Adam Noble and Trent alumna Dr. Andressa Lacerda ‘08, the minds behind one of the most dynamic entrepreneurship projects to come out of Trent University in its 50 year history, make it clear that, although they both have a set goal for Noble Purification, a water filtration company based at Trent University, they most certainly don’t have set roles. Though their titles read president and CEO and COO, they both know that being successful entrepreneurs means you wear many hats.
“I was the janitor yesterday and Andressa was the accountant, that’s what makes a successful company,” explains Mr. Noble.
Successful is an understatement for these two entrepreneurs. What started as a science fair project for Mr. Noble in grade 11, growing algae in a mason jar in his parent’s sauna, moved to a lab at Trent University working with Dr. Paul Frost, David Schindler Professor in Aquatic Science, and has turned into a budding business that has grown significantly in its two years of operation.
Partnership sparks a new venture
In order for Mr. Noble to take his science fair project to the next step, he needed to learn how to use a microscope – in stepped Dr. Lacerda, who was completing her Ph.D. at Trent in Environmental & Life Sciences at the time. The spark was immediate. Upon meeting, they both realized they were onto something bigger. Armed with a passion for science and vision to change the world, the duo turned to the community for support.
“The entrepreneurial passion was always there but a lot of the basic education you might get from a business administration degree wasn’t something either of us had,” explains Prof. Lacerda, who came to Trent to study Biology as an international student from Brazil in 2008. “That’s where the support we got from both Trent University and the greater community was essential. I went out into the community to pull together an advisory board and, because we have such an awesome community, they said yes.”
To this day, Noble Purification is still using this advisory board of legal experts, professionals in the banking sector and retired executives of major companies, for the support to help the business to evolve further.
Bridging the gap between science and business
As the flagship company to be started out of Trent, one would imagine that its founders be from a business background. Not the case for Noble Purification.
“I grew up in a business household, but I always liked science,” explains Prof. Lacerda. “You often hear that scientists can’t do business and business can’t do science, that they are different worlds, but our ability to bridge the gap between science and business was a huge motivation for me.” Prof. Lacerda adds that it was the flexibility she was provided at Trent during her graduate studies that allowed her to pursue this.
“We are an example that you don’t need an MBA to be able to run a successful business,” explains Mr. Noble. “We’ve been able to run our company with the help of our community and the support of the University. As part of our interest in helping foster entrepreneurship at Trent, we want students to know that having the right support is key to any venture.”
Paying it back...and forward
“We wouldn’t be here without Trent,” Mr. Noble states, referring to the instrumental role the University, its facilities and staff have played in his growth as a researcher, and in their company and its development. Mr. Noble specifically mentioned the support of Dr. Neil Emery, vice president Research and International at Trent University, who placed him in his lab, co-authored a peer review journal article with him and helped link him to appropriate mentors and advisors at the University.
With a growing team of five employees, and having recently expanded their business beyond a Trent lab to a larger, near-by bio filtration prototype facility, the company is on the fast track to success and Mr. Noble and Prof. Lacerda are paying it forward, by reinvesting back into the Trent community.
“We decided that before we would be paid out of the company ourselves, we wanted to put money back into Trent,” explains Mr. Noble, referring to $500,000 and in-kind services Noble Purifications has invested in Trent through equipment, mentoring, teaching, and funding of research projects for Trent grad students.
“Our goal is to push research and student entrepreneurship forward at Trent University. We plan to grow here – we want to hire local and have as many Trent students as possible involved in our research. Investing now makes sense.”
Watch a short video at trentu.ca/showcase to hear more from Dr. Andressa Lacerda about Noble Purification.
Posted on Monday, September 14, 2015.