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WeeWash is November's Featured Business of the Month

Tue, 20 November 2018

Pierre Guglielmi won a Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future Award in November 2017 for his business WeeWash Ltd.
WeeWash is a multi-award winning start-up providing a smart alternative to washing dishes by hand for people who live in small flats, shared rented accommodation, and for offices. Modern dishwashers can have a capacity of up to 150 items and are often too large for compact flat kitchens. WeeWash’s invention will be the smallest micro-dishwasher on the market, helping households reduce their water and energy consumption compared to washing the same number of dishes by hand or using a conventional dishwasher.
 
WeeWash’s dishwasher started as a Master’s project while Pierre was studying at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. Asked to design an innovative product, Pierre decided to tackle the global issue of water waste associated with washing dishes by hand. The product has evolved since the first concept stage with the washing technology, the target audience and overall company ambition all developing as WeeWash’s knowledge of the industry and market need increase. 
 
With a vision to reduce household waste water generation and energy use worldwide, while being mindful of constrained living spaces and lifestyle patterns, WeeWash’s dishwasher is a valuable domestic innovation.
 
Shell LiveWIRE sat down with Pierre to catch up and to see what's next for his business. 
 
What was the inspiration behind WeeWash? 
During my studies in France, I was living in a small rented accommodation where I had to brush my teeth and clean my dishes in the same sink. I knew I was wasting a lot of water by hand washing everything, though I realised that there were no such things as micro-dishwashers available on the market for small loads of dishes. The seriousness of the problem is real as every year Europe wastes 6.1 billion m³ of water and 92TWh of electrical energy due to hand washing.1
 
How did you get into entrepreneurship? Did you always want to go into business for yourself?
After living in France, I arrived in Glasgow in September 2016 to start a MSc at Strathclyde. My career plan at that time was to be an aeronautical design engineer, because the growth prospects in this sector were encouraging. The year of study in the UK radically changed me on so many levels, emotionally and intellectually; evolving in a very dynamic and international environment opened my eyes and ambitions. Participating in several entrepreneurial events throughout the year made me realise that to bring a real change in the society you must step out of the box and be willing to take risks. That is why I decided to stay in Scotland and create WeeWash at the end of my studies, to give back to the country that broadened my horizons.
 
What challenges did you face when setting up your business?
So many challenges! When you start a venture with an engineering background, you have to learn basically everything, from designing a business canvas, engaging with your market, managing the finances, to pitching your idea… The learning journey is long but never boring!
 
I am proud to say that some things that seemed scary for me at the beginning of this entrepreneurial path, such as pitching in public or networking, now appear as new exciting opportunities to share my vision and hopefully inspire fellow entrepreneurs. Bringing new people into the business also helped me challenge my thinking and beliefs for the greater good.
 
What is your biggest (or proudest) achievement with the business?
The company participated in the VOOM Pitch competition in April. Through a reward-based crowdfunding campaign, WeeWash successfully achieved its funding goal with 67 contributors in just 18 days. This campaign helped to raise awareness of the project on social media. This represents a valuable market validation as there are already 67 paying customers even though the product is not released yet. WeeWash’s story was published in SBNN and The Sunday Post during the campaign.
 
You won a Shell LiveWIRE Award in 2017, how have things changed for you since then?
The Smarter Future Award has greatly contributed to unlocking our ambition as a company. Shortly after, we secured a place in the competitive Climate-KIC Accelerator Stage 1 at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation. We also participated in the Rising Stars programme at the University of Strathclyde; a flagship accelerator programme for growth orientated start-ups emerging from the Strathclyde community. This training helped us more clearly define our business strategy and target markets. We started the product development with Designworks, a renowned design consultancy based in Windsor, and in July the feasibility study was completed. The collaboration will continue over the next few months.
 
Since January 2018, we have been applying for various competitions, and working in-house to improve our technology. We currently have 3 innovations in development at a proof-of-concept stage, that will become our USPs and lead to patents for the water container, the spraying arm design and the sanitisation process. Through these technological innovations, WeeWash will have a serious advantage over the competition in terms of performance, design, and functionality.
 
In September 2018, we won the Scottish Power - Iberdrola Challenge for low-carbon innovations and business ideas, which had a cash prize of £13,250. With this news, the company has caught the interest of an Angel Investment Syndicate (Gabriel) and we are applying for a SMART grant in parallel. 
 
What’s next for WeeWash? 
Our plan for the next few months is to raise private investments to fund the rest of the product development with our design consultancy ‘Designworks’. We expect to have a product ready for pre-sales during Autumn 2019.
 
What role do you think entrepreneurs will play in the transition to a low-carbon society?
Established companies are averse to risk. New markets and gaps in markets are discovered by start-ups who are willing to manage this risk. 55% of people in Europe still manage to live without a dishwasher but they waste a lot of water, energy and money.
 
I am convinced that the innovation in this sector must come from start-ups like us. With WeeWash in Europe, savings per year could add up to 400,000 Olympic swimming pools in water and the annual energy consumption of New Zealand. This is the big picture, but we strongly believe that we could play the role of pioneer for mobile appliances, encouraging big companies to develop similar products for a global impact.
 
What’s your approach to risk as an entrepreneur?
Every risk is an opportunity. When you are in your 20s, it’s the perfect moment to take some risks and seize all the opportunities that fall on your doorstep. Even if you fail in the end, at this age it will have a minor impact on your future life, and you will still learn and grow a lot from these experiences.
 
There is a balance to find between having patience and avoiding regrets. You can always wait for the perfect moment to start a business (it does not exist!), however the risk is that you might wait too long and then eventually regret the things you didn’t do earlier. 
 
What’s the most important personality trait to have as an entrepreneur and why? 
Perseverance is key! Especially when you are trying to raise funds for your venture, there are a lot of discouraging moments that make you doubt your project. I think it is incredibly important to use failure as a lesson to move forward, not as an end point. For example, when you do not win a competition, instead of thinking that your idea is worthless, you should use the success of others to inspire you and study how to improve your business proposition.
 
If you could return to this time last year would you do anything differently?
I don’t think I would change anything. It is a long learning journey, I made some bad decisions but overall, I think you need to go through all those hardships and crisis to learn from them and grow as an entrepreneur.
The only thing I would like to warn the ‘old me’ about is the unrealistic expectation I had in terms of time to market for such a product. 
 
What advice would you give to aspiring young entrepreneurs?
A famous Chinese proverb says, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step". Even if the journey seems daunting at the beginning, by planning carefully your first steps and surrounding yourself with the right people, it actually becomes as easy as any other job. 

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