Deakin's SPARK program fueling next generation of start-ups

20 July 2017

A booming skincare start-up created by two Deakin graduates is the latest success story from the University’s entrepreneurial accelerator program, which pits student teams with bright ideas against each other in a scenario reminiscent of television program ‘Shark Tank’.

Deakin graduate Michael Tremeer is one half of the brains behind online skincare business Trefiel, which offers plant-based gel face masks in a luxurious lace design unlike anything else on the market.

Mr Tremeer said he and his business partner wanted to find a way to manage their own business on their own terms from anywhere in the world while developing a concept that met market needs. And so Trefiel was born in October 2015.

“My partner and I are both gypsies at heart and the idea of working behind the same desk day in and day out just didn’t appeal,” Mr Tremeer said.

“We share a passion for skincare and love of travel so for us, a business we could work on from anywhere in the world was the ultimate goal.”

To date, the business has received over 10,000 online orders, makes around $30,000 in sales each month, boasts a social media audience of 17,000, and has grown to include six part time staff.

“Now that the business has begun to hit its stride, we’re able to live and work in Bali a few months each year and this has really opened our eyes to new product opportunities and markets for the business,” Mr Tremeer said.

He attributed a big part of their success to receiving a grant from SPARK, Deakin’s official start-up accelerator program, in 2016.

“We were both studying at Deakin when we came up with the idea for a line of face masks,” Mr Tremeer said.

“We applied to be a part of SPARK in July 2016 and were lucky enough to receive a $10,000 funding injection for the business after pitching to the SPARK panel of Mentors. This allowed us to re-design the packaging and broaden the product range with three additional formulas.

“We also received access to amazing mentoring and networking opportunities which helped us realise what it takes to be successful entrepreneurs and enabled us to run the business our way.”

Chris Thompson, Deakin’s Director of Research Operations and Finance and one of the SPARK program Mentors, has enjoyed watching Michael and Lucy’s journey through the program.

“A little bit of funding, mentoring and support has really helped Trefiel to kick along,” Mr Thompson said.

“SPARK is now in its third year and the Accelerator part of the program, which Michael and Lucy successfully applied to, offers funding grants plus mentoring and networking opportunities with the SPARK Mentors and experts in industry and within the university.

“With the Accelerator program, the SPARK Mentors shortlist applications from student teams who have a bright business idea they’d like to grow. We then invite the shortlisted teams to pitch to the panel – it’s very much like a scene from Shark Tank! – for funding of up to $10,000.

“SPARK is one of our key programs in developing the entrepreneurial and innovation space within Deakin and that’s empowering our students, staff and alumni in terms of developing start-ups and an entrepreneurial mindset.”

More information about SPARK can be found here.

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