MistyClip – Clear Vision from Idea to International Enterprise
Starting as an idea whilst temporarily working at a supermarket, Alex Wickens, an entrepreneur from Eastbourne, kickstarted a community-based business with only £250 in October 2020.
MistyClip is a simple 3D printed device that prevents glasses from misting up while wearing a face mask, but MistyClip’s month-on-month turnover growth has expanded its ambitions.
21-year-old Alex Wickens was going to fulfil his life-long desire to train as a commercial pilot, but the Covid pandemic forced a sudden and temporary change of plan, and Alex ended up working at his local supermarket. He was frustrated at his glasses fogging up as he stacked shelves and struggled to read product labels. Proactive and forward-thinking, Alex found out that over 50% of people in the UK wear glasses to some degree (Statista 2021), and they too would be facing similar problems. ‘I figured, how can I fix this issue? What can be done?’, Alex said.
Alex came across an engineer living in Normandy with an interest in robotics, working on a similar problem. A collaboration was formed, and Alex was able to bring the product into the UK market. ‘When attached our first MistyClip to both homemade and commercially-available masks, I knew we had a product which was incredibly simple but highly effective.’
Small differences, big impact
MistyClips are 3D printed, using uniquely environmentally friendly materials made from a 100% bio-based polymer-based around corn starch, which naturally degrades when exposed to the environment compared to normal petroleum-based plastic products. As soon as the product was launched, interest and orders were starting to dramatically pick up.
‘What Alex has created and is doing is innovative both in terms of the product, but also with the business model,’ said Alistair Wickens, Alex’s father, who helped mentor Alex on this project using his own entrepreneurial background and experience as chief executive of Goscombe Group. ‘He has taken the approach to not only be eco-friendly, but he’s giving back to the community in East Sussex and creating opportunities for others.’
Alex chose to put the company’s future sustainability and social responsibility at the forefront, setting his sights on encouraging local employment and community benefit in East Sussex.
Built into its business model, Mistyclip already invests 10% of its profits into a new charity venture Trelis, which seeks to support the unemployed due to Covid as well as the homeless community with skills training and support to find long term, worthwhile employment. ‘The success of Mistyclip has been a real ray of positivity against the current climate of business closures and job losses due to the lockdown,’ Alex said, ‘that demonstrates it is possible to rise above the current circumstances and make a positive impact on the local economy.’
‘Our launch was only achievable at this stage through collaboration,’ said Alex, who decided to work with Normandie Development Groupe SARL, based in Normandy to manufacture the first trial batch of clips. ‘People advised me against investing in a new business at a time of great uncertainty due to Brexit, and during the second lockdown. However, with such a huge customer base and the possibility that facemasks will still be necessary for a while, there is an opportunity for a value-based product and quality customer service.’
For Alex, it was a perfect storm, and he set up an e-commerce website, bought a 3D printer and got to work. With sales as far as USA and Kuwait, the company has experienced incredible organic consumer demand and now has had corporate orders coming in.
‘This company has only just begun’ Alex said, noting that he is a sole trader only for the moment but seeking to expand, ‘our roadmap beyond Covid is to seek opportunities in the food sector and health sectors, and we are already discussing additional products for UK-based companies’. With companies such as EDF Energy, AXA and French opticians Krys already placing orders, MistyClip is now investing in plans to expand production in East Sussex.
Alex’s goal is to create jobs within the local community using a network of home-based virtual factories, creating opportunities for unemployed individuals across Sussex to create and dispatch a variety of 3D printed products, including MistyClips, from their own homes and establish a network of 3D printing businesses. To ensure quality control, Alex and his team will create the designs, and pass the CAD file packages directly to each member of the network.
While they are trying to build their business case and further investment, Alex is already in discussion with pharmacies and retailers to supply MistyClips – where each product sold not only helps to fund a local charity but also provides local employment. ‘We are happy to be in our niche for now and support the customers we have as we have incredible repeat business and word of mouth. It goes to show that a small change can truly make the biggest difference’.
Alex is keen to secure partnerships with retailers and businesses across the south east who would be interested in promoting MistyClip and, in doing so, supporting the unique community focus of his business model. Alex can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org, and clips are now on sale on their website.