Women In Innovation Success Stories: Anja Stolte, Enable Manufacturing, East of England
Women In Innovation Awardee Anja Stolte’s innovation is combining 3D printing with traditional casting. This is revolutionising additive manufacturing, creating complex metal parts in a fraction of the time usually taken, and at a lower cost.
Anja’s innovative approach uses industrial 3D printing to produce moulds from which parts can be casted using virtually any kind of metal. The technique eliminates the need for tooling and delivers high quality products.
Founded in 2019, Enable Manufacturing was well established when she joined Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation programme in March 2021. They had already created a brand, a website, and social media channels, and also their supply chain, operations and sales functions were set up. Anja said: “We even had our first few orders! We used the funding to develop a new software product, which helped us to track and trace orders as they progressed through the supply chain, reducing lead-times, and keeping quality at the highest standards.”
Dramatic cut in lead times
The lead-time has been reduced from six months or longer, to four weeks. Anja said: “Longer lead-times had prevented us from accessing a larger part of the metal manufacturing market. With our new software, our proposition is much more attractive, even for spare parts.” They also started raising investment, benefitted from Innovation and Growth Specialist sessions provided by Innovate UK Edge and best practice shared by other award winners.
In early December 2021, they received their largest order ever, which doubled the size of revenue, and they have gained significant traction in the manufacture of electric powertrains, LED lighting components, consumer goods and spare parts.
Looking to the immediate and medium term, Anja is aspiring to attract their first round of investment in 2022, followed by further investment in the next five years. Anja said: “We have an ambitious growth plan that is well underway, and our growing revenue is a testament to the success of our technology and business model.”
Sharing best practice
In terms of personal growth, Anja has learned a great deal from the cohort. “They are amazingly innovative women with so much talent, ambition and creativity. It really is an honour to be part of this group. The sharing of best practice amongst us has been very valuable and helped me to think more outside the box,” she said.
She continued: “I also had an excellent Senior Business Mentor who helped me with a wide range of support, from finding the right software developer to getting ready for investment. I enjoyed being out of my comfort zone with this project and pushing myself to unknown horizons.”
Anja describes herself as a ‘doer’. When there is a problem, she is focused on finding a solution, and for her, that is innovation. “Every day, people, businesses and countries are facing problems. The potential is enormous for innovation to create a better, more sustainable future” she said.
Breaking into a male-dominated environment
Anja has faced many challenges during her career, experiencing a lack of inclusion as a female in mainly male dominated management teams. She said: “Sometimes quite literally! Meetings were held without me, or in venues I couldn’t access. But mostly and more often, my ideas, advice and opinions were not taken seriously. I had to work much harder to get heard than any of my male colleagues.”
Connecting with other award winners and sharing experiences was the most fascinating part of the programme for Anja. The progress of other award winners provided many best practice examples and opportunities to benchmark. Anja said: “The bootcamps and the speakers were very inspiring. They helped to take a step back from everyday issues and get back to a more strategic view. I’m also very grateful to have done the three-minute pitch – I learned a great deal doing that!”
Anja’s advice is: “I would recommend for any female entrepreneur to apply. It will help kick-start some fantastic ideas and provide an incredible network of females who all support each other and drive real change with their innovations. This is an opportunity you don’t want to miss!”