Masters of entrepreneurship student Emily Sutton works on
developing her biotech jewellery in a laboratory in
Dunedin. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Emily Sutton describes herself as ''just a baby
The Dunedin student might only be in the early stages of a
start-up business, creating biotech jewellery, but her
innovation and enthusiasm have captured the interest of the
organisers of entrepreneur conference Morgo, which is being
held in Queenstown tomorrow.
Ms Sutton's foray into entrepreneurship started with a random
entry in a Startup Weekend in Dunedin in March and she had
''no idea'' what she was going to pitch.
But then she thought about a ''random idea'' she had with a
friend about whether it would be possible to make living
jewellery, so she pitched that.
Since then, Ms Sutton (21) has traded doing an honours degree
in biotechnology, for studying towards a masters of
entrepreneurship at the University of Otago.
She has managed to get some funding through PledgeMe as well
as attracting some interest from other funders.
Now working from a laboratory at St Kilda, she was testing
the idea ''at every stage'' and she was grateful for all the
advice and assistance she had received, including from
Citilabs which had been ''amazingly supportive'' by providing
space for her.
Initially, her focus was on a living locket and while she
also liked the idea of earrings and possibly charm bracelets,
the range would be dependent on what customers wanted.
The project required two elements - the element of life and
also everything it needed to live. The hardest part was
''keeping it beautiful'' over time.
She was not aware of anyone else doing the same sort of work,
either in New Zealand or internationally.
''I'm really excited about it. I hope it will work,'' she
It had been a ''whirlwind'' since the beginning of the
project and she hoped to be selling biotech lockets by the
end of the year.
It was all about working out how to scale up quickly and cope
with demand, while ''not being cocky'' about it.
''I'm hoping to go global. I know that sounds really
ridiculous ... this business has the potential to sell in
every country overseas,'' she said.
While it had been hard leaving science, Ms Sutton reckoned
she had found her ''dream job'' in entrepreneurship - ''it's
so much fun it doesn't seem like work at all'' -although her
science background had proven very useful with her project.
Originally from Wellington, Ms Sutton was drawn to the South
to study. She said Dunedin had also been a ''really
supportive place'' to grow a small business.
She needed to source some funding for research and
development and was looking for investors who would be able
to provide their talent, as well as money.
She expected her attendance at the Morgo conference would be
a ''life changer''. Now in its 11th year, Morgo was founded
by venture capitalist Jenny Morel who felt that a lot of
entrepreneurs did not know each other because they spent so
much of their time ''super-focused'' on their businesses, one
of the conference organisers, Sandra Lukey said.
The aim was to get them together to meet each other, in a
supportive and collegial environment. Not only were they
motivated by the speakers' stories but also through catching
up with each other, she said.
About 120 people were expected to attend this year's
conference in Queenstown, from September 4-6.
Each year, two spots were offered to students or ''cool''
companies that would not otherwise get to come and Ms Sutton
was one of those sponsored place winners.
Conference speakers include SLI Systems chief executive and
co-founder Shaun Ryan, Wynyard Group managing director Craig
Richardson, Comvita chief executive Brett Hewlett, Glidepath
chairman Sir Ken Stevens, Social Code founder and chief
executive Siobhan Bulfin and ARANZ Geo chief executive Shaun
Ms Sutton will also be speaking and mentoring at a second
Startup Weekend in Dunedin on September 20-22.
One of the organisers, Rueben Skipper, said it was a great
experience for anyone interested and it could be ''quite
life-changing''. After attending a Startup Weekend in
Wellington in February, Mr Skipper began a business, Swift
Social, managing Facebook pages for small businesses.