Tuesday 15 April 2014

2Inspire Network: Neomi Bennett, Founder and Inventor of Neo-slip®

In this interview we meet the phenomenal, Neomi Bennett, inventor of Neo-slip®, a medical product that is gaining international acclaim for helping patients with Deep Vein Thrombosis to wear their hospital stockings, more easily.
Neomi Bennett
Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?

As founder and inventor of Neo-slip®, I don't have one specific job role, I have many, and this often makes each day quite varied. However, a typical business day can start around 5.30am. I begin my morning by tweeting my twitter followers and checking my Facebook. After I take my daughter to school, I try to arrive in the office for around 8:00am and begin with a stock check followed by my list of things to do. I fulfill orders received the previous day to prevent backlogs and to keep my customers happy. Sorting through paperwork is not my best part of the job but it is very necessary. My working day is pretty full on. My secretary Marlene responds to emails and organises meetings for me. This takes a great deal of pressure away from my workload. I’m responsible for creating new clients so I tend to make lots of telephone calls and visit hospitals and nursing homes. I take my lunch break late afternoon to coincide with my daughter finishing school. We grab a bite to eat and spend a few hours together. I head back to the office and I finish at around 8pm. I travel the UK promoting Neo-slip at conferences, exhibitions and on occasions internationally.

What made you start the business and how did you get started?

It all started when training to become a nurse at Kingston University and was given a risk assessment essay. I was asked to find problems experienced by nurses and patients in a hospital environment. The essay required me to identify and solve the problem.

I looked at the prevalence of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

After an individual has an operation for example a broken bone being repaired, he/she is prescribed anti embolism/hospital stockings, which should be worn for around 6 weeks after being discharged from hospital. These stockings prevent DVT by applying pressure to the lower leg. Within the lower leg is a pump called the peripheral pump, this pump is deep within the calf muscle and helps old blood return to the heart so it can be refreshed with new oxygen. So long as this blood is circulating efficiently and the velocity is normal the chances of DVT developing is reduced. When we walk this triggers the peripheral pump action so I also encourage patients to be mobile as soon as possible after an operation.

During my research I discovered 25,000 people die in the UK from developing 
(DVT) and it became apparent to me that due to the tight nature of the stockings, many people struggle to get them on and eventually gave up, this is more likely to be the case for elderly people. Nurses in the hospital also struggle to apply the stockings and the task is time consuming. 
I became very focused and determined to find a solution to this problem. Intuitively I felt that it was my responsibility to change this. At home I experimented with different materials alongside a variety of stockings, I eventually came up with my first prototype and conducted focus groups with nurses and patients and shortly afterwards Neo-slip was born.

Neo-slip®comes in 3 colour-coded sizes and is a low friction pouch that goes on the foot before the tightly fitted stocking. Neo-slip creates a lubricous effect and supports the smooth application of the stocking.

I applied for a patent, set about manufacturing Neo-slip®, sorting out packaging and other fine detail and now supply Neo-slip to pharmacies across the UK, Europe, USA and Canada. I supply Neo-slip® to hospitals and I’m currently working with NHS supply chain with a view to expand.

What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?

My greatest accomplishment was actually receiving the finished product as a physical entity. It felt so good to actually have Neo-slip in my hand.

I have travelled to Taiwan, Spain and Austria with my product. In addition it was a great honour to be invited to meet the prime minister at 10 Downing Street. Mr Cameron said Neo-slip is a great product.

As a school drop out, a teenage mother and considering what I have been through and where I have come from, these experiences have been wonderful.

What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?

I wanted to be a role model for my children so they could look beyond other people’s negative perceptions and stereotypes. Going back to education as a mature student was challenging because I didn’t do well at school, left without qualifications and was written off by teachers as a no hoper. I disliked maths and was fearful that this would prevent me from doing nurse calculations. However, because of my passion for people, wanting to help others and my children, I decided to face my fears and try my hardest to succeed.

It was whilst studying that I came up with my invention Neo-slip. In my wildest dream I never imagined I would become an inventor never mind become a nurse. Since developing Neo-slip, I have pitched my product to organisations such as the NHS and Universities. On one occasion I had to address a crowd of 700 people. The thought of doing these tasks was often terrifying. However the more I did them the easier it became, in fact I pleasantly surprised myself of my own abilities.

What are your future plans for the business?
Our customers are asking for Neo-slip to be more widely available, in shops, hospitals and at airports. I’m working towards this by setting up a variety of strategies to implement more sales channels, seeking more distributors and bidding for tenders. Also working on new inventions to join my company

(Neo-Innovations UK Ltd). The new products are medical devices and services to support nurses and patients. In addition, furthering my knowledge by conducting research and writing on the subject.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Although a bit of a clichĂ©, if I had to do it over again, I don’t think I would change anything because each new day is a learning process and a different challenge. It is overcoming these challenges that has eventually led me to my goal.

Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dreams?

This is the 21st century and it’s only fair that anybody who wants to should be able to follow in their dreams regardless of their gender.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?

Firstly research an area that you are passionate about. Once a need has been identified speak to friends and colleagues and get feedback on your ideas. This is where your business journey will begin. Thereafter take small steps and put in the work in order to succeed. Determination and perseverance pays off in the long run.
What or who inspires you in business and why?

Mary Seacole a Jamaican nurse & businesswoman, travelled to London to help soldiers in the war. She went to all the military & nursing organisations but not one wanted her services. Mary decided to go independently where she went out onto battlefields to bring comfort to wounded and dying soldiers.

Mary remained focused & determined even though people refused to help her, perhaps because of racial prejudice, however she still did what she believed was right. A born healer, courageous and a woman of driving energy, she inspires me.

What is your favourite inspirational quote?

Be the change you wish to see in the world (Gandhi)

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