Harvard Business School grad Grace Choi made a lot of noise last year at New York’s TechCrunch technology conference when she announced the launch of Mink, a prototype 3D printer that prints make-up. Armed with a vision to disrupt a global cosmetics industry that turns over an estimated US$55 billion per year, the idea behind Mink is that the user can take any image (via camera, phone or laptop) and instantly produce a wearable colour cosmetic.
Motivated by her own frustration of either being unable to find products designed for Asian women, or finding that stores didn’t stock some of the more exotic colours that she sought, Ms Choi was determined to find a way for girls and young women to make their own gorgeous customized cosmetics.
‘”The makeup industry makes a whole lot of money on a whole lot of bulls—“, said Ms Choi. “They charge a huge premium on something that tech provides for free. That one thing is colour.”
How Does The Tech Work?
Once you’ve identified a colour online that you like, you need to locate its unique hexadecimal (‘hex’) number. A tool is available to help you do this. Then, you need to enter the hex number into a new document via an application like Photoshop or Microsoft Paint. From here you can simply print the colour onto a powder substrate, ready for use.
Grace Choi explaining her concept at TechCrunch 2014
Whilst the development of a mass market Mink 3D printer is still in the works, Ms Choi has published a video demonstrating how to hack your own HP home printer
As lone founder of a bootstrapped startup, Ms Choi had designs on bypassing a venture capital raising, preferring instead to forge ahead on her own. However, after the buzz created at TechCrunch 2014 she soon found herself inundated with approaches from willing investors. She spent the next several months meeting with VC funds.
The result? She emerged even more determined to go it alone. In an interview late last year she said “I’m definitely not meeting with anyone who has ‘VC’ in their title ever again. I think they’re a little too rushed. Mink could disrupt an entire market, and with that kind of opportunity, it’s best to take your time. The way for me to kill Mink would be for me to come out with a printer that’s sucky [sic]….The whole model for entrepreneurs is like, ‘I’m going to make a billion dollars then donate a chunk of my money to charity.’ Not to judge other people, but just throwing money at stuff doesn’t add value. I think sharing the journey of building the business adds value.”
Undoubtedly a determined young entrepreneur, Ms Choi is focused on forming strategic partnerships to help build a sustainable beauty revolution. A mink branded 3D makeup printer may still follow, but for the time being at least it is revolution first, business second.