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UAL graduates Vassi Deij and Frieda Bischoff on easy methods to launch a sustainable startup

Read Time:8 Minute, 41 Second

2023-02-01 08:30:00

Producers produce lots of waste supplies, and disposing of them prices them cash. Inventive college students want supplies and haven’t got a lot cash to purchase them. Vassi Deij and Frieda Bischoff, two college students learning MA Design for Social Innovation and Sustainable Futures at
College of the Arts London (UAL), have based a startup that solves each these issues in a single go.

Renée Supplies matches firms who’ve reusable materials with college students, creatives and makers who want it for his or her tasks. It is a easy thought however one which’s superbly efficient: to this point, they’ve matched over 40 donating firms with over 1,000 college students to place over three tonnes of waste to productive re-use.

We sat down with Vassi and Frieda to learn the way they acquired the concept, how they went about launching it, and the way they plan to scale it in future.

The thought

The gestation of the corporate started just a few years in the past earlier than the pair had even met, explains Frieda. “I used to be strolling by the streets of Peckham in London and noticed a roll of paper being thrown away exterior a print store,” she explains.

“It was completely usable; it was simply barely broken. I used to be a vogue pupil then, and I assumed: Wow, one thing like that will be extremely helpful for me, however very costly to purchase new. I may use it for patterns. I may use it for various inventive variations and tasks.”

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And that is the place it hit her. “I assumed: ‘That is thought-about waste as a result of it is the mistaken time on the mistaken place with the mistaken title. However that does not imply it is not helpful to somebody now. It simply means it is on the mistaken place’.”

That is when the concept began boiling in her head – that designers ought to have entry to this extra materials that firms throw away. Round a 12 months in the past, Frieda met Vassi and instructed her about her thought. “So we began brainstorming,” says Vassi. “Attempting to grasp what have been the values of this product and what this product really was.”

To get a greater sense of how this might work successfully in apply, they began interviewing individuals, each college students and representatives of firms. “We tried to work out what the behaviours have been, what the wants have been, and the way we may facilitate this type of trade in a method that wasn’t an excessive amount of arduous work for both college students or companies,” says Vassi.

The bodily retailer

Based mostly on their findings, they determined to open a bodily hub to see how the concept would play out in apply. “We believed within the thought, however we did not actually have proof of idea, any numbers that will show to individuals it may really work,” remembers Frieda. “Our unique thought was to make an app, however finally we determined the digital market was one thing which could not work on the very starting. That is since you want a crucial mass on either side, and lots of, many individuals, so that you just discover these matches.”

So as a substitute, simply to get began, they opted for a bodily retailer and reached out to the UAL Local weather Emergency Community for assist and recommendation. “They’d area that they needed to arrange because the Swap Store,” explains Vassi. “And after some time, they stated: ‘Why do not you coordinate with us to handle it and see how that goes for Renée?’ In order that’s the way it started.”

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The Swap Store is a Round Materials Hub devoted to undesirable supplies that may be re-used, re-purposed or repaired. “The place is nice as a result of we’re in The Road of Central Saint Martin’s , which is that this huge open area the place everybody passes,” explains Frieda.

College students can both drop off, choose up or borrow displayed supplies. All these supplies have been both donated by the College’s workshops, amenities, employees and college students or by exterior firms or organisations which can be a part of Renée’s community.

The digital presence

The Swap Store, nevertheless, was only the start. First, they arrange an Instagram account
and as soon as that had acquired some traction, in November, they launched the Renée web site.

It has been superbly designed with a heat, cartoony really feel. If you happen to’re on the lookout for materials, it makes it simple to filter by classes, together with wooden, paper, steel, textiles, plastics and extra. It additionally makes it simple for firms with waste materials to share to contact Renée Supplies and focus on partnerships.

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And companies have flocked to become involved. “We have had, for instance, vogue homes reminiscent of JordanLuca, and Phoebe English,” says Frieda. “We have had donations for paint from the Wellcome assortment and the Veolia recycling centre. We have had a giant donation of tiles from Reed Harris. So loads is coming in.”

Day-to-day operations

Now the pair have graduated from UAL, Vassi has returned to Italy, the place she spends three days every week at Hi there Tomorrow, the inventive company she based in 2020, and two days every week on Renée. Frieda, in the meantime, has stayed in London. “I work on the Swap Store for 3 days every week, helped out by two store assistants,” she explains. “Then the remainder of the times are spent writing functions for funding and networking.”

Crucially, the Swap Store retains cautious information of what supplies college students have taken and their weight, to assist report and analyse the impression the undertaking is having. “We ask they ship an image of what they’ve achieved with the supplies in order that we will perceive how helpful it was,” says Frieda. That is additionally a delicate however efficient method of making certain the supplies actually do get put to good use and are not simply hoarded. Moreover, all of the offcuts, or the completed product if unneeded, could be returned to be creatively re-used by another person.

Frieda provides that the Swap Store is cautious not simply to take something and dissuades college students from donating objects that is likely to be higher off in charity retailers. “If a T-shirt, say, is completely high quality and does not have any holes, it will be higher off there; until it is actually eccentric, and you should use it for units.”

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Scaling issues up

Proper now, the majority of supplies donated by firms are being distributed through the Swap Store, however Vassi and Frieda plan to open issues out to non-students sooner or later. “We have been testing out completely different strategies of sharing supplies, reminiscent of posting on Instagram the kind of materials that is been given away and saying you’ll find it at this or that place,” says Vassi. “However finally, our scaling thought is to have completely different materials hubs, not solely inside universities however inside completely different inventive establishments and perhaps additionally within the metropolis.”

“We’re additionally contemplating asking whether or not firms can hold a few of their waste in-house,” she provides. “And if we will discover a method for creatives and makers to go and choose it up. As a result of transport can be one thing we wish to be environment friendly with, we wish to keep away from having vans coming out and in of the college on a regular basis as a result of it is not 100% sustainable.”

The corporate was solely based a 12 months in the past, so such concepts are nonetheless of their infancy. However finally, says Frieda, they’d prefer to see a world with out wasted materials. “The thought within the final 30, 40 years has been that recycling is the answer for waste. However with Renée, we are saying that really, for those who have a look at the hierarchy of waste, there needs to be no waste. As a result of for those who re-use one thing, you employ it with the fabric properties it had from the start. You do not have to soften, shred, or downcycle it as with recycling.”

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And that brings us to why they selected such an uncommon title. “The thought got here from Magritte’s portray ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe’ [French for ‘This is not a pipe’],” explains Vassi. “Equally, we have been saying: ‘We should not name this tablecloth a tablecloth or one thing that is waste, it is a textile. That method, we do not bias creatives with a selected method of it in an effort to increase creativity.”

“Magritte’s title is René,” she continues. “Which additionally comes from the French phrase ‘renaître’ which implies to be reborn. We selected Renée with two e’s as a result of that is the feminine kind and we’re two feminine founders.”

Assist from UAL

It is no accident that such a radical undertaking needs to be birthed at UAL as a result of the college has a powerful observe report of encouraging innovation in its inventive college students: you’ll be able to examine different groundbreaking UAL tasks right here.

“The alternatives UAL presents to college students are unimaginable,” enthuses Vassi. “The system at UAL lets you check out any concepts you need, because of all its completely different programmes, such because the accelerator scheme. There are a lot of potentialities for doing workshops, reaching out to individuals, and getting them engaged. From day one we have had individuals coming to us, writing tales about us, and actually making an attempt to assist out our thought and our startup by.

“If you wish to create change,” she provides, “the design world is among the most fun fields to be in. As a result of designers are actually being recognised as having essential roles – each inside our ecosystem and all through the availability chain, principally all the things surrounding our lives. In fact, we now have had some points throughout our path. However with out UAL, we might be in a very completely different place with our thought and startup.”

To study extra about learning a postgraduate diploma and the wonderful help out there, head to the UAL web site.

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