Encased in support - Entrepreneurs inspired to protect

7 Oct 2009
Providing shelter this fire season might soon be a reality for Encase, when the team compete for $100,000 in the UQBS Enterprize competition. Determined to help in the wake of the Victorian bushfires, Encase founders Andrew Thomas, Alison Durham and Patrick Un will compete for a $100,000 start-up grant to build fire shelters as one of seven finalists in the University of Queensland Business School's ENTERPRIZE competition. In its ninth year, Enterprize is amongst the most competitive business plan competitions in Australia. Enterprize offers an opportunity for budding entrepreneurs to experience first-hand the rigorous process of developing a viable business model to take their ideas to market. The Encase team have set about redefining fire safety by designing fire shelters to combat flames, ember attacks, smoke, and radiant heat. The design will offer a more affordable, accessible, and easily installed alternative. The unique design distinguishes Encase from mainstream competitors by introducing a free-standing, scalable, aesthetically refined shelter and tackling limitations including one-way entry and disability access. "At the moment, most have taken existing products like a water tank and adapted it into a shelter. What we've done instead is go back to the start and decide how to best approach building a fire shelter for the sole purpose of safety," Encase CEO Andrew Thomas said. Co-founder and Marketing manager Alison Durham says her family's safety was her motivation to work on Encase. "My family lives an hour from Melbourne in Macedon, so it was really important to me that they be safe. I think as a team, we recognised that somebody had to do something about providing better options for safety." CEO Andrew Thomas understands that maximising safety is the only concern for a product intended to save lives. "Safety is our priority, once you take that approach a lot of the questions around how far to go with materials and design fall away" Mr Thomas said. Collaborating with local community expertise has been central to designing a successful business model for Encase. "Local builders have really valuable knowledge of the terrain and conditions, and we can provide a framework to bring jobs to those communities," co-founder Alison Durham said. By seeking to unify affordability, accessibility, and safety of the highest standard, the Encase business model has been well received in the Enterprize competition. "It was really exciting for us to hear we were finalists in Enterprize. The process has been exactly what our business needed in terms of structure and goals. I feel we now have a robust concept and business plan to take into the market," Ms Durham said.