A startup usually arises from your own frustration or something you miss in your work or in your hobbies. This was also the case with Marc Penders and Camiel de Ruiter, founders of ChemNote. They designed a notebook with both an aligned structure for taking notes and a hexagonal structure for a neat and orderly drawing of molecules.
”There are already scripts like the one we design, but they only use the pattern with the hexagon and there are no lines in the script on which notes can still be written”, Penders begins. From their own frustration about this during their study in Biomedical Technology, their idea came about during the first year of their master’s degree. They started working with a prototype and asked their fellow students if they liked the script to work with.
”This turned out to be the case”, De Ruiter continues. ”At the Innovation Lab of TU Eindhoven they informed us further about the possibilities and the things we still had to think about in order to set up a company. One such thing was patent application, for example, as similar products already existed. For this reason it was important for us to distinguish ourselves in certain areas and not to seek out the ultimate fame.”
They distinguish themselves by adding to their notebooks lists of meta amino acids, functional groups, general abbreviations and the periodic system. ”Because it looks so different, it is not possible to associate it with the same design of another brand”, explains Penders.
Supply and demand
Since last year the notebooks are printed and sent to people who order them through the online shop of ChemNote. ”We started printing 400 pieces, which has now grown to 1,500 notebooks per order,” says De Ruiter.
In the beginning, the orders for ChemNote came mainly from their own study association, their webshop and the student shop at the TU Eindhoven. In order to reach more places in the Netherlands, the company has now also written to study associations of other chemical training courses in the country. This ensures that they now sell notebooks in 11 locations throughout the Netherlands. According to Penders, this mainly concerns universities, but now they are also trying to bring the products to the market at colleges of higher professional education. ”In addition, I attended a teacher training course last year, and during my internship at high school, ChemNote also aroused enthusiasm among my students. We therefore keep the option open to develop a version for secondary schools as well.”
At the moment the two gentlemen are busy with ChemNote as a hobby. The time they spend on the business each month therefore varies continuously. This is also due to the fact that demand for the textbooks peaked mainly every quarter at the start of a new education period. However, they are now sure that ChemNote will continue to be a hobby. Yet they too have dreams. ”We would very much like to look at the possibilities of taking the product abroad. Here, too, there may be a demand for ChemNote among international students. After we have finished our study, we want to see if it is possible to arrange this in terms of printing and shipping, without the shipping costs rising above the revenues”, describes De Ruiter.
ChemNote is already trying to raise awareness of its product with marketing. From flyering on symposia to placing advertisements on facebook, everything to expand their target group and bring the writing further to the market. In the end, it’s all about the power of ink and paper, and we can’t make it a more technical or trendier product. It is what it is, but there is certainly a target group for that too”, concludes Penders.