Being crowned MIT Technology Review's Inventor of the Year 2017 has got Solveiga Pakštaitė a foot in the door at a few places over the past year.
And after gaining access to meetings that would otherwise have been a closed shop, the 26-year-old inventor and entrepreneur has certainly come a long way.
In the lead-up to scooping the title she dubs one of her proudest achievements, the Industrial Design graduate spent a stint at Brunel-backed talent incubator, the Central Research Laboratory (CRL).
Based at The Old Vinyl Factory in Hayes, West London, the co-working space gives graduates a leg up to start their own business. For those accepted, it provides free desk space for a year, plus expert know-how in design essentials such as pitching, manufacturing, pricing, and access to finance. CRL is the safe space from where Solveiga made her first wobbly steps into the big bad world of business start-ups.
“The CRL programme was amazing,” she says. “It gave me the kick I needed to start making brave moves such as hiring my first team. I think mostly they made me realise that if I didn’t make big moves, nothing would happen.”
Now on top of its own team and based in stylish Shoreditch, Solveiga’s company, Mimica, has linked up with the UK’s largest dairy business, Arla, which may well be where her first launch comes from.
Just as well then that her product, the Mimica Touch label, has just undergone a serious makeover with global creative agency, R/GA. After working to strengthen branding and visual design, the Mimica Touch label is now a super-slick, more market-ready version of what it was. To get it right, that’s taken masses of research with would-be buyers for whom the whole idea of finding out product freshness by touch is totally new. The new Mimica Touch label is now split, with one side that stays smooth for comparison plus the active side which changes from smooth to bumpy when the food really goes off.
While it’s started with what are called fresh proteins — that’s meat, fish, dairy and eggs — the opportunities are endless. “Everything that perishes can benefit from the Mimica technology,” Solveiga explains. “All food, medicines and even cosmetics. Our aim is to become the globally recognised mark of freshness.”
With a lectureship in social entrepreneurship at UCL and her own design company, Pakštaitė has a finger in several pies. One she’s particularly excited about is Fast Forward 2030. This is a small group of entrepreneurs who joined forces in response to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. “We think start-ups have the best chance of making the most impact and delivering the goals,” she says. “Charities don’t have sustainable business models because they constantly rely on donations, whereas if a business is set up to make more impact as it grows — it just makes sense.” The goal is that by 2030, these start-ups will be big businesses making huge amounts of positive change.
It’s too soon for Solveiga to say if she’ll continue developing products for the food industry or to help with visual impairment. But one thing she is clear on is that, for her, it’s all about user-centred design. “That’s my passion. I’m interested in using that discipline to improve the quality of our everyday lives, as well as helping people form habits that are sustainable for the future of our planet. All I know is that as long as there are social and environmental problems out there, my work is not done.”
Born in Norway, the Lithuanian now settled in Leytonstone says her definition of success has expanded since she started at Brunel. “I’m happy that I was brave enough to take a chance to create a platform where I can really turn an idea I had into reality - I’ve learned a lot so far and I’d encourage any other brave souls out there with an idea to take the leap too. There is so much ingenuity to be gained by looking at a challenge in a different way.
Remarkably, the most valuable lesson Solveiga says she’s learned since leaving is “that I won’t learn anything if I don’t embrace failure. If there’s no possibility of true failure, then I’m doing something too easy! It took a while to unlearn fearing failure after university.”
Solviega was today announced Brunel's Alumni of The Year 2018
images: Ben Broomfield
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