A new cosmetic product called iSlices is to be launched on the SA market next month. It's the result of scientific research and four years of perseverance, rewarded with government funding and small business support.
iSlices are hi-tech disposable pads that release active ingredients into the area around the eye to relieve tired eyes and combat puffiness, dark circles and signs of ageing.
The basis of the product is a hydrogel polymer which was developed and patented within the CSIR's Manufacturing & Materials Technology division. It was licensed to an energetic entrepreneur, Kerryne Krause-Neufeldt, in 2001.
It had been developed as a sideline - the CSIR was developing burn gels at the time - and had been patented but was not being commercialised.
Krause-Neufeldt began the process by hiring a formulation expert, Aubrey Parsons, to develop the active ingredient formulation. Ingredients in the formulation include aloe vera and collagen, which penetrate the skin around the eye. They are combined with the polymer technology in the manufacturing process.
To take the product to the next level, Krause-Neufeldt had to pioneer a manufacturing process. "Scaling up production from a laboratory to mass production was incredibly difficult, " she says. " I thought I would simply outsource the process to a manufacturer."
Instead she had to find one willing and able to experiment with a complex manufacturing process. Together they have refined the process, which involves high-temperature "cooking" and then repeated freezing and thawing. This meant new tooling and packaging had to be developed.
Krause-Neufeldt is the sole shareholder in iSlices Innovations. Her previous business was ruined by a poor choice of partner and too-liberal allocation of equity, she says. This time she was determined to survive alone. It made commercialisation more difficult, of course.
Without ready capital, she worked in another job for three years while putting the structures in place.
But along the way she had some luck, or, as she sees it, divine intervention.
The CSIR, without prompting, sourced funding for iSlices from a department of trade & industry fund that aims to advance women in business, particularly in areas related to science and technology.
This funded the first 50 000 product prototypes and the design of the mould for the packaging.
Additional funding came from Gaumac, the Gauteng government-sponsored fund to help small manufacturing companies. This came as a surprise as its focus is on businesses with a track record. "This financed a full-scale market research report into the state of the market, competing products and customer wants," says Krause-Neufeldt.
The product is to be launched on the SA Export Council stand at the Professional Beauty exhibition at Gallagher Estate next month.
Already, an airline is interested in including iSlices in its amenity kits for its business- and first-class passengers.