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How a Glue Developer Turned Bad Luck Into a DIY Sensation

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This story appears in the February 2016 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Jane ní Dhulchaointigh’s glue has gained legions of fans who use it to seal cracks, fix busted bathroom fixtures or, in the case of a British TV show, affix their cameras to the outside of a small rocket that they then launched into space. A farmer even used it to make and attach a prosthetic leg to one of his chickens, who got nipped by a fox. And ní Dhulchaointigh knows all this because people tweet and Instagram and YouTube their crafts -- it’s an online community driven by the question, “What else can this stuff hold?” But this booming business almost didn’t happen, because ní Dhulchaointigh, a London-based product designer, wanted to just sell the thing off.

Sugru | Youtube
Jane ní Dhulchaointigh

The project first started small: She was creating an ergonomic knife handle with a mixture of silicone caulk and sawdust. Then she spent six years experimenting with 5,000 different variations of her formula until she had made a moldable, rubberized glue, which she planned to sell to a large multinational like 3M. But it was 2008 and the recession stopped that idea cold. “A lot of experienced people told me that I had to partner with a big company to succeed,” she says. “But, often things have to go really bad for us to have the confidence to do something different. We didn’t have a choice but to go and do it on our own.”

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