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Four of the most interesting concepts – be that in the form of innovative ideas or challenging product development issues – were given five minutes to pitch their business to a panel of experts, with the chance to walk away with the prize.
The competition was won by Dot One, who impressed both the judges and the audience with their DNA personalised design start-up using a customer’s genetic code to create truly unique textile products.
Here we follow up with the founder of Dot One, Iona Inglesby to find out more about her winning project.
For the benefit of those not lucky enough to see you take part in the Meet the Manufacturer Designer’s Den, can you give us a brief overview of Dot One and what you do?
Dot One is a DNA personalised design start-up which uses a customer’s genetic code to create truly unique print and fashion pieces.
You are 99.9% genetically identical to every other human, Dot One analyses part of the 0.1% of the DNA which make you, you. Using an algorithm your raw data is translated into a coloured visual unique to you, but also shows you how relate to or differ from others.
The DNA test is a simple cheek swab, profiled by AlphaBiolabs, a British company at the forefront of genetic testing. This test can identify an individual from the other 7.4 billion people on earth!
Launching in December 2015, the aim was to take genetics out of the lab and into the public sphere in a fun and informative way; by harnessing innovation in science and technology and combining it with the British craft industry.
All of our textiles are handwoven from 100% lambs wool by UK craft wizard Helen Foot Design, and printed products produced locally in Hackney.
Which came first your interest in DNA or your passion for design? And what drove you to combine the two?
I was interested in science and data from an early age – my parents come from medical backgrounds and I always wanted to be a doctor myself. As I grew up I started getting more into the creative side of things and ended up studying design, but my projects were usually based around a scientific phenomena or data communication in some way.
Whilst in the final year of my master’s I took part in a synthetic biology workshop at Imperial and that’s where I started to become really obsessed with genetics. I knew that I wanted to do something which combined these two loves and so I set up Dot One.
The Designer’s Den was a great event – I used to be really fearful of public speaking but now I enjoy it and so I found the day really fun.
I am confident about speaking about Dot One but I wasn’t sure how it would be received by the audience, talking about genetics doesn’t always sit well with people, but it’s great validation to get the public engaged and interested.
The panel seemed quite steely during the pitch and I was a little nervous of their questions but it was a good experience to be put on the spot a bit!
Tell us a little bit about how you started the business and the biggest challenges you have faced so far?
The idea for Dot One started during my Master’s where I was working to ‘innovate the traditional processes’ in a project with a Scottish weaving factory where I created my family’s own ‘DNA Tartan’. After this I went to work for a year as a designer for another genetic/tech start-up and started learning more in-depth about the science and also about the challenges of changing public perception of DNA testing. During this time I was being asked by friends to create their own DNA textiles and I realised that there was a potential business there so I launched Dot One.
As a designer I was fortunate as I had a lot of the skills (or could call on friends who had) which were needed to create many of the vital elements of the business – branding, website, product development, film & photo shoots etc.
The biggest challenge has been the business development side, which is something I am learning as I go and have had some mentoring for. The hardest things for me is until I can afford to grow a team, it’s a pretty lonely venture. Until recently I was working alone most days which made it hard to keep motivated when things are uncertain day to day. It’s definitely not easy but when things go well it’s the best feeling in the world.
You proudly manufacture your products in the UK and support local businesses, how did you find it to find UK manufacturers to support your business?
I really wanted to keep the company based in the UK from beginning (laboratory) to end (weavers / printers). As each product is unique, is it really important to have a close relationship and communication with all of the partners.
I discovered Helen Foot, our wonderful hand weaver online – she is an ex-RCA graduate too so I knew she would be very skilled. She is also reliable and delivers beautiful quality work so I never have to worry about the manufacturing side. We have a great relationship and I am very luck to have found her to be a partner for Dot One.
The printers were recommended to me by some photographer friends and they are just near my base in Hackney so it’s great to keep it so local!
What is next for Dot One and DNA personalised gifts?
We have just integrated our software with 23andme which is a huge genetic database in California so that customer’s who already have their genetic data can now automatically buy products.
Next month will be the launch of some new apparel products and also a collaboration with a big fashion label in Autumn which is super exciting!
Dot One has been commissioned to create a design piece for a new genome centre in Whitechapel which will be looking at how genetics impacts the high levels of diabetes and heart diseases in the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities in east London.
It sounds like Iona has a busy year ahead and we wish her every success with this fascinating and unique concept. To find out more about Dot One and their products you can visit their website here.