Sugru, the fix-all product invented by an Irishwoman, is growing up
The magic rubber product Sugru is one of the most successful Irish inventions
Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh
Sugru was used to fix this train hook
Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh pulls her bicycle out of its rack in company’s office in Tudor Road in East London to display her invention’s latest use.
A little blob of her product, Sugru, along with magnets, holds her lights securely to the handlebars, far more safely than any of the fiddly plastic clips such lights usually come with.
An idea in her head 11 years ago, Sugru, the self-setting rubber that allows people to fix almost anything, almost anywhere, became an internet star after the first batch was made nearly five years ago.
The latest development – Sugru sold with a box of magnets – has met with a similar welcome: “(It) sold out of in a matter of hours,” says Ní Dhulchaointigh, raised in Keatingstown, Co Kilkenny.
“The idea is that you can make basically anything magnetic with Sugru, because Sugru sticks to almost any material and it sticks really well to magnets,” she goes on.
However, she is the first to accept that Sugru enthusiasts – and such they are given the strength of the worldwide community the product has generated – have been using it with magnets for years.
A photographer filming engineers in “the bowels of a huge ship off West Africa” used it to steady his camera flashes, others, more prosaically, held tea-towels on fridge doors with them. “We are just making it more easy for people to do it. A lot of our community in the early days tended to be the more imaginative people in the world.
“But, increasingly, as interest in Sugru has grown we are increasingly seeing customers who are not creative people, necessarily.
“But they are people who need to fix their fridge, or their dishwasher, or their kids’ school-shoes, or whatever,” she explains, in a spartan room in her company’s Hackney offices.
Ní Dhulchaointigh thought of the concept during a quiet moment studying production in the Royal College of Art in 2003, but years of work followed to make a product out of an idea.
The company’s history is unusual, since “we were in the public eye from the beginning; living through social media” on the back of a rave review by the Daily Telegraph . “So from the beginning, when we were tiny, people thought we were a bigger brand than we were just because we were in the press. But there were only two of us, then.”
Today, Sugru is on the cusp – it has customers in 151 countries; employs 30 people in Hackney and will make its four millionth individual sachet, each still filled by hand. “It is really durable, people use it to fix boats. Some engineering people use it to help build computers, but the more common thing is fridge drawers, doors, dishwasher racks, replacing little bits of plastics that come off printers, for example.
“It is used for a lot of things that you can’t get spare parts for, but where you can’t just glue things on, you need to rebuild,” she says.
Not just something for geeks
From the off, however, Ní Dhulchaointigh intended that Sugru should be a product that “is in everyone’s kitchen drawer,” not just something for geeks.