We founded Team Repair to solve two of Britain’s biggest environmental, societal, and economic issues.
First is the lack of diversity in the STEM workplace, where women make up only 27% of STEM professionals – contributing to the STEM skill shortage that costs the UK £1.5 billion a year, according to a study by IET.
Second is the e-waste crisis, where in London alone, over 500,000kg of electronic waste is created every single day. With Team Repair, we want to inspire a new generation of diverse engineers and scientists and encourage the next generation to repair their broken electronics to live more sustainably.
Through customer discovery, we’ve found that parents, councils and schools are looking for a product to engage children with STEM and sustainability – so we created Team Repair.
Team Repair solves these problems through a sustainable subscription service that teaches children science and technology by sending them electronic gadgets with carefully planned faults to fix, guided by our app. The gadgets will be sourced from e-waste, and once the children are finished with the repair, they send the box back to us so we can reuse the gadgets the next month but keep tools – building a full toolbox across the 12-month programme.
We believe Team Repair engages children with STEM more effectively than other products on the market with our key USPs. We teach science and technology using real-world products, creating a more engaging experience for children. Secondly, we introduce the life skill of repair – the key to enabling children to live more sustainably. Finally, our circular subscription model is entirely sustainable, meaning zero clutter for parents and zero waste for the planet.
Where did the idea originate?
Our team has a collective interest in sustainability, and as part of a university group project, we wanted to find a way to reduce people’s e-waste production. Through discussing our childhoods, and our motivations to pursue engineering, we found we all were curious about how things worked and frequently would take apart gadgets around the home to try to fix them. Through customer discovery, we found that this was a common theme with other engineers – but currently, there is no product on the market to emulate this activity.
During her industrial placement, one of our co-founders spent her time working at a large engineering firm. Here, she was shocked to see the lack of diversity within teams and was curious to understand why there is such a gender imbalance within the engineering workforce. This experience inspired Team Repair’s mission of engaging children from all backgrounds with STEM and showing them how this can help them fix the future. Throughout our research and development and workshops, we want to find how to position STEM, so it inspires more girls, children from BAME communities and low-income households to take this career path.
How did the team meet?
We all studied Design Engineering at the Dyson School of Design Engineering, having collaborated on projects over the past four years. In our final year, we have an enterprise roll-out module, where we are given the brief of starting a start-up based on one of the SDG goals. The five of us decided to come together given our complimentary but diverse skill- set, our shared interests in creating an education-based business, and our motivations to take the idea beyond just a university project. The rest is history!
Do you have any advisors?
When we started with our idea, we gained a lot of insight from lecturers from the Dyson School of Design Engineering. Our first product tester was one of our personal tutor’s children!
We participated in the WE Innovate programme run by Imperial’s Enterprise Lab and were even given a chance to pitch in the final. This programme allowed us to work with the multitude of female-founded start-ups at Imperial, participating in masterclasses and mentoring to allow us to strategically validate our business model and test our prototype box.
While we were still studying at university, we also were lucky enough to win the Mayor’s Entrepreneur Competition’s Environment award, and since then have been given great support through mentors, funding and connections. We also came second in Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow’s competition, and were highly commended in the RSA Design Awards. Since graduating, we have continued receiving support through Imperial Enterprise Lab’s Experts in Residence, which has helped many aspects of our business from legal advise to accounting. We have also won the AXA Startup Angel’s competition, which gave us additional funding, mentoring from the start up angels and a feature in the Evening Standard. Recently we have also been accepted onto the Greenhouse programme, which gives us a grant, masterclasses, and access to work at the Royal Institution.
Overall, we are very grateful for all the support we have received so far. It has truly made Team Repair grow from a simple idea on a post-it note, to a product that can already get into children’s hands.
Where are you now and where do you plan to be?
Our next step is to prepare for launch by developing the remainder of the 12-month programme. This involves developing relationships with manufacturers to acquire gadgets, developing our app and computer systems and building up stock.
We plan to launch our B2C subscription box service in April 2023. We will run workshops to generate revenue and help with user testing. We hope to make our 12-month programme and logistics scalable to extend our reach to children around the country. After this, we hope to develop future programmes.
What support have you had from Imperial?
We participated in Experts-in-Residence in 2022. It has been great for receiving free advice on specific topics which we have not been previously exposed to, such as grant funding, accounting, and logistics.
We also participated in WE Innovate in 2022, which largely contributed to the development of our business. It was our first pitching opportunity, and our first time showing our product to investors and industry experts. We received fantastic masterclasses covering everything from customer discovery to how to deliver a convincing pitch, and also got to improve our own business through peer-reviews with other businesses in the cohort. It was particularly inspiring to be able to get to know other female-founded Imperial businesses, and has left us with a great network of female entrepreneurs who we are still in contact with.
Lastly, in 2022, we have only just entered the Greenhouse Accelerator Programme, but it has already been very rewarding in terms of opportunities provided. There is a great network of current and previous cohorts with a wealth of knowledge to help an early-day start up like ourselves. We have also received some great 1 on 1 mentoring to help with very specific issues being faced, which is very valuable as we work towards our launch date of April 2023.
What’s been your biggest success so far?
We have managed to raise enough funding from grant competitions to fund the business until our April launch where we aim to start generating revenue, without needing to let go of any equity. Notably, we are proud to have won the Mayor’s Entrepreneur Competition in the environmental category, and AXA’s start-up Angel Competition, where our business was advertised in a feature article in the Evening Standard. Another success is the relationships and partnerships we have started to build with local communities, where we have been able to deliver free workshops for children, by being sponsored by councils and schools.
What’s your biggest challenge so far?
Our primary challenge will be securing partnerships with electronics manufacturers to achieve our mission of sourcing our gadgets from e-waste. This is core to our business model as the number of gadgets we can secure is directly linked to our capacity to scale. Another challenge regarding scalability will be how to streamline our operations processes, to minimise labour costs of repackaging and servicing each kit once the customer returns.
What advice would you give an aspiring entrepreneur?
Firstly – fail fast and learn fast! We got an early prototype of our boxes into as many children’s hands as possible, and from that we were able to continuously iterate and improve our product based on user feedback.
Secondly – say yes to all opportunities presented to you. Especially in the very early days of our business, we applied to every grant competition and mentoring opportunity we could find, to get as much advice and exposure as possible.
Thirdly – shoot your shot. A large part of our business model relies on building partnerships with companies for our product sourcing, and with schools and councils for our workshops programme. We reached out to many people and companies without ever expecting any replies, but we ended up being pleasantly surprised!