Biotech jewellery earns spot at global event

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Emily Sutton of Formed. Photo / Morgo Conferences
Emily Sutton of Formed. Photo / Morgo Conferences

A young Kiwi scientist developing jewellery containing living organisms has been picked to attend a global entrepreneurship summit in Malaysia.

Emily Sutton, a 21-year old from Dunedin, is using biotechnology to produce lockets which each house a single cell organism.

Over a number of weeks, the organisms grow and then bloom in vibrant colours and designs.

Sutton has been selected, along with four other young Kiwi entrepreneurs, to represent New Zealand at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) and Global Startup Youth Event in Kuala Lumpur next month.

The two-day GES will feature a keynote address by US president Barack Obama, who launched the event in 2009 to spur job creation.

Each of the Kiwi representatives were nominated by investor Dave Moskovitz and then selected by an international panel of judges.

The entire trip is being sponsored by the Malaysian Government.

Moskovitz said Sutton had attended several of his start-up events and had stood out as a strong leader and communicator.

"Many entrepreneurs are very product-focused or sales-focused but she has a great combination of both," he said.

Sutton was one month into an honours degree in biotechnology science at the University of Otago before changing courses, instead opting for a Masters of Entrepreneurship.

"I'd done one module of the Masters of Entrepreneurship and had really loved it. It was just awesome and I'd started to fall in love with entrepreneurship."

She came up with her concept and the business name, Formed, during the Startup Weekend in Dunedin in March.

Artist's impression of the lockets.
Artist's impression of the lockets.


She then raised $1000 through crowdfunding site PledgeMe.

Since then, Sutton has been working to get the enterprise off the ground and has been given a free lab space and office to work from.

"We're bootstrapping at the moment. I am looking to keep it small and then test it out on a local market."

Sutton said she was currently busy going through the legal processes needed to take her biotechnology out of the lab and into the market.

"I'll have to take it to the right people to ensure it's safe. It's going to be a rough ride because of legislation - it's never been done before."

As far as she knew, there were no other jewellery items in New Zealand, and possibly the world, which contained living organisms.

Once the legal boxes had been ticked, she expected to produce a small first run of ten lockets and then another 100 to give to early-stage supporters.

"I already have people ordering them," she said. "I can't wait until I get a product in my hands."

She was also looking for an industrial designer with experience in the jewellery industry to produce the lockets, which would probably retail for about $200.

Sutton said she first discovered her business streak when set a small money-making task in Year 10 Enterprise Studies at high school.

"We were supposed to spend $10 on resources but I spent $60. But I made $200 profit from selling brownies and they made me donate it to charity."

To check out Sutton's YouTube promo video, go here.

- NZ Herald

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