Daring to live your entrepreneurial dream

by Luk Cox 

From Eleanor: It’s National Small Business Week in the United States! In honor of this week celebrating enterprising entrepreneurs, on the blog we will be highlighting stories from Shapeways shop owners focused on how they are building and running their businesses using 3D printing. This entry comes from Luk Cox, a Shapeways Crew Member and one half of somersault18:24, a company dedicated to using beautiful design raising awareness about science that is based on Belgium. After starting and working to grow somersault18:24, Luk transitioned out of his job as a research scientist to work on somersault18:24 full time. You can learn more about somersault18:24’s designs in their Designer Spotlight, but here Luk focuses on how you can make the leap to create a business from your interest or passion. 

Do you ever find yourself dreaming about starting a business, but telling yourself things like,  “The economy has to recover first,” or “I have to study a bit more,” or “I need to grow my network of connections before I can start, and then I’ll take the leap. Then the time will be right…”

I’ve found that the right time will never arrive. It’s a myth. We are scared of the unknown. It is engrained in our brain. Safety and stability, that is what we’re after. From an evolutionary point of view, this makes sense. There was always a vast amount of threats around us, and still there is. It changed only from wild animals to economical crisis (or whatever threat you are experiencing).

I struggled with this fear for a long time and it’s something I still face on a regular basis. It took me more than 2 years to live my entrepreneurial dream. But here I am, finally.

I knew very early in my life that I wanted to be a scientist. And that is what I became. I worked in a research lab for more than 10 years. I loved it.

But a few years ago, I started to realize that we as scientists are living on our own planet. As I spoke with people about what I do, I saw that for many, science reminds them of the boring and often abstract classes they experienced as teenagers. It reminds them of geeky professors that spend their days is nerdy laboratories. I realized that science has an image problem. 

This is unfair, because science is fascinating. While most people know about all the fantastic advancements, knowledge and technology that science has given us in the last centuries, it still remains inaccessible to them. 

But the beauty of science is fascinating and accessible for every single one of us. The intricate shapes, unimaginable forms, colors, sounds, and movement tickles all of our senses, every day.
The moment I realized this was years ago, around the same period I discovered 3D printing. These two events turned out to be the sole ingredients of a successful business: I found a way to bring science in everyday lives. 
Beauty is something that attracts all of us. Science, because of its image problem, only attracts fewer people, but uncovering the hidden beauty of science through creating jewelry and gadgets turned out to be a perfect entry point to spread science awareness. It piques peoples’ curiosity and encourages them to start exploring the fascinating world that science has to offer us.
One example to illustrate this is this neuron pendant. It is a stylized version of one nerve cell, one of the millions we have in our bodies. Thanks to the fantastic technology of 3D printing we are now able to make the microscopic macroscopic and hold it in our hands and to wear it as jewelry. Think about it, this neuron is just one example, but how much more beauty do you have covered up in your body?
Classical manufacturing techniques were not accessible for me, but 3D printing and Shapeways made it very easy for me as scientist and business owner to explore the possibilities without any risk. It helped me to overcome my fear and helped me to start a business that is inspired by my passion. It gives me the opportunity to talk about science, to spread science awareness and most importantly, to share the beauty of science that I’ve experienced in my previous profession. 
Now it is your turn. Go and create some amazing stuff. The world is waiting for it.
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