Silvie Claes | Hugsy
Completely settled in on the High Tech Campus Eindhoven, Sylvie Claes talks about her company and her personal experiences in Eindhoven. She is growing her startup Hugsy and also follows a masters Industrial Design at the Technical University of Eindhoven (TU/e).
Two years ago, the Belgian Claes moved to Eindhoven after having lived in The Hague for three years. “When I came to Eindhoven, I didn't know what to expect. The people in The Hague were a bit negative about this city. But the TU/e was well regarded and the masters program appealed to me.” Together with her boyfriend, she decided to take the risk and move to Eindhoven. “I had never visited Eindhoven before I came to live here.”
“I had never visited Eindhoven before I came to live here."
Design and technology
Claes soon feels at home in the city. “Eindhoven is a very nice place to live in. There is a great combination of design and technology, that you can feel throughout the city.” Claes is the owner and one of Hugsy's designers, a blanket for premature babies who have to be in an incubator for a longer period of time. As a result, they lack physical contact with the mother. Hugsy captures the mother’s scent and heartbeat. This way, it provides comfort to the baby and helps them bond with the parents.
Hugsy started as a TU/e design project. “A PhD student who did research at the Maxima Medical Centre came to me with the idea. She wanted to make the positive aspects of kangaroo care suitable for an incubator. Kangaroo care is a way of caring for premature babies, in which skin-to-skin contact between parents and the child plays an important role. So she asked us if we were interested in helping her with the design. I really liked the project and always wanted to start my own business. So I decided to do so.”
After working on the Hugsy project for a year and a half, she participated in the HighTechXL startup program to get Hugsy off the ground as a company. “It was a very intense period, that really boosted our business. I enjoyed meeting people working on similar projects. It's great to exchange experiences with others.” The HighTechXL program is a kind of boot camp for young entrepreneurs. They are being coached and supervised by professionals from the field. “There are so many people here with a lot of knowledge in different fields.”
Claes is now busy expanding the company. Recently, a limited edition of Hugsy was released. She wants to bring her product to the attention of a larger group of people, especially parents. “We have 99 limited editions in store now and we will donate number one hundred to the Foundation Early Bird Photography. They take photographs of premature babies in the hospital to capture this moment for parents because they often (understandably) forget doing so themselves. This way, we try to make money that we will invest in selling our product to hospitals too.”
Studying at TU/e
Besides running her startup Hugsy, Claes follows a master's at the TU/e. “It's hard doing both at the same time, but fortunately I am able to combine the two well. I have partially integrated Hugsy into the assignments for my master's program, so I focus on courses like ‘how to set up your own business’.” Because of her busy life, Claes has little time off. “Especially during the program of HighTechXL I had to miss out on a lot of fun things. I always used to play basketball, but I don't have time for that anymore. Now, after finishing the accelerator program, things have calmed down a bit but I still have to work very hard.”
If everything goes well, Claes will finish her studies soon and will then entirely focus her energy on Hugsy. “After graduating, we will move to the Klokgebouw at Strijp-S. We enjoy the pleasant and creative environment there. A good place to really start our business.” Claes is very happy in Eindhoven. “You can feel the city blossoming. There are many startup and design events. There are also many jobs in the creative and technological sector. But what I think is most important is that people here always try to help me move forward. In other cities, you will find less solidarity. It is simply a different way of doing things. The Eindhoven way suits me well.”