This article was published on 27 July 2020
Making the call to pivot can be tough, says Georgie Northcoat of C-Prize finalist EcoTex, but you can make it work if you’re guided by sound principles.
COVID-19 has impacted so many people in so many ways, and for us on our C-Prize journey it’s played a major role in our decision to pivot our business idea.
EcoTex’s goal going into C-Prize was to develop a solution to mitigate the impact of synthetic textiles on the environment. And that hasn’t changed.
However, the solution we initially started working on was quite different to the one we’re focused on now.
Our original environmental innovation was a solution that took synthetic textile offcut waste and turned it into insulation materials for homes.
But then COVID-19 hit. Manufacturing in offshore markets, where we aimed to source textile offcut waste, virtually halted and we found it difficult making connections with the people we needed to work with on building the solution. Essentially, we couldn’t find our product-market fit.
So a week or two into lockdown we made the call to pivot – to try to solve the same problem but in a different way. And that’s how we ended up where we are today.
Our new solution to synthetic toxic waste
While many of us are aware of the growing problem of microplastics in the ocean, most people are unaware that domestic laundering – the washing we do at home – contributes 35-40% of all these emissions.
Our solution is a product to remove this synthetic textile waste – caused when the abrasive mechanical action of washing machines causes fibres to shed from clothing – from waste water systems.
To help make this happen we had a third member – Charlotte, a talented product designer – join Andre and I on the EcoTex team. From the get-go, we’ve been determined to create not just a novel solution, but a product that doesn't compromise form and aesthetics for function.
Although we’ve had this massive pivot, our C-Prize mentors have been very understanding and supportive throughout. They’ve been beside us on the journey, asking the right questions to move us forward, giving us the confidence and reassurance that they're there to help, as well as contributing contacts and ideas.
A challenge for me personally through the C-Prize challenge, however, has been learning so much practically focused business information. I’m still a university student – now doing postgraduate studies in ICT – so learning about all the steps you need to take as an entrepreneur to validate your business idea and get it ready for market has been a massive learning curve. But it’s one that I’m so grateful for.
So where to next for EcoTex?
We are now prototyping our product, while still working on developing our business model and exploring channels to market. Our next steps in the following months include looking for investment and the launch of our product in 2021.
While the massive potential consumer market is our initial target, we’re hoping the technology we’re developing is unique and scalable enough to move to commercial applications in areas such as food hygiene, or health and safety – any environment where textiles may interact with wastewater systems.
Ultimately, it’s about connecting with as many as we can to make a difference.
We’ll be sharing journey blogs from our C-Prize finalist teams in the lead up to the announcement of the 2019/20 C-Prize supreme winner.
Please note - With the recent move to place Auckland in COVID-19 Alert Level 3 and the rest of New Zealand in Alert Level 2 from 12 August, we have had to postpone the final C-Prize award evening scheduled for Friday 14 August. As the situation is still developing we are still considering how best to deliver the final judging and awards event. We will update as soon as we have more information to share.