It all started in 2015 when Adrien went to his father’s curtain warehouse in Christchurch. After seeing the amount of scraps, samples, and offcut fabrics he decided to find a way to give new life to fabric waste. Adrien co-funded Offcut with his friend Matt Purcell, and since then they’ve been turning scraps into limited editions hats.
From journalist to entrepreneur – what made you quit your full-time job and take the plunge?
From a young age, I’ve always wanted to build and grow my own business. For me, it’s not necessarily about being my own boss that appeals — although I do love the flexibility that comes with it — but it’s more about the satisfaction I get when I see one of my ventures doing well and I get to tell myself, “I built that.” It’s hugely satisfying. I loved my job as a journalist because I got to work with amazing people, meet inspiring people, and travel around New Zealand, but fundamentally I wasn’t getting the satisfaction of building something long term that business gives me.
With 3 ventures under your belt (Bamtino, Offcut and, more recently, Payper), it’s safe to say you have had a fair amount of experience starting your own ventures. What’s something no one tells you about starting a business? Any learnings you can share with us?
I’m a creative type and so I easily get excited about a cool new creative idea. The most important thing I wish people had told me when I was starting out is to sit down and make a spreadsheet to calculate good pricing and exactly how much of your service or product you need to sell to actually make a decent income. Financials can be the hardest thing for creative types. Also, this gets said time and time again but it blows my mind how often it’s ignored: your product and brand don’t have to be perfect when you launch. In fact, they shouldn’t be. Just launch. Give it a crack. Stop talking about it. Launch something, learn, improve, repeat. Customers are incredibly forgiving about crappy branding or websites/apps/whatever if they like what you’re about.
Let’s talk about Offcut. You produce limited edition caps from textile waste and, on top of that, you partner with Trees for the Future to plant a tree for each cap sold. What’s the role of startups when it comes to protecting our environment? Can startups lead the way when it comes to doing business sustainably?
I think all businesses, not just startups, should lead the way when it comes to sustainability. Unfortunately, big businesses are often slow moving so yeah, startups have to pick up the slack and lead the way despite the fact we can only have a fraction of the influence big business does.
What advice can you give to startups or big corporates looking at developing a sustainable practice? Is it possible to be sustainable and successful?
Be genuine and ask yourself the toughest question: is this actually sustainable or is this greenwash? So much of what gets pitched as sustainable is actually not and there’s the fundamental contradiction that often the most sustainable thing to do is to not start a new business or launch a new product in the first place. Just as the most sustainable thing to do from a consumer point of view is to not buy anything. The only way around that is to ensure what you offer is a better alternative than anything else which is out there. So with Offcut, I tell myself that if people are going to buy hats anyway, then I want to give them the most damn sustainable option out there.
You recently completed a Kickstarter campaign: can you tell us a bit about it and what’s next for Offcut?
Yep, it was hard work but a good success! We just needed a little cash boost as we streamlined our manufacturing process so it was definitely the right move for us. But, to anyone thinking about doing one, I’d definitely warn them not to underestimate how much work it is, especially in promoting it. I think people tend to think Kickstarters are an instant path to market, but unfortunately that’s not the case. The vast majority of pledges came from people in the existing Offcut community so you really have to push hard to get the word out there if you don’t have an existing fan base.
What keep you inspired you?
Children taking to the streets in Australia and Belgium to protest political inaction on climate change. Nothing has inspired me more than that in recent years.
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