Zeynep “Z” Ekemen of Silver Defender: Make sure you have a strong corporate structure; You never know how fast your company will grow
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 our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, 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! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
After visiting a coffee shop in my neighborhood two years ago, a friend and I commented on the bathroom’s lack of cleanliness. I am a problem solver at heart, that’s what drives my entrepreneurial spirit. Almost immediately I envisioned a business that could help others, businesses and consumers alike, stay clean through a new kind of antimicrobial product. I began the arduous task of meeting with scientists, testing products and establishing the business and its supply chain which soon became Silver Defender.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Silver Defender has been in R&D since 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. At first it was the most intimidating meeting I have ever been in. After going through security and walking a mile with escorts inside the embassy to the most impressive conference room, I ended up at a table with the Minister along with five other male colleagues. Inside my head I was saying, “Who do I think I am and what am I doing here!” But once I started to talk about our products, their antimicrobial properties that self-clean better the more they are touched, and how they needed our products more now than we did back in March, my nerves settled. It ended up being an unforgettable meeting.
Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
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 from door handles to credit card machines).
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, making the world a little cleaner one surface at a time.
How do you think this might change the world?
This year taught us to be hyper-vigilant about germs, touching and distancing. Silver Defender has a line of products that encourages touch and get cleaner with each and every tap of a finger — that’s part of how the self-protective anti-microbial films work. It’s a small step towards returning to the normal we knew pre-COVID, and improving that world too. Touching a credit card machine, door handle or elevator button is cleaner with Silver Defender. We have harnessed silver’s natural abilities in a way that brings protection where we need it most, high touch areas.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
Thankfully, our technology is in some ways very simple. Our products allow businesses to create a safer environment for their employees and patrons. Now, with our new Pharmapacks partnership, everyday consumers can get Silver Defender’s products through Amazon, making our products even more accessible for everyday consumers and small businesses looking to up their cleanliness factor.
Unlike other cleaning products, Silver Defender is made from a recyclable plastic, minimizing its impact on the environment. When it comes to technology, I believe we always need to deeply consider not only our immediate impact, but our impact on future generations and the planet long after we’re gone.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
I think I speak for us all when I say at one point or another, we’ve been in a public place where cleanliness was just not a priority. For me, it was the coffee shop I visited with a friend, where I thought enough is enough and wanted to find a solution. That is where my idea for Silver Defender started. That’s how I got into the business of providing amicrobial protected films that businesses can use to put their patrons’ minds at ease.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
Silver Defender’s products are a simple solution for a complex problem. 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 that will allow us to better explain the benefits of our products to the public at large. From there, there’s no limit to what we can do and how many people can benefit from our products.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
Silver Defender officially launched in 2018, but when the COVID-19 pandemic reached the country earlier this year, demand unsurprisingly skyrocketed. The adhesive films have been helping public, nonprofit and private entities across the nation including airports, public transportation, retail locations, cruise lines, schools, hotels, government buildings and more. Long Island MacArthur Airport, World Trade Center buildings and San Diego Zoo, Long Island Ducks Stadium are just a few examples of clients now using Silver Defender as part of their newfound safety measures.
We have been working with PR and marketing teams to showcase Silver Defender products which has allowed us to broaden our audience and spread the word about our ongoing partnerships. Most recently, we announced our expansion to Amazon through our partnership with Pharmapacks.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I would have to say that person would be my best friend for over 15+ years, Evan Wexler. Watching him grow his multiple companies from inception to where they are now has been such a valuable lesson as an entrepreneur. His advice on building the Silver Defender brand has been invaluable.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
At its core, this our products give back to everyone they touch (literally). The nature of the products create cleaner, safer spaces — that kind of benefit isn’t just for those who purchase our products, but their customers and loved ones. We’ve learned quickly over the past year that cleanliness isn’t personal, it’s global. Silver Defender is the intersection of my life and work. My personal priorities and business skills have come together with these products. I was inspired to create a safer world and my work allows me to do that.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 😊
Society is shifting how they perceive cleanliness and safety. As a company that wants to inspire others to feel safe, I believe Silver Defender is starting a movement with our products. We’re providing solutions for cleanliness and empowering people to feel safe again when touching common items in the world around them, and hopefully with a bit less fear when doing so. We’re also putting power back in the hands of business owners. Our products allow businesses to be proactive in protecting their staff and patrons in new ways.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have many quotes that I actually keep on my phone in a special folder and read all the time. This one has to be one of my favorite quotes. “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” — Calvin Coolidge.
I can probably say that I don’t have any true talents. I would love to play the piano or violin, but I have no musical talent. But that didn’t stop me from taking lessons to see if I can learn. (Lessons didn’t help, I can’t play any instrument). I loved playing sports but mostly sat on the bench whatever sport I tried to play in a team. I’m nowhere close to being a genius. I’ve been a good student, but I had to study so hard just to be an above average student. But one thing I do have for sure is persistence and determination.
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 🙂
Silver Defender’s main objective is to keep the public safe. Now, more than ever, people are afraid to enter public places, we want those fears to be put at ease. So many businesses across the country have already utilized Silver Defender’s antimicrobial protective films. Overall, it is a great way to encourage employees and patrons that their general health is a priority.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Z’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zeynep-ekemen-5b85901b
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.
Zeynep “Z” Ekemen of Silver Defender: Make sure you have a strong corporate structure; You never… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.