• Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
    • With one small design idea, we have impacted over one million lives worldwide through our humanitarian efforts with our NGO partners, seeing children being able to read at night, seeing refugees traveling on foot for miles then being given one of our lights or phone charger, empowered them and helped them survive under extreme and dangerous circumstances. We even saw Syrian refugees use our lights for a wedding in a tent camp. After the Haiti earthquake, we realized 2.6 billion live without access to electricity and use kerosene to light their world at night. Two million children die from the bad air, 200,000 house fires happen in South Africa alone, every year. When there is a natural disaster and there is no light, we see women and girls assaulted, having light in the tent camps we saw a 20% decrease in cases of assault, the very next day.
    • Two quotes come to mind: “The risk of doing nothing is greater than the risk of being wrong” — — Every. time we started a company it had to do with questioning our reactions and research of the effects from a crisis. Do we lean in or do we lean back. Do we just watch what happens? Or do we become a participant in the solution. I actually leaned back for the first several natural disasters, before taking the risk of working on a solution. It’s good I didn’t know what I was doing because if I knew how hard it would be, any sane person would have just leaned back, but I guess you need a little crazy to invent something new….“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”? Friedrich Nietzsche It’s true for most innovators, there is always going to be backlash from people that are naysayers and think you’re crazy for having the guts to propose a radical solution. Ford -” if I had asked our customers what they needed, they would have said faster horses.” Even now with SEEUS95, we have people who still think everything will go back to normal after everyone gets the vaccine and there is a false sense of security with the distribution of the vaccine. What we all should be doing is really learning from our past mistakes but also other countries. Korea was able to combat and control the spread of the pandemic in lightning speed due to the lessons learned from the SARs/Mers pandemic in 2003. “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” ? Theodore Roosevelt
  • Tell us about your invention/product? What does problem does it solve? 

    There are 2 invention lines
    • Solight design solar lanterns  or SOLARPUFF-Solar Light Assembly Patent number  US20120224359A1 Our Solight products are all origami. Inspired by the origami balloon. Designed to be light weight and flat pack solar lamps that pop open into a magical cube of light-so they are super portable and perfect for hiking and camping- In the regions where we are helping underserved communities with humanitarian aid they are super light and flat packable for executing disaster relief and getting our lights to remote regions that have lost power. They are designed with beauty and elegance as well as function and ultitlity we saw how design matters whether you live in Ne wYork or Nigeria. We don’t believe in just making things useful we need to give beauty wonder and awe- which is just as important -if not more.

  • SEEUS95 reusable Transparent mask with biodegradable filters. Transparent flexible self-attaching face mask Patent Number US20210386141A1The first of its kind in wearable air filtration. Our transparent mask is made with medical grade silicone material  which is recyclable, soft and flexible.  Environmentally friendly silicone has no BPA unlike PET plastics or polypropylene surgical masks. Good for your skin and provides a seal, to keep dust and pollution out. The SEEUS95 Light Warrior Mask comes with replaceable filters made with our proprietary non-woven PLA and Nano-fiber material. Made from a hybrid of bamboo and PLA (biodegradable)fibers. Polypropylene Free.
    • Adhesive on perimeter, gentle to the skin. Will adhere directly to your. face for a better seal. Head strap is optional and can be purchased separately.
    • Reusable/Washable with soap and water.
    • Sanitize with alcohol wipes. 
    • Remove filters before washing or sanitizing.
    • Filter options: BIO-FILTER 95% filtration efficacy OR Washable filter with No rating, comparable to cloth mask.
    • Optional head strap available as an accessory.

  • What was the inspiration for your invention/product?

    There are many moments of inspiration which started with the simple desire to help solve. The issue of climate change, extreme poverty- both, and Light are inextricably linked. The thing about innovation is that most people don’t realize that most great ideas have a trajectory of beginnings which can’t be narrowed down to a single point in time. It’s more a series of events and questions that get asked on how to solve a problem. In our case, the first “ah-ha” was 911, when for the first time in history we witnessed first hand the effects of terrorism. This made me think about the man who was flying the plane into the World Trade Center, and wondering what his childhood was like,… what would make a person do such a thing? Then the research showed extreme poverty in regions of war, a chain reaction of survive or die decisions fed the current ecological degradation caused by the desperation of the refugees, poverty, and militia. Then you see children being taken in by the militia at the age of 6 to be trained their entire life to carry out a mission resulting in 911. So you ask yourself, what can I do to help this problem because as Seattle recognized, “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”Then when my son, Quinn, was diagnosed with asthma. After the diagnosis, we spent countless hours in cramped and crowded doctors’ offices. I was shocked to find out after my intense research of my son’s asthma that one of four kids in New York City has asthma — I started to think — what kind of toxic environment creates this outcome for our children? I wanted to know how we could move forward with this information and create some sort of solution — a worried mom does better research than the FBI. This is when I decided to focus on solar energy as material.

    It became an obsession and I was determined to make a difference but also educate on how our dependency on fossil fuel is the noose around our necks. If each of us contributed to the decline of the environment then we all as individuals have the power to heal the environment. My research, my love for my son and his future, and the belief that small things matter and that a collective community of like minded concerned citizens have the power to change the world. My pedagogy at Columbia inspired this journey. At the start, with very little resources. It was a fight that I had taken. I felt there was no choice but to use that light which I believe we all have. The light of our minds and our hearts. Digging deeper into the problem, I had to be creative with resources to design the prototypes with energy intelligence and decided to focus on the most powerful source of renewable energy, the power of the sun. The sun is our muse for design, but my biggest inspiration comes from seeing the impact and magic seen in the light in peoples faces when they see our innovations. I could see no other way than to dedicate my profession to helping my son’s future, his childrens’ future, and the planet’s future.

    In Haiti after the earthquake we discovered another darkness, most people living on 3 dollars a day were using kerosene to light their world at night and some were spending 30% of their income on this deadly toxic fuel. This was definitely an “ah-ha” moment when we realized that if they could stop spending this money on kerosene they could use it for food, education, clothing for their children. We researched every solar light on the market and they were all heavy and made of hard polycarbonate, which is not recyclable and toxic once it gets to the Ocean or landfill. We use, only non-toxic and recyclable material in all our products. The design of the SolarPuff was based on the origami balloon and it flat packed so you could fit hundreds in a box where other lanterns were bulky and you could only fit 10 in a box. So the easily expandable pop-open design was perfect for disaster relief and now we have have been able to help almost a million people worldwide in regions without power.
  • What is the number one goal you have with regards to your invention/product?
    • The sun is an amazing thing. It gives us nine hundred and seventy trillion kilowatt hours of energy each day. That’s enough energy to give every single person on the planet a lightbulb that would shine bright for their entire lifetime. But we have a crisis right now and it’s tied to fossil fuels. It’s making us sick. it’s making our kids sick and it’s making our planet sick. In the rest of the world, there’s another toxic fossil fuel: kerosene. And when the sun goes down, 1.6 billion people live without access to electricity and rely on kerosene to light their night.
  • Who is your product for (target market)?
    • For Solight Design products our target market in the USA is the outdoor and camping sector, home and garden sector, events, and emergency lighting, —In the developing world our target market are working with Nonprofit partners that are serving the communities in Africa, India and Indonesia, that have no access to electricity and need to use kerosene for lighting- our ultimate goal is to replace all kerosene lighting with our SolarPuff lanterns. 
  • How long did your invention/product take to get to this point (from the time you conceived of the idea to now)? 
    • The process is always a crossing between a line of time which is predicable and a line of time that is. unpredictable- so I started focusing on solar energy after the birth of my son and realizing that pollution is the number one cause of asthma in children. 
    • Research, research, and more research. Understand the tremendous problem that this idea is solving or making lives better for people. And ask yourself “how can we make this better?” Once there is a clear understanding of how the past and current solutions of that problem could be re-designed or made better, assess what the potential impact would be and how many people it would help. Research if this has already been done, use google search and USPTO.gov website for keyword searches. If there is some prior art that pops up, differentiate your idea from the search results. If there are too many examples of prior art then, it’s not likely you will get a patent. With emerging trends in material technology resulting in smarter, lighter, faster, sustainable fabrication, Alice started to sew solar panels to fabric as early experiments for harnessing solar energy with softer, malleable material. She became focused on solar technology and finding ways to create clean energy solutions upon learning her son Quinn was diagnosed with asthma. While teaching as a Professor in Architecture and Material Technology at Columbia University, Alice created early prototypes of solar lights with her students. Still not satisfied, and fueled by her passion for helping the underserved, Alice invented the world’s only self-inflatable, portable solar light, eliminating the need for a mouth nozzle. This ensured a healthy, sanitary method to inflate. Alice named this invention the SolarPuff™ and conducted three years of field testing in Haiti. In 2015 she launched Solight Design and initiated a KickStarter program with unprecedented results. She went on to win numerous awards including the US Patent Award for Humanity and her products have been exhibited at MOMA, the Modern Museum of Art in New York City

      When you had your idea, what was the first thing you did?
  • One of the first things that should be done is research into the need. “Ask yourselves the question, how can I make things better?” The next question is “How many people would benefit from this?” For instance with SEEUS95 the need/market for masks has shifted exponentially since March of 2020. If there is a market for the good idea, then the next step would be to empathize with the people you would be helping and eventually they become your customer. Understand the problems and how to solve those issues through the eyes of the users then design and execute.

    What has been the greatest challenge getting your idea from your head to something tangible?
    • Prototyping the new idea for the SolarPuff — it was hundreds of different forms and failures, be prepared for failures and revisions and iterations, nothing is perfect the first time around, and even the idea itself will evolve. As far as the process for patents, you should vet a good patent attorney and ask them what their percentage rate is for allowances. By the way, my patent attorney said I should not be giving legal advice so to be clear, this is just my own perspective and cannot be deemed in any way to be legal advice.

      I have gone through two types of fillings 1. Provisional Patent 2. Non-Provisional Patent. The provisional patent is less expensive, about $2–3K this will only protect your idea for one year, at the end of that year you have to either file for a Non-provisional patent or abandon. During that year you can show your idea publicly and still be protected, because as soon as you file that provisional patent, it’s “patent pending.” We used that time to determine proof of concept. This means that the idea or product is marketable and that people are willing to spend money on this idea. Once we had a successful crowdfunding campaign we moved forward with a Non-Provisional Patent. The Non-provisional patent is the bullet proof patent where the provisional is more like a leather vest. Therefore the Non-Provisional Patent is much more expensive and can be anywhere between 6–10k+. This is the filing that the USPTO will either issue an allowance or they may respond with a rejection of sorts where they may contest the inventiveness with a series of “prior art” that are deterring the invention from being allowed. You can get up to three rejection/responses. This could take about 2–3 years from start to finish. “Prior art” is the term for the ideas before yours, that could be deemed similar. You then have to respond with a list of reasons why your invention differs from the “prior art.” The more “prior-art” there is the more costly it gets and if you have the patience and the bandwidth to keep diligent about negating and differentiating the prior art, the better chance you have of getting an allowance. Kind of like a boxing match of details and differences that ultimately shows the winner with a patent; the number of black eyes and bruises are equal to the amount of dives our bank account balance took.

      Sourcing a good manufacturer is like dating. The first one will probably not be the one you end up with. You will probably go out with them for a while and they may cheat on you by selling your product through the back door, so always start with a good manufacturers agreement or MNDA. Vett them with a sourcing agent if you want to manufacture in China. We sourced our products in the USA and the cost came back 5X-20X higher so the economics didn’t work. There is a reason why Apple manufacturers in China. The best way to test the market is through a crowdfunding campaign. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are the main platforms for this and many startups have been successful with this method of proving concept and market viability. It has been the democratization of investing so that the people from all economic levels have the power to support a good idea and bring it to life. This method is now used by established and successful companies for launching a new product as marketing as a way to establish early adoption.

      Building a business means the KPI is Revenue. So figuring out how to build a successful revenue model after mass production/ mass adoption can be a key driver for if and when you scale the business. I should also point out that there are some bad ideas/products that do frightfully well, due to good marketing; then there are great ideas that don’t make it because of abysmal marketing or no marketing at all. So having an understanding of how to convey your message and engage your customers is critical, especially in the beginning. I’d encourage every budding entrepreneur to watch Simon Senik, TED talk the power of WHY. The set of principles and aspirations you set up for yourself, the team, and the company is paramount for all the marketing and messaging you deliver and disseminate to the world so the best way to do that is to be real, and be clear about why, what matters, and how it will make life better.
  • How did or are you funding the development of your invention/product?
    • Bootstrapping is always better if you can sustain the hardship of the first couple years, this way you have more control over your company and ownership. Most startups have to relinquish over 50% of their companies to VCs early on. This is why we have these different rounds of funding such as Friends and Family, Pre-Seed, Seed, Series A, B, C etcetera. The friends and family round and pre seed round can be tied to bootstrapping, where you get capital investment through angel investors or from RG-CF (Regulated Crowdfunding)
  • How do you currently market your invention/product?
    • We currently market on social media and Google ads as well as this new TV series happening in the fall called “Gutsy Women” Airs on Apple TV September 9th with Hillary Clinton. 
  • Tell us about your background?
    • I grew up between Seoul, Korea, and upstate New York, Alice spent many days learning how a simple fold can become a structure. Origami forms were taught to her by her mother, who also taught Alice how to sew her own clothes. Always creative, fascinated by design, structure and forms,  studied architecture at Penn State where she obtained my undergraduate degree and went on to earn her Masters in Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. As a Korean American, I spent a lot of my time learning how a simple fold can become a structure. Origami forms are a perfect marriage between art and mathematics. I also spent much time drawing and building things when I was in grad school at University of Pennsylvania getting my Masters in Architecture. My mother was an artist and textile maker. My father was an architect and both my parents were adamant about music and art. So I grew up and saw them making everything from art to furnishings. We were marginalized as an only Asian family living in an all white neighborhood outside of Syracuse. There were many days I walked home from school with a black eye or bruises from being bullied. So I used my imagination to occupy my lonely early years into drawing and origami as a way to pass the time.
  • Who are your favorite female creators and why?
    • For her courage: Sarah Breedlove / Madam C. J. Walker (1867 – 1919) Sarah Breedlove was the first child of her family born after the Emancipation Proclamation — and she would go on to become the first female self-made millionaire in the United States! Married and widowed by the age of 20, she was working as a laundress when she realized that she, and many other black women, struggled with hair loss and scalp diseases due to a lack of indoor plumbing and harsh ingredients in hair products. Over several years, she developed her own line of hair care products specifically designed for African American hair, and branded them with her new identity as Madam C. J. Walker; the title was deliberately chosen to evoke Parisian luxury. When her line was ready for sale, she also set up a college to train “hair culturists,” creating a new employment opportunity for thousands of African American women. As her wealth and influence grew, Madam Walker brought them to bear on social and political issues and made donations to African American schools, orphanages, and retirement homes. Her legacy, thought, is one of perseverance; she famously said, “If I have accomplished anything in life it is because I have been willing to work hard.”

      For her brains and beauty: Hedy Lamarr (1914 – 2000) She was one of the most glamorous stars of the black and white film era — and she was also one of the minds behind an invention that provided the foundation for GPS, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi technology! Austrian-American actress Hedy Lamarr was also a gifted mathematician and engineer, and when World War II broke out, she wanted to make a contribution to the war effort by improving torpedo technology. Working with musician and composer George Antheil, Lamarr developed the idea of “frequency hopping,” which could encrypt torpedo control signals, preventing enemies from jamming them and sending the torpedoes off course. Although Lamarr and Antheil were granted a patent for the idea in 1942, the US Navy ignored their technology for 20 years, finally putting it to use during a 1962 blockade of Cuba. Since then, though, Lamarr’s spread-spectrum technology has become the foundation for the portable devices that we use every day, for which she was inducted into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame in 2014.

      What’s been the most surprising part of your creative journey so far? 
    • We started this journey. To help those in regions of need and we get. Many pictures from. The nonprofit. Organizations and church groups that. Have delivered our lights to the most rural and underserved regions of the world. It’s always amazing to see the peoples relations and joy the lights bring to the families that receive them. It can never. Get old and each face that lights up is always a surprising gift each time we get an email from our customers or partners who become light warriors in themselves. 
  • What is a typical day like for you?
    • I wakeup at 5.30 am and get coffee first – then start checking all the emails from the night before because all our manufacturers are in china and they are 12 hours a head of us. Which means our conference calls are either 6 am or 6 PM. We have a number  of different. Things that deal with checking the revenue street each day and making sure our customers are happy with our Products. The rest of he day is fielding conference calls with customers and consultants. Filling out questionnaires for interviews like this one. I leave some time for prototyping and creating so that I get to do mental therapy by creating something- sometimes it inspires a way to. Solve a tangential problem and sometime it merely helps me to not think about the stress points in the business which is cash flow most of the time.
  • Who have been your role models, mentors, etc?
    • My mother. She was always doing new things and making things and always fought for the underserved. The other woman that helped me was Hillary Clinton, who I had the privilege of meeting a few times due to the humanitarian work we were doing in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. After telling her the light warrior story of hand delivering SolarPuffs to children in Dominica that she decided on the spot to put me in her book, “The Book of Gutsy Women” in the chapter of Earth Defenders. She was always a hero of mine as I watched her career fighting for women’s rights. When I showed her what we were doing and gave her my new invention the QWNN (named after my son) she was so thrilled, focused, friendly, funny, and maternal. I literally gave her a bear hug and didn’t want to let go.
    • I will be in a new docuseries with Hilary Clinton this fall on Apple TV called “GUTSY WOMEN” I was fortunate to meet Hilary after we helped with hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico After Hurricane Maria, 3 million. People. Have nor light or electricity and we were able to send over 100,000 light there. For humanitarian aid. Well the greatest gift that we all have is our creativity, and curiosity, but people get side tracked with false norms and conforming to perceived expectations. So curiosity gets pushed back many times, yet curiosity is the daughter of invention. When I told Hillary Clinton about the Light Warrior story which came about from my light drop to Dominica, we delivered SolarPuffs to children in the hardest hit area of the island. The light warrior movement would be amazing to see, it’s about the fierce power in each human being to break through perceived boundaries and harness the power of curiosity, imagination, passion, and perseverance to achieve the impossible. It is a mighty light that we are all born with — it’s called genius. Tap into that light, that’s in your minds and in your hearts. Step by step and with small steps and small acts, in multitude, will move mountains.