Zeynep Ekemen: “Make sure you have a strong corporate structure”

Make sure you have a strong corporate structure. You never know how fast your company will grow. When starting Silver Defender, we had no idea how much of a demand there would be for our products. Having a strong corporate structure helps navigate the potentially very fast growth your business may experience sooner than expected. […]

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Make sure you have a strong corporate structure. You never know how fast your company will grow. When starting Silver Defender, we had no idea how much of a demand there would be for our products. Having a strong corporate structure helps navigate the potentially very fast growth your business may experience sooner than expected.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Zeynep “Z” Ekemen.

Zeynep “Z” Ekemen is Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Silver Defender, a woman-led business which provides self-cleaning adhesive films with built-in antimicrobial film protection to help businesses stay safe and clean.

An entrepreneur at heart with a background in commercial real estate, her vision of empowering individuals and businesses in promoting cleanliness led her to the arduous task of meeting with scientists, testing products and establishing the Silver Defender business and its supply chain. Launched in 2018, Silver Defender is currently the only product of its kind to have initiated the EPA pesticide registration process.

Z is also the principal of Z Realty Group, a commercial real estate firm in northern New Jersey that was founded in 2009 and has been named CoStar Power Broker of the Year — a prestigious accolade celebrating the industry’s top professionals — not once but twice.

Z is a graduate of Pace University’s Lubin School of Business where she earned her MBA in Accounting. When not working, chances are Z is on the golf course or enjoying a Broadway play.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

To be completely honest, after visiting a bathroom in a coffee shop. I was so surprised by the lack of cleanliness. Immediately, I thought about how I could not only create a cleaner space for myself but for businesses and consumers around the world. I wanted to think of something that has never really been done before, from there I started meeting with meeting with scientists, testing products and establishing the business and its supply chain which became Silver Defender.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

We started in 2018, but the company officially launched to the public in late January of 2020. On March 4th I found myself sitting across the Ministry of Science and Technology at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC.- which is exactly as intimidating as it sounds. Once I started sharing my vision and my passion for our products, their antimicrobial properties that self-clean better the more they are touched, my nerves settled. It was such an extraordinary meeting with extraordinary people. And at the time, there was a need for Silver Defender products, more than ever. It really could not have been more appropriate or have gone better.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

If you don’t see it getting done, do it yourself. I have always had that entrepreneurial spirit, and when I saw a problem, I went out to find the solution. I took the time to learn about the healthcare and tech industry, and what it was going to take to make the product I envisioned. I took the time to be thorough, and would encourage others to do the same because you will be rewarded. Afterall, it is everyone’s responsibility to take care of each other.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

Silver Defender has one goal: to help others. As the only product of its kind to have initiated EPA pesticide registration, Silver Defender’s technology is activated by light, air pressure and touch. The proprietary designs contain an antimicrobial agent that protects the film from bacteria, mold, mildew and fungi. Silver ions react with and affect multiple sites in bacterial cells on the exterior, keeping it clean. The antimicrobial tapes, available in various sizes, can cover any surface. Ideally our products are a tool to help alleviate some of the stresses of high traffic touchpoints — like doorhandles, credit card machines, you name it — making the world a little cleaner, one surface at a time.

How do you think this will change the world?

This year taught us to be hyper-vigilant about germs, touching and distancing. Silver Defender has a line of products that encourage touch and get cleaner with each and every tap of a finger — that’s part of how the self-protective antimicrobial films work. As the country continues to navigate best practices for cleaning amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we at Silver Defender hope to help bring a sense of normalcy back to everyday life. Although at the moment it is unclear if society will ever return to what used to be ‘normal,’ businesses and consumers can enjoy some peace of mind and sense of safety where Silver Defender’s effective and innovative products are used (anywhere people often touch).

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

With Silver Defender, I really don’t see any sort of drawbacks. This product has one goal: to protect. Originally, I thought businesses could use this to protect employees and patrons, but with our Pharmapacks partnership, everyday consumers can get Silver Defender’s products through Amazon.

We are also working on sustainability, something that is very important to us. Silver Defender is made from a recyclable plastic, minimizing its impact on the environment.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

My idea for Silver Defender started in a less-than-clean coffee shop. I was tired of wondering why there wasn’t a solution to this simple problem, so I made one myself.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

We need all businesses and industries to help us protect their employees and customers by installing this technology. We are currently in the process of submitting for EPA certifications. With that EPA certification, Silver Defender can be listed on products helping protect against viruses, which would be great for us and for the public.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Make sure you have a strong corporate structure. You never know how fast your company will grow. When starting Silver Defender, we had no idea how much of a demand there would be for our products. Having a strong corporate structure helps navigate the potentially very fast growth your business may experience sooner than expected.
  2. The importance of work/life balance. When starting out, you do whatever it takes to make your business succeed. Often that means long hours in the office, where you’re left with no hours in the day to relax and enjoy the benefits of your success. I wish I knew then to have better time management, so that I had some personal time. That’s a skill I’ve had to learn along the way.
  3. There is no need for fear of intimidation. Switching from the real estate industry to the tech industry, I had no clue what to expect. Tech is a very male dominated field, yet they were so welcoming to a woman-lead business.
  4. Always prepare for success. When starting Silver Defender, I had no idea the demand there would be for the product. Now I know, you must always be prepared to grow. Through this success, we were able to partner with Pharmapacks, and sell our products on Amazon — which made has made it even easier for the everyday consumer to get our products.
  5. Be open to the unexpected. We thought we were going to be a domestic company here in the US, but it became global overnight — as far as Australia. Now, Silver Defender is on every continent.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Work harder than everyone else, that is the only thing that makes a difference. Silver Defender was two years in the making before we launched, we just so happened to launch during a global pandemic- something that happens every 100 years. I would say that we were lucky to be in the right place at the right time, but we harnessed that luck to fill the demand for our products. We didn’t know, or even expect, Silver Defender to be the product that it is today, but I am glad that I took the time to work hard so when the time came to launch, and demand unsurprisingly skyrocketed, I was ready.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Now, more than ever, people are afraid to enter public places. Silver Defender wants to put those fears at ease. Overall, it is a great way to encourage employees and patrons that their general health is a priority, and so many businesses across the country have already utilized Silver Defender’s antimicrobial protective films.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/silverdefender/posts/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/silver-defender

Twitter: https://twitter.com/silver_defender?lang=en

Z’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zeynep-ekemen-5b85901b

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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