This is one of my favourite ever videos talks from a creative entrepreneur. Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh is quirky, funny and completely passionate about bringing her product idea to life. She even went to the length of learning chemistry for a couple of years in order to create Sugru. Sugru is a silicone material that feels like play-doh that dries like rubber. You can use it to fix and adapt stuff.
Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh grew up on a farm where fixing things was an everyday part of life. She went to college to study product design. Then quickly realised that she didn’t like new things, so didn’t want to design new products.
Experiments with materials
After randomly experimenting with materials she came up with a combination of wood shavings and silicone. She then desperately tried to find a way she could make it into a product. Although she had been using it to fix things around the house, it didn’t occur to her that could be its commercial purpose. Her boyfriend had to point it out to her.
Developing the idea
After college, she tried to find people who could help make her idea happened. She met her co-founder introduced her to scientists who could help make the material. A grant was used for the first laboratory experiments. The experiments taught her nothing so she got the silicone scientist to teach her chemistry.
While she was experimenting her family and friends continued to use the material. She imagined that the product would be taken on by a big glue company. Unfortunately, that business model idea didn’t work and her funding ran out. Over a cup tea, a friend gave her a piece of advice “start small and make it good.”
A change of business model
She took her friend’s advice and began pitching the product differently to investors. This gained her funding. They came up with the name Sugru, the Irish name for play, and a strap line “hack things better”. Then they went and demoed the product at festivals. They sent the product out to bloggers. One influential blogger gave a 10/10 review which made things go mad. They sold 1000 packs which had taken them months to make in a cottage industry style.
After the first packs sold they started to get images in of how people have used the product. Since then they have grown using word of mouth.
She shows some of the amazing things that customers have done with her product.
At the time of the video, the company had grown to about 35 people.