At 22 Kerryne had completed a post graduate degree in marketing at the University of Pretoria. She did the popular thing of going overseas and working in London, actually in a world-renown Pret-A-Manger sandwich shop. But she didn’t just make sandwiches, she learnt how good business processes work through all the levels in an organization.
Back in SA her first taste of business success and eventually failure was as a young and enthusiastic importer and distribution agent for a Swiss cosmetics house. Sadly, like so many before her she discovered that partners are sometimes partners in name only.
Ready to have another attempt she focused on her passion, the health and wellness industry. She rightly believes in doing what you are best at and passionate about. Unfortunately she was disappointed by the available but sometimes gimmicky products that did not match their efficacy claims. However she knew that there was a gap in the market for the right eye care product, one that worked and delivered results very quickly rather than over a prolonged period. All she had to do was track it down. Then almost by luck in 2000 she discovered that SA’s own CSIR had developed and then abandoned the world’s only cryogenic polymer hydrogel technology – a dermal delivery system. Alas the technology had been shelved without the development being completed. This was a completely unexpected turn of events, what to do?
Rising to the challenge, and it was a huge one, and knowing the potential if she succeeded, she decided to negotiate an exclusive license for the technology and proceed with developing it into a marketable product. That decision was made in the knowledge that it would be costly beyond their means. Every inventor knows the feeling one gets when an idea shows real promise but also knows that sacrifices will have to be made and risks taken to follow the dream. As Kerryne said, beans on toast and late nights and clearly determination too. It was needed, this project has cost R3.3m and they still had to earn a living.
Suddenly she became a scientist out of necessity! With no prior experience, 7 years of trial and error was the only way to create the globally unique manufacturing process for this technology. But not only that, every step of the way they (Kerryne had now met her husband, an electrical engineer) had to break new ground. She became adept at raising the funds from various sources without ever giving up any equity. Having to frequently satisfy funders requirements taught her to keep records of everything and practice good corporate governance up front. She enlisted help where it could be found but it was hard to find in this new field. There were fresh challenges and expenses everywhere requiring innovative cost effective solutions. Scaling up from home lab to production was difficult considering the lack of any established facilities for this novel process. Here it was in the food processing industry rather than that of cosmetics, that she eventually discovered suitable (with modification) machinery. She had to design entirely new high quality custom “clam shell” packaging that would allow the gel to be reused, and finally after suddenly realizing that she now had a product, she had to do the bit she was most skilled at - marketing it.
At the 2006 JHB Professional Beauty Exhibition eyeSlices was launched, and sold out within 2 hours. The hoped for success had begun. Kerryne used all the tricks in the book to get the product known. She networked heavily she took advantage of every opportunity to obtain free media publicity; she gave samples to beauty salons, spas, optometrists, health shops and friends. Her Coke like mission to have eyeSlices in every fridge in the world gets closer daily. She has continued to innovate and expand the product offering. New applications in cosmetics and medical markets have since appeared. After so many years of ploughing everything back into growing the business she thinks that a return on her investment is a possibility at last.
Manufactured in their own factory, the product is now sold in numerous countries and through many channels which aptly illustrates Kerryne’s flair for her marketing skill. That same skill which allowed her to wheel and deal her way through her journey.
Article with thanks to: www.iii.org.za (Institute for Inventors & Innovators)