Flagship product: a vinyl seating cube for home, restaurant, and event - prototype ready December 6th!
Describe your idea
Innovative circular economy business model combining two Reverse Pitch resources:
Our business starts with one simple product made from 2 reclaimed materials: vinyl street banners and mesh plastic bags. The seating cube is a simple, proven consumer and hospitality industry product - but ours will be the first that upcycles materials *and* showcases Austin’s unique culture. The innovation here is in the business model and market: Through strategic partnerships with event producers and banner manufacturers, we’re putting a unique twist on this product, reaching a broader market, and reducing the environmental impact.
Our cubes can be used indoors and out, thanks to the weatherproof vinyl on the outside, and plastic mesh we’re compacting for stuffing. For the individual consumer, this is seating for living room, playroom, or patio. For the restaurant, bar, hotel, or event space owner, they’re a stylish alternative to stools or chairs. For event producers, last year’s banners can become this year’s special element -think ACL vip seating, SXSW lounges. And when event attendees purchase tickets, we’ll give them the option to add on a truly useful and one-of-a-kind souvenir from their experience. Because they can be stacked up in a corner or closet, they provide the perfect extra seating in any context - a more comfortable and polished alternative to the folding chair.
We’ll be able to build our business quickly, with minimal capital investment. By contracting with Austin’s cut and sew and upholstery manufacturers, we keep family-owned businesses relevant and stable. Partnerships with key event producers will help us access the tourist market and provide a value-add for their customers.
Austin cubed starts small and plans for growth over the next 5 years. First, we’ll grow our scale through sales revenue while solidifying our core competencies. Then we’ll expand our line. Our 3 year plan for additional product development integrates with our sustainability and health impact strategy, using any returned or worn out vinyl cube material in products in new products
By year 5, we break ground on Austin’s first cut and sew RE-manufacturing facility, specialising in designs for upcycled materials. This facility will produce lines for local designers alongside our in-house fashion accessory and home goods designs, ensuring a broad-based and resilient revenue structure. While our initial product and business model are very much based around this particular material, our long term strategy is not reliant on it, and in fact supports the phasing out of this waste stream.
Our initial startup capital needs total under $30,000 (full financial model provided in final pitch deck). With low operational leverage, seed funding provided by the winnings of this contest, and profitability projected within the first 2 years of operation, we provide an extremely attractive opportunity for investors, especially in Austin’s growing impact investing community.
Describe your knowledge, skills and abilities
Team Lead: Cory Skuldt - MBA candidate, Bard Sustainability MBA. Circular business development consultant at Eileen Fisher. 20 years experience as successful manager of day-to-day business operations, business and nonprofit development, reuse, waste diversion, textiles, and event production. Vision to bring reuse manufacturing to scale.
Business Development: Emily Roubichoux, Kendra Martz, Alex Lykins, Cindy Wasser, MBA candidates at Bard, variety of business and product development experience.
Advisors: Georgina O'Hara Callan - Serial entrepreneur, experience managing a vertically integrated manufacturing supply chain, textiles and design. Paul Morse - Morse Constructions, 30 years design-build experience, ‘Best of Houzz’ winner, Certified Green Builder.
Business to be launched as MBA Capstone project -Faculty Advisors: Kathy Hipple, finance, and Alejandro Crawford, entrepreneurship.
Describe how your idea will utilize materials and create jobs
While Austin continues to experience growth in tech and service industry jobs, opportunity for those in the skilled and semi-skilled manufacturing trades is decreasing. We’ll support growth in this area by partnering with experienced, locally owned businesses, keeping jobs, skills, business ownership, and money in our local economy. We’ll also support the transition of traditional textile manufacturing towards the growing circular economy, building on existing skillsets and facilities and increasing their future marketability.
Describe the environmental impact
Manufactured locally and primarily marketed to local customers our products will minimize the significant greenhouse gas emission impact of shipping and transportation.
We plan to divert all of Austin’s street banner waste and a significant portion of its mesh plastic bag waste from the landfill.
While the issue is still debated, it seems likely that vinyl is tied to increasing health hazards at the production and consumer level. After production the hazards develop as the material breaks down. Our plan to mitigate these impacts is to offer a ‘take back’ program for any vinyl cubes that are wearing out. As we develop our next, complementary product lines (in production in 2-3 years) we’ll focus on smaller products that move the banner use further from direct consumer contact, such as wall planters and outdoor decor. We’ll also work with manufactures and the City of Austin to find alternative materials. We plan to set aside a small portion of each sale to support this effort, and may offer guaranteed post-consumer purchase of banners made with a non-toxic vinyl alternative.
Describe the product end of life-cycle
The Street Banner Furniture line creates durable home accessories: While we want to take the vinyl back when it does start to break down, we expect that to be a long time from now. Vinyl is widely considered to be one of the most durable flexible materials, and our products will be constructed carefully to take advantage of that.
We also make a lifetime promise to take your cube back if you don’t want it anymore, continuing to re-manufacture usable elements into new products to keep them in use as long as possible.
We look forward to sharing our prototype and detailed financial model at Austin’s Second Annual Reverse Pitch - we know you’ll love Austin Cubed!