Posted on October 07 2015
We're so excited about this week's Wednesday Woman. Iona Inglesby is a fantastic up-and-coming entrepreneur who, after graduating with an MA in Design Products from Royal College of Art, London last year, has set up Dot One ~ a DNA personalised product company. As well as running her own company, Iona is also a Design Consultant at GENEU, a company which uses the world's first 'DNA Lab on a microchip' technology to personalise your skincare, and in her spare time, works in Lapland for a Polar Exploration company, training sled-dogs!
Newnham: What were you like when you were younger?
Inglesby: I grew up without a TV which I think lead to a highly creative childhood. When I wasn’t reading The Famous Five, I was drawing, building things and generally making a mess! As my parents have medical backgrounds, I absorbed a love of science from an early age. My dad had a skeleton from his medical school days which I used to repeatedly build in my bedroom, learning the scientific names for the bones at about the age of 7. I was also fascinated with data and information; at night I would memorise things as I had trouble sleeping, which resulted in everything from teaching myself Morse code to the States of America alphabetically.. and geographically… It all seemed very normal at the time!
This mix of making, science and data has simply transitioned from play to ‘work’ as I have grown up.
Newnham: At what point did you know you wanted to set up your own business and how did you go about it?
Inglesby: I never really thought I would have my own business. I graduated from the RCA last year with a project based on the idea of a Scientific Tartan using people’s genetic data to code designs for materials. For me, it was a project but I started getting interest from people wanting their own, and so soon realised that maybe there was a market for this. I started working for a biotech startup straight after graduation, and in my evenings and weekends worked on commissions. A few months ago, as orders kept increasing, I decided to consult part-time and launch Dot One as a business.
Newnham: We love what you are doing with Dot One - it's such a beautifully unique proposition. How do you go about getting the word out about your business?
Inglesby: At first, my custom was from word of mouth as at the initial stages I was finding my feet, and it was important to build up the client base slowly. After the website went live in July, most of the customers have found Dot One from social media, primarily Facebook. We are in the process of shooting a film and potentially planning a Kickstarter campaign at the end of this year so that is the next step!
Newnham: So far, what have been the struggles/highlights of working for yourself? Reference any difficult times, how did you overcome them?
Inglesby: The thing I struggle with most is that, being a solo founder, it can be quite lonely, especially going from a sociable university environment. I wanted to meet some new people who were going on this journey too so I applied and was lucky to be accepted to a couple of mentorship programs (Kensington Creates and Girls in Tech). Now, not only do I get guidance but I am also meeting other young entrepreneurs and feel like I am part of a community which is inspiring and motivational.
I think the biggest highlight is that it is a journey just as much of personal growth and development as it is of business growth and development. I feel like I am a totally different person than I was a few months ago, and the continual change is very exiting!
Newnham: What / who inspires you?
Inglesby: I have always been surrounded by very independent women (my dad was totally outnumbered in my family as even our dog was a girl!). I know that there is a big push at the moment for more women in technology and so on, but I grew up without any notion that I couldn’t do something because I was a girl so I have to thank my parents for this. In more general terms the most inspiring environment for me is to be surrounded by people who have that sort of overwhelming energy and passion for whatever it is they are doing.
Newnham: You're a husky trainer in your spare time - how did you get into that? Are there skills which you have learned from that which have been useful in other areas of your life?
Inglesby: ‘Home’ is not a physical place for me, I’ve never felt like I really belong anywhere but the Arctic is definitely my spirit place. I just always knew I wanted to go there and so when I saw a position advertised to work at a Polar Company training sled dogs I jumped at it!
My boss, Anna McCormack is a professional endurance athlete and explorer, and probably the most awesome (in its truest meaning) person I have been lucky enough to meet. She pushed me to do things I never dreamed I could do, and although seemingly unrelated to design and entrepreneurship - I would say it was the most valuable experience of my life. On a daily basis, you are facing challenges physically but primarily mentally - in an environment with 140 dogs, 6 people and potentially -40 degrees, you quickly learn skills of organisation, time management and working with others in high stress situations!
Newnham: Finally, if you could rewind time and give a younger Iona any advice, what would it be?
Inglesby: I always felt like I was a bit weird when I was at school and didn’t quite fit in. I had a different accent (born in London but living in Sunderland); I didn’t know anything about the TV shows and music other children were into; they watched MTV - I built skeletons... I longed to be one of the cool girls, and probably repressed my personality to blend in more and therefore became very quiet. So, if I could go back, I would tell myself that it was good to be different, and totally embrace being a bit weird without the fear of not fitting in as there is nothing scarier now than blending into society!
Newnham: How true... Here's to the crazy ones!