21 Oct JR Company – Introducing the world’s first and only garlic glue, yes really… (South Korea)
JR Company – Lee Jinwha (South Korea)
Who knew garlic could be such a sticky business!
Glue needs several qualities – one of which is persistence, and that’s a hallmark of JR Company’s eco-friendly garlic adhesive. It’s also a quality possessed by JR Company’s founder, divorced mother-of-three, chemist turned entrepreneur, and Asia-Pacific finalist in the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards, Lee Jinhwa.
Her product isn’t new; garlic has been used as an adhesive since the Roman Empire, but her eco-innovation allows the process to be mass produced and uses the by-products of glue production in new commodities such as fertilizer and feed additives. Garlic is powerfully antibacterial and antibiotic, resulting in a glue that has positive properties if ingested, unlike traditional petroleum or solvent based adhesives which can be toxic. One fact that really got our attention was that the by-products of garlic are similarly beneficial, so unlike traditional glues, which are harmful both in production and if ingested, garlic glue and it’s by-products are not just safe … they’re healthy!
Lee Jinwha was born in JinJu in southern South Korea, a region of substantial garlic production. It was while working on her Masters in Polymer Chemistry that she began to explore the properties of garlic and developed garlic glue, which is scented with a natural fruit fragrance to mask the slight garlic odour.
One target market for the product is schools, mothers and pregnant women, so Lee Jin wha’s own experience as a mother, as well as a female entrepreneur, was put to use in developing a product safe for the eyes, skin and even children’s tummies. Medical applications for garlic glue are already being explored.
She started her own company because she wanted to make ‘a product that was good for the environment’ after discovering there were more than 2000 reports of harmful chemicals in traditional glues. There was another reason for her interest: the global market for adhesives is shrinking 3% year-on-year as legislation reduces the usage of harmful chemicals. Her enterprise JR Co, is well placed to exploit the need for safe, environment-friendly adhesive products, nationally and internationally.
Korea’s National Institute of Environmental Research estimates the total social cost of chemical adhesives in the country to be £1.8 billion. This figure includes health costs and sterilisations resulting from women’s exposure to chemical adhesives in the factories where they are the predominant workforce. JR Co’s social vision is to replace harmful materials with beneficial ones, so the more the business grows, the safer the planet becomes for everyone.
In addition to personal and ecological safety, this natural adhesive invention offers less pollution globally, as no harmful chemicals are used in its production, so it can contribute to the eco-targets of other businesses using harmful glues, such as house-building and renovation.
Lee says that ‘Developing a business has been like raising a family … it’s hard and it takes time.’ Her determination is undoubted; she left university after she became pregnant and married despite her parents’ objections. Five years later, having had only intermittent employment and with a second child, she went back to university, working part-time and raising her family while studying for her Masters degree. When she became pregnant again, entrepreneurship offered her more scope than seeking employment and so she started JR Co in 2010. Just as her business came to fruition, she and her husband divorced.
Lee Jinwha’s persistence, her ability to apply scientific knowledge to business models, and ambition to make the world safer for women and children has led to a business model that supports women, improves the environment, replaces harmful chemicals with healthy, sustainable products and let’s not forget a business that is damn right pioneering!
How many other harmful products could be replaced by family friendly, planet friendly ones?
Globally Spotted: An article series featuring business ideas that made our hearts jump with excitement. Truly inspiring enterprises invented and founded by mums and female entrepreneurs from all over the world.