In the eye of the beholder
A simple idea turned to cash
SIX YEARS AGO a young entrepreneur who was passionate about cosmetics began an incredible journey that resulted in one of the most innovative cosmetics products ever to come out of South Africa.
A simple idea eventually developed into hi-tech disposable eye treatment pads made from a patented hydro-gel polymer. The product utilises a slow-release system that releases a powerful blend of active ingredients on to the eye area to combat five symptoms: puffiness, dark circles, redness, irritation and fine lines, in five minutes.
“I wanted to create a simple product that was also effective. I was sick and tired of using cosmetics that didn’t deliver on their promises. But to get it right, I had to go through a very long process that took several years,” says Kerryne Krause-Neufeldt, director and founder of iSlices Innovations, the holding company for the product eyeSlices.
After obtaining a BCom in Marketing from the University of Pretoria, at 22 she started a business distributing an imported oxygenated cream called PO². During her experience as distributor she discovered that the real business opportunities lay in the export market, not imports.
In 2000 Krause-Neufeldt licensed a tech transfer package from the CSIR for hi-tech eye treatment pads. But when it came to getting the product manufactured, she discovered that no one in the local cosmetics industry had the equipment or the expertise. “Being neither a scientist nor a manufacturer brought to market,” says Krause-Neufeldt. The product required further research and development, after which a working prototype had to be developed. Only at that point could manufacturing processes be developed for large-scale production.
By working with various organisations and stakeholders – which consisted of small business incubation support schemes such as egoliBio, Innovation Hub and Sasol’s Chem City as well as funding organisations like Biopad, GEP and TWIB – Krause-Neufeldt finally achieved her goal. Her product, eyeSlices, was launched on 13 October 2006.
It’s now produced in a fully kitted out manufacturing plant and sold in over 60 spas and beauty salons. The entire commercialisation process, which took this product from laboratory experiment to a branded, marketed and commercially viable beauty product, cost the company R3,3m in funding, an incredible achievement given that other companies estimated the cost of research and development at around R15m. The long list of partners and stakeholders associated with iSlices Innovations, which includes the IDC and DTI, is testament to Krause- Neufeldt’s dedication and resourcefulness in tackling this project.
Last year tions was
iSlices Innovanominated in the category The Most Promising Company in Emerging Entrepreneur Awards, part of the Department of Science and Technology’s annual Top 100 awards.
The company is set to begin exporting across the globe this month to places such as the US, Canada, Dubai, Australia, Switzerland and Germany.
“We decided to initially target spas, beauty salons and the luxury travel market and use existing distribution channels. And then after we’d built a reputation, we’d expand into the retail market,” says KrauseNeufeldt.
I didn’t realise that I wasn’t buying a ready-made product from the CSIR. Essentially, I bought a lab experiment that still needed to go through various stages before it was ready to be