This post was first published on The Croydon Citizen on 21/06/2016
3D printing, and Croydon’s business community, to the rescue
Along with other business experts including councillor David Wood of Selhurst ward, I was invited to judge the competition, a head-to-head between North London and South London schools with the winners going onto represent Great Britain in the European Young Entrepreneurs competition. It was held at the head office of Hammerson, one half of the Croydon Partnership alongside Westfield, in London. It was such an impressive building, and an intimidating experience for all. The tension mounted, but for us, the winners stood out: four students with the visionary idea of a kinaesthetic mobile phone charger.
When starting a new business we all know that in order to be successful you need to have a market. Often, that means ‘solving a problem’, and these guys were most definitely doing that! Going under the name ‘Lumiere’, their idea was a power band worn as a bracelet which stores kinetic and thermal energy, which can then be used to charge mobile phones through a USB device.
What a great idea! Unfortunately, their original prototype was a rather shabby piece of plastic with a USB port sellotaped on. But, as a panel, we were very excited at the potential. The students, Hubbab Nasir, Theophilus Quashie-Apeatse, Sarah Msouhli and Davisha Callender obviously had vision, knowledge and aspirations and were hands-down winners.
They were delighted as the next stage in the competition took them to Budapest, but they desperately needed a better prototype. I had a brainwave: thanks to my job at Sussex Innovation – Croydon, I knew a tenant who specialised in rapid manufacturing. I was able to introduce the team to 3D Printing Engineering (3DPE), and they generously came to the rescue, printing a fit for purpose power band that helped the four pupils, from Norbury Manor Business and Enterprise College, St Joseph’s College, St Martin’s Academy and The Norwood School, to come runners-up with the silver award in Budapest.
Then, disaster almost struck. Due to lack of funds, the team missed out on travelling to New York to attend the Business Showcase. But Brett Rust, a co-founder of 3DPE, offered Lumiere the opportunity to exhibit with him at the Wearable Technology Show in London.
They were thrilled. “The exhibition was such an amazing opportunity for the team, because it really felt like the work we put in is paying off”, said Hubbab, now CEO of Lumiere, “we were able to meet amazing people and received a great response from passers-by. Being young, enthusiastic entrepreneurs, we recognise that opportunities such as this are unfortunately not as common as they should be. However, the exhibition gave us a great platform to display our hard work”.
I personally feel very privileged to be able to make connections like this, really making a difference to individuals. I’m delighted that I was able to play a small part in helping these local schoolchildren, and hope that this experience will spur them onto greater things.