Tina Clark was a busy financial trader living in Hong Kong and had a collection of dresses that she needed to store, so she began searching for a nice box to put them in. After searching high and low, she couldn’t find anything nice that she liked or to the quality that she was after. Clark was clearly committed to the cause, searching for two years. In the end, she decided to get some boxes custom made. After playing around with some design concepts, she made some.
At that point Clark did not envision that her future career would be heavily influenced by this moment. “I found an industrial designer and we worked together on creating a box for about six months,” says Clark. “He didn’t quite grasp what I wanted but finally one day we got almost there, after a long time.”
By the time the first prototype was made, Clark had moved back to Sydney and started a new job with a local hedge fund which she says she absolutely hated. “I quit after seven weeks,” says Clark. “I decided, I might just make these boxes! I said this somewhat naively, because at the time I didn’t realise how much it would take in time and money to take them to market.”
Clark says she was lucky that she met Andrew Simpson from Vert Designs soon after quitting finance; she credits him with helping her create the business that she has today. Simpson and his team took the root elementary prototype that Clark had made and turned the box into a commercially viable product.
“I had the box idea and knew I wanted to integrate some sort of stand, but I didn’t know what kind of stand,” says Clark. “I just talked to them and they came up with the designs which we ended up manufacturing. So the idea behind it was to have good looking storage, to create something nice enough to have it out on display. A lot of storage out there is really ugly and customers hide it, so with mine we’ve got really beautiful, solid walnut table tops and it looks like a beautiful piece of furniture rather than storage.”
This was the birth of her new business Sagitine. Clark officially launched the first run of her products into the market in January this year. It took a year of sampling to get the products to the quality that Clark was after, but the company is already onto its second round of production for its box product and is gearing up for a new round of production for the box stands. Clark has also said that Sagitine is constantly refining its products, working on improvements.
Right now Sagitine carries 22 different products on its site. This includes different size options of the core box and stand products, as well as different colours and accessories. The product is sold both online and through stockists, of which there are currently around 10.
When it comes to the research and development process within the business, the road to the initial launch of the product took around 12 months. Clark said that this was quite an expensive process, as she had quit her job and never thought that it would take so long.
“It never occurred to me that manufacturers would have so little idea about decent quality,” says Clark. “So when it came to the boxes we did six rounds of samples over about a 12 month period and then with the stand it was three or four rounds.”
It was via social media that Clark discovered PwC’s service called Nifty Forms that helps businesses in Australia to claim the R&D Tax Incentive. The online service means that startups that are spending money on developing a product or platform for their business are able to see if they’re eligible for the incentive and then, if they are, use the service to process the claim.
Clark says that she was amazed at how easy the process was.
“Look, it was all just so easy, I can’t tell you,” she says. “Users can just go online and fill out the form on Nifty. There was quite a few rounds back and forth just providing them with more information and the detail that they needed to be able to process the claim properly. It took a little bit of time, but it was easy. The team were fantastic to deal with. I fit the Government’s criteria in terms of R&D. We also made sure we documented all our processes. Every single time we got a sample, we would record it down and go through the processes of checking it. We documented every single issue so we were pretty textbook, ‘this is what is needed to claim for R&D’, I suppose.”
Clark says that she would recommend any startup or business that’s creating something and going through a similar, often costly research and development process to look into their eligibility for the R&D Tax Incentive. Sagitine received $12,000 back from its claim, which Clark says was an amazing boost for things in the business like cashflow.
This article is sponsored by PwC | Nifty Forms. To find out if your startup is eligible for the R&D Tax Incentive click here to start your claim.