First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Andrea Cabello Cordero: Fortunately, all good! Family, friends, and collaborators are giving their best to overcome this crazy year.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded CopperBioHealth.
Andrea Cabello Cordero: I am a Product Designer from the University of Chile. I joined the CopperBioHealth team at the beginning of 2011 when all the development was at a very early stage. Everything started when, in 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency of USA certified copper as an antimicrobial metal (eliminates 99.9% of virus, bacteria, and fungi on surfaces). At that time, Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer mining company, hired the innovation consultancy Duam to develop a project that resulted in a hospital investigation trial for which copper medical products were required. The team did a worldwide search for products. In that year, there was practically nothing available, so the decision was made to internally move forward and create the products in Chile. So a small design and engineering team was hired for this purpose, and they made the first prototypes for this project at Calama’s Hospital. From this initial experience, the spin-off CopperBioHealth was later created.
How does CopperBioHealth innovate?
Andrea Cabello Cordero: CopperBioHealth innovates through the design, development, and manufacturing processes of products with antimicrobial copper for the prevention and reduction of infections.
Currently, we have also opened another business line, called CopperBiocare, where we seek to incorporate the antimicrobial property of copper in a cost / effective way in massive products and projects in public and health spaces, adding value to the care of people through an inorganic additive with copper ions that can be incorporated into polymers, resins or textiles.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Andrea Cabello Cordero: Before the pandemic began, our business was going through a very low stage, in which the founders were doing other jobs in parallel to support ourselves financially. Since the beginning of the pandemic, of course, we have had to work from home and accommodate what all of that implies, including making childcare compatible with work. Still, it has been incredible for our business. The problem of infections has become a priority, and therefore we are having an important reactivation, mainly marked by interesting internationalization opportunities. We have been at full capacity during this time, adapting our entire business model to be very prepared when everything is fully reactivated.
We see that companies in general, schools and kindergartens, public transport, etc., are concerned about taking preventive measures in order to safely return to the normal daily routine.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Andrea Cabello Cordero: In this period, we have had to make multiple decisions, not only difficult but also strategic for the company, facing a high-risk level. At this time, we have not increased our sales yet, but it looks very promising for our business, so we remain high spirited and working hard to move forward.
The lesson learned is to surround yourself with collaborators who contribute to the project with optimism in order to maintain good teamwork despite the physical distance.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Andrea Cabello Cordero: It is difficult in a pandemic, being at home and with so many things to balance and approach at the same time. I think in my case, it has been fundamental to work on something that I like, that I consider relevant, motivates me, and makes a lot of sense to me.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Andrea Cabello Cordero: At the moment, it is a market that does not have many competitors, but several new competitors are rapidly beginning to appear, mainly in the line of copper additives. We have a tremendous advantage that we are taking advantage of, and that has to do with the fact that we were pioneers and have vast experience of 10 years of developing copper products. We plan to leave our focus on Chile and focus primarily on the international market, doing manufacturing in Asia.
Your final thoughts?
Andrea Cabello Cordero: Turn every challenge into an opportunity, learn from our failures, and move quickly to the next stage.