The first University of Newcastle Grand Challenge posed teams with a major issue: mosquitoes. Within this the challenge asked two important questions; how can we avoid the itch wrath of a mosquito bite, and how do we eradicate the health risks and disease burdens of mosquitoes?
Herald in the nine teams competing in the final round, each earning $5000 towards their project. In the battle of pitches, held in late August, the Judge’s Choice and People’s Choice were up for grabs. Each category earning the winning team an extra $2500 to their cause.
Enter: Borne, an apparel based clothing company. The winning project that claimed both awards. The project was developed by Timothy Keys, Daniel Robson, Patrick Prell, and Bal Dhital.
Navigator sat down with Bal and Pat, two of the four in a multi-disciplinary team of future doctors, an engineer, and a designer. “WHO [World Health Organisation] identified that there is a problem with the funding for it [Mosquito Borne Disease]” Bal says. “There is no reliable and sustainable source of funding for basic mosquito repellant essentials worldwide.”
“So we were thinking if there were some way we could address that whilst also fulfilling the criteria of the Grand Challenge. This was how we are going to deal with the problem of mosquitoes.”
Out of this idea grew Borne, a social entrepreneurship clothing company focused on insect repellant apparel capable of keeping its mosquito repellant properties for an astounding 60 washes!
Proceeds from your purchase go to the continuity of the brand and various NGOs worldwide to help combat the mosquito problem. A similar business model to that of international shoe giant TOMS, famous for their 1-for-1 policy.
Local environmental enterprise Eat Your Water also played a fundamental role in the ideation of their mosquito fearing product, inspiring them to be “environmentally responsible from the start” the team recalls.
What we have built so far is a sum of parts. There is no way that one of us alone could have done this.
At the heart of these social enterprises lies a key focus on harnessing the power of community through education and awareness. Using the brand as a platform to unite people for a worthy cause.
Borne are aiming to sell 100 Clothes by Christmas, hoping to establish a solid financial foundation as their first step to entrepreneurial self sustenance. All this growth is planned under the guidance of the University’s Innovation team who is readily on hand to provide advice for the first 6 months of the enterprise.
The team expresses their gratitude for the support throughout the Grand Challenge. From events featuring entrepreneurial and mosquito experts to the whopping investment earned through their efforts.
And the crunch time paid off! Pat recalls the effectiveness of the time pressure to their teams success as well as the fairness in the time pressure to all participants to level out the playing field.
Beyond the potential impact the Borne team may have on the world in the months ahead, they also offer a treasure trove of tips and advice for future years of keen entrepreneurs to come.
“What I’ve come to appreciate quite quickly though, how important it is to have people from different backgrounds” Says Bal. “What we have built so far is a sum of parts. There is no way that one of us alone could have done this.”
He recalls wise words of advice from Founder of Eat Your Water, Liam Scanlan “The importance of branding. And the importance of refining your message and finding the right audience for that message.”
The team encourage all to participate in next years challenge, which would feature a fresh set of issues to tackle. Regardless of the outcome, there are plenty of lessons to be learnt and opportunities to be seized.
“Throw yourself at it” advises the team. “Boil it down to a simple solution, take a risk and do it.”
Keep your eyes on these innovators as the Borne story unravels. From local enterprise to global solutions, we may one day wake up in a world free of mosquito borne disease and itchy limbs.
Images courtesy of Richard Berry and Borne.