In the eye of the be­holder

A sim­ple idea turned to cash

Finweek English Edition - - Cover - SIZWEKAZI JEKWA

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

Ker­ryne Krause-Neufeldt

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