Ever wondered what it’s like to turn an idea into a company? We asked Michelle Hua the Founder & Director of Made With Glove Ltd, a UK wearable tech start-up designing fashionable heated gloves for women.
What is the idea behind Made With Glove?
My idea came about four years ago during a 6 hour walking tour in Prague in -21 degrees of snow. Two hours into the tour, I couldn’t feel my my hands or my feet. I had disposable hand warmers however, because I had my gloves on, I couldn’t feel the warmth from the hand warmers. So, in sheer moment of desperation, I put my hand warmers inside my glove and I felt immediate relief.
Upon returning to the UK, I researched fashionable heated gloves for women. All I could find were big, black and bulky heated gloves for men who ride motorcycles or for skiers out in the snow.
Michelle Hua with an early prototype
How much tech experience did you have when you started Made With Glove?
My tech experience was extremely limited when I first came up with my idea. It was during the wearable technology hackathon that I was exposed to arduino boards, software engineers and the maker community that I became very interested in tech.
Since then, I’ve tinkered with tech by going on wearable tech courses, learning how to code, attended the Atmel Tech on Tour workshop and I have signed up to the Build your Own App “Appathon” in Manchester on 13 June 2015 to help try to break the Guinness Book of Records on building Apps.
For anyone interested, here is a list of venues across the UK to join in on the fun!
Which skills did you have to learn and which was the hardest one to manage?
My strength lies in the legal aspects and developing the strategic direction for my company. While I also have 10 years experience in the retail fashion industry, I’m learning as much as I can about tech and the tech industry. This will help me with my business in a variety of ways such as 1. employing the right technical staff, 2. having technical conversations, 3. understanding the limitations and boundaries and 4. I am very interested in learning how technology can play a part in fashion and health to improve our everyday lives. I love being innovative with technology because I believe this is the future.
Close-up of the prototype
Starting your company – what was it like and how did you begin?
Having a legal background prepared me for the legal requirements in starting a company as well as the regulatory requirements of maintaining a company.
The challenge for me is the practicality of running a company, in particular a start up company. This is because I am the CEO – the “Chief Everything Officer”. It is challenging wearing different hats with a limited budget and time and having an understanding of all aspects of running a business. These different hats involve marketing, finance, tax, PR, social media, technical, strategy, legal, HR, innovation, product development and applying for funding. I am on an extremely steep learning curve however, I believe my legal background has given me the necessary skills, resources, experience and level of maturity required to run a business and to make my company and product a successful one. I love that I am constantly learning and meeting new and interesting people.
I have been very fortunate to receive support and mentoring from the Business Growth Hub, a government funded program to help businesses in the North West, Lancaster University who have funded part of my prototype from the wearable tech hackathon, SpacePort X who provide co-working spaces and events for tech start ups and Manchester Science Park who provide office space for science and tech companies.
The tech start-up scene is dominated by male entrepreneurs – in which way is founding a technology start-up different for a women?
Because I am a woman, it’s difficult to know what it’s like to run a company any other way 🙂
I have noticed that the tech start up scene is dominated by male entrepreneurs and I am only a handful of female founders in the tech start up scene. I don’t let my gender stop me from doing or learning anything I want to do or learn. It would, however, be great to see more women in the tech industry so that we can support each other.
The legal industry is similar in that it is a male dominated industry. I noticed a difference being a female lawyer. In my early years, my supervisors and managers were male and I experienced gender bias. I didn’t have a mentor in my early years and I was so busy climbing the corporate career ladder that I just had to get on with it.
Now that I am a female founder in the tech industry I feel a sense of deja vu for women in tech around me. I am more conscious of it now. I have a variety of mentors that I can lean on to ask any questions.
I am a volunteer at Inspiring the Future. It is a national program that connects employers to students in schools and colleges to help them along their journey to a job, career or educational route. It is important that young girls and boys are exposed to different industries and have access to people running these companies so that they can ask questions and be mentored at an early age. Helping them build their confidence at an early age will equip them to be confident and successful individuals.
Arduino based prototype for Made With Glove
What drives you and how do you manage to stay motivated?
Learning something new, being innovative, sharing my knowledge and the relationships I build motivates me and drives me to succeed.
I enjoy meeting and listening to stories of how women and men in tech started their own businesses and how they overcame their challenges. Every business is different. Every experience is different. I believe learning from both men and women in tech will prepare me for when I experience my own challenges.
The tremendous amount of support in the start up tech industry also keeps me motivated. We have a great tech start up scene in Manchester and while I split my time between London and Manchester, the support in both cities is very motivating.
When can we expect to have good looking and warm hands at the same time?
I’m in product development now and applying for funding to help me build my prototype further. It is quite a technical product because I’m incorporating fashion and textiles with technology.
If it all goes well, I am aiming for this coming winter for the launch of Made with Glove, wearable tech, fashionable heated gloves for women (and possibly men too!).
About Michelle Hua
Michelle worked as a commercial property solicitor for 8 years in Australia before moving to Manchester and taking the plunge into entrepreneurship.
Michelle’s business was kickstarted by winning a wearable technology hackathon in Manchester in 2014 and received initial funding and support for prototype building from Lancaster University.
In the first year of running her company, Made with Glove was listed as one of the Top 150 most influential brands in wearable tech.
Michelle recently became runner up in the Innovate UK Wearable technology funding competition in London where she pitched for £35,000 in funding for R&D.