There’s always a better way… which is why Toyota is proud to support Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh, the creative driving force behind Sugru.
Sugru is the new self-setting rubber for fixing, modifying and improving your stuff. Launched in 2009, over 216,000 people in 133 countries are using it to make their stuff work better.
In this short interview, Jane talks about the challenge of starting a new business, the lost art of fixing stuff, and explains why it’s important to dream big…
Q: Tell us about Sugru. What is it and how does it work?
A: Sugru is inspired by the Irish word for ‘play’. The idea behind it is to add a playful and creative approach to fixing. For previous generations it was normal to just fix things, but it’s a skill we’ve lost, as it’s relatively cheap to buy new products. Sugru behaves a bit like play-doh, you take it out of the pack, mould it and it’ll stick to almost any material or surface. You then leave it to set, and it turns into a durable rubber which remains flexible.
It’s really versatile too, we’ve seen customers repair all sorts from snowboards to boots and shoes to repairing fridges, toys and all kinds of things. The possibilities are truly endless. I set out to design the most versatile and fun repair product.
Q: Would you consider yourself an entrepreneur?
A: I’m not precious about what I’m called. I could be called an inventor, a designer, an entrepreneur…it depends. Business for me is a means to an end. We’re not here to build a business for the sake of it, we’re a business with a mission and we’re all about helping more people fix and improve things.
Q: It’s been a tough few years for business, what’s been key to your success?
A: Actually, I think it’s one of the most exciting times ever for business, I’ve seen an explosion of smaller business starting up. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a long road developing Sugru, it started back in 2003 when I was studying design at the Royal College of Art. Developing the technology took six years, partly because we were creating a whole new material. I worked closely with some amazing scientists who helped make this happen. While I was doing that, social media happened! When we were ready to launch, social media helped make it possible to get a, then, small, two person business, off the ground with our online launch. In fact, our break came when we received a 10/10 review on the Telegraph, we knew that we couldn’t ignore social media.
From day one our customer base was global. The first day we shipped out to 20 countries and today we have users in over 130 countries, over a quarter of a million people use sugru and we’ve made 2 million mini packs in our factory here in London. In fact, we manufacture right here, in the UK. This office space is also our lab.
Q: What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting their own business?
A: Dream big! The opportunities for individuals to build a business today are like never before. You must be ambitious however, start small. That’s one thing I learned quickly as I had big ambitions when I first started with a big business approach. The time it clicked for me was when I was told to take smaller steps and that is the wisdom I’d pass on.
Q: So, what’s next for Sugru?
A: We’re at a bit of a turning point. We’ve thus far built our business online and the next challenge is to get into shops…we want to get the world repairing again! Our first major retailer is B&Q here in the UK. It’s a real milestone for us. We have to make this a success and realised that training the staff at B&Q would be key. That’s where Toyota came in, lending Katie, our Retail and Export Manager a Plug-in Prius.
She went on a mission for two weeks to visit as many B&Q stores as possible around the country to train staff in the joys of Sugru. She covered around 2,000 miles, and in the space of two weeks she only spent £240 on petrol… We’ve really had fun decorating, well graffitiing, the car. The efficiency was incredible, just what we needed. She loved the built-in GPS, the hands-free so she could communicate with the team back here along with the general comfort of the car.
Retail is our next big challenge along with establishing our team in other parts of the world. Currently we’re entirely based out of the UK, and we’re looking to set up an office in the US. It’s already our largest market and it accounts for half of our revenue, even though we don’t have an office there. Our vision is that one day, similar to superglue and duct tape, there will be sugru in everybody’s kitchen drawer at home so the questions is, how do we get there?
Ever wondered what it looks like graffiting a Prius? Here’s the time-lapse video of how sugru did it!
To find out more about sugru visit their website (www.sugru.com) and discover the endless uses people are finding for this unique new material. Keep an eye out over the coming weeks because the sugru Prius will be visiting locations around London, it could be visiting your street! Keep updated by following the sugru car on their Facebook and Twitter channels.