Business Name: Unlimited Lab LTD
Founders: Irene Canuti and Josue Vivas
Unlimited Lab creates innovative products that in a playful way encourage customers to reuse, recycle and consume consciously, paying special attention to electronic waste. At the moment we are developing kits of 3D printed gadgets to help people build their own everyday objects and furniture – like a lamp or a desk – up cycling what they otherwise would throw away (plastic bottles, glass jars, battery chargers, electronic devices etc.)
We are determined to unify the physical and the digital in our products to deliver unique user experience for an accessible price. Unlimited Lab is working on the hardware side of the business at the moment, but the middle-term goal is software and the internet of things.
What inspired you to start your own business/project?
Josue : “All the opportunities that the UK offers to young entrepreneurs definitely inspired my decision of starting a business. Coming from a country where the annual inflation was near 1000% last year, the UK is a paradise to innovate and create value. Then teaming up with Irene made me realise the value of having a team and drawing inspiration from each other’s passion.”
Irene: “We were both working at The Nest at the Business School on different projects. Josue was developing his first product, a Rowing Simulator, and I helped him out with market research. Unfortunately we found out that it was not going to be competitive in the market, but, on the bright side, we realised to have common interests and business vision. So, we decided to start from zero together. We listed all the resources we had, skills and goals for the future. A broad mind map that we then compared with current trends in the market: 3D printing, sustainability and home ware was our starting point.”
What was your biggest fear about starting your business and how have you overcome it?
Irene: “I guess my first thought was ‘I am not good enough with numbers and finance’. Failure is always scary, but failing when money is involved just terrified me. Starting your own business can be overwhelming but today with Unlimited Lab, even though I am a bit terrified everyday, I know that I have a strong team and a network to support me. Not to mention all the digital tools for project management and bookkeeping that make our life definitely easier!”
Josue: “My biggest fear was to fail the people who gave me trust, which are several, and now that we are a team my responsibilities are bigger. I would say that I didn’t overcome this fear, it has changed in time as I did. But by embracing this fear I can use it as a strength both on a personal and professional level”.
What are you most proud of?
We are proud of what we built in just 3 months: the ideas, the products, our team, the company culture and the network. These are the foundations of a company that will be able to cope with change, focused on people, trends and technology. Looking back, it is difficult to admit you worked in the wrong direction for 8 months, so we are definitely proud we had the courage to pivot and start over. None of this would have happened without that decision.
How does your business differ from others? What’s your USP (unique selling point)?
We ask people to upcycle, not to recycle. This means saving money using what they already have as components, having fun building themselves something unique and beautifully designed. No one in the homeware sector is really addressing sustainability this way, with a focus on e-waste, especially involving customers in the process.
How did you come up with your business name and branding imagery?
We just wanted something with no boundaries. Something playful and able to express us being experimentative and cross-disciplinary. We wanted Unlimited Lab to have its own personality. It will evolve in the future for sure.
How have you promoted or marketed your business?
Our main selling channels are online at the moment and we are building a community of peers and followers that is going to be the real boost for our digital marketing strategy. Apart from Google AdWords, people’s engagement on social media and forums is crucial, but also our physical presence at events, makers and sustainability fairs plays an important role.
How did you raise funds for your business/project?
We had an initial investment of £15K, then we “traded” our skills and build a network that brought us where we are now: with an office in the city and rapid prototyping facilities. Not all investments are monetary; many people gave us trust broadening our possibilities. We are bootstrapping at the moment, launching our first product at the beginning of September to activate some serious cash flow.
Looking back, what would you have done differently with your business/project?
Our startup is so young that it is hard to tell. We should’ve probably started prototyping earlier, from the first brainstorming, without waiting for one “big idea”. Talk less and do more.
Where do you want to be in 5 years?
A Design Firm with a wide range of physical and digital products, able to make an impact. We would like to expand in different sectors – the Internet of things for example – and develop proprietary technologies based on robotics and 3D printing. Being in the position of supporting the makers and startup communities and get involved in social and educational programmes is also very important for us.
How has/did University support you in developing and growing your business/project?
We had the opportunity to base our business at the KU business incubator “The Nest”, which gave us a space where to work and network with others. Through talks and workshops hosted at the business school we expanded our knowledge on how to run a business, not to mention the Bright Ideas Competition – where we actually met the first time – and the precious exposure we received. Most importantly, Josue was given the possibility of growing this business in the UK thanks to the endorsement Kingston University granted for his Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa.
Why do you believe enterprise skills are important? Please give us a brief quote.
Irene : “I think being entrepreneurial is about shaping the future as you pictured it, despite all the obstacles on your way. Resilience is an essential quality in business, but it has also an impact on personal happiness and sense of fulfilment in life.”
Josue: “First of all, enterprise skills increase your employability and make you stand out as a candidate. Building entrepreneurial skills is also important to overcome difficulties managing your own business, let’s remember that being an entrepreneur means being able to deal with uncertainty”.
Unlimited Lab will soon launch its first product and, as part of the company’s human-centred development, is conducting user research and user testing. You can contribute by taking and sharing this survey about lifestyle, making and waste. Click here for survey.
To learn more, follow Unlimited Lab @