himself tried to buy one in Salzburg. 

He quickly had the idea to partner up with his childhood friend, Onur, a tailor in Salzburg. Pairing Ahmet’s business savvy with Onur’s sewing skills, they launched Die Maske Österreich (The Austrian Mask). They created and sold masks as fast as they could. They have also donated dozens of masks to local schools.

Since the launch, they have sold over 5,000 masks and have expanded their business to Germany. Ahmet has been featured in a newspaper for Vienna’s 15th district and Salzburg’s newspaper, Salzburger Nachrichten, for their success and philanthropy. They are working 16 hours a day and are constantly coming up with new ideas. 

Ahmet and Onur's mask making shop

So what motivates an entrepreneur like Ahmet?

First of all, he says the experience doesn’t feel like work. “It’s just fun. We’re working all the time, but it doesn’t feel like work,” says Ahmet. 

Ahmet and Onur’s friendship enhances their work on their face mask business rather than hinders it.  “We are very motivated. We have that relationship where we can talk openly,” says Ahmet. 


Drawing inspiration from abroad

2017 Generation Next Youth Leadership Initiative
These are the faces of Austria’s future leadership. Our team was thrilled to be a part of the leadership journey for the 20 talented, dynamic, and passionate Austrian young leaders who comprised the 2017 Generation Next Youth Leadership Initiative.

In 2017, Ahmet participated in the Generation Next Youth Leadership Initiative, which included a 16-day study tour to the United States.

Ahmet’s experience in the United States was “the best summer of his life,” says Ahmet. Especially because of his young age at the time, Ahmet says the experience had an enormous impact on him.

The study tour was an opportunity to get to understand Americans first hand. Having never visited the United States, Ahmet’s understanding of the American way of life came primarily from movies, television, and pop culture. The study tour was an opportunity to discover the diversity of cultures and ideals across the country. 

Ahmet says a significant thing he learned from his tour was the American way of thinking. He said he noticed that in the United States, “If there’s a problem, you figure out a way to fix it, no matter how hard it is…finding the light in the darkness.”


The Future Looks Bright

What comes next?

Ahmet hopes that there will be a time where his project doesn’t need to exist. His business partner is hoping to use the funds to expand his tailoring business. They are continuing to donate masks to those in need, and are seeking out big contracts to mass-produce masks. In fact, they just launched a partnership with Ahmet’s university to sell custom masks to students with the university logo. A percentage of sales will go towards a fund that benefits students who have lost their jobs or are experiencing financial stress due to COVID-19.

Mockup of a custom mask for the university of vienna

I asked Ahmet if this is inspiring any future business ideas. He said right now, he’s just focusing on this project, having fun, and creating as many masks as they can. 

Whatever Ahmet chooses to pursue after this endeavor, we’re confident that his entrepreneurial spirit and ambition will help him succeed.