I met Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh in her office in London Fields, where a designer turned entrepreneur told me about sugru and a journey her handy invention took her on.
sugru is a new self-setting rubber, which bonds to most materials. It can be shaped into any form, and it turns into a strong silicone rubber overnight, making it perfect for repairing household items.
Originally from Ireland, Jane first came up with an idea for sugru as a student at the Royal College of Art in London, but it took her 6 more years and 8,000 lab hours to arrive at the magic formula.
“For me being creative isn’t rewarding unless I can bring idea to life and give it to the world”, says Jane, who is now applying her creativity to running a company, coming up with new applications for sugru and finding new markets for this clearly universal product.
“We spend a lot of time discussing ideas and communicating with our customers, uploading video guides of how to make the best of sugru as well as sharing photos of pretty ingenious applications we receive from DYI enthusiasts.”
Initially Jane talked to large manufacturers and retailers about investing in sugru, but never gained any real traction. She did not despair and decided to launch her product on a small scale instead, selling it online.
“I thought, I am designer, I can create an awesome website, packaging and think about engaging early adopters. It felt manageable. I found a business partner, raised some funding and we went ahead.”
Commenting on her long journey from an idea to commercial success, Jane said : “It’s about appreciating small wins, such as a letter from a happy customer – it really makes my day. You know you are doing something useful, and it all comes together eventually.”
Jane’s product has received recognition from the TIME Magazine as one of ‘The 50 Best Inventions of 2010′ and has been dubbed the ’21st century duct tape’ by Forbes. Over 500,000 people in 150 countries are using sugru today.