As things were progressing, we decided it was maybe time to look around for a place to set up. We wanted a location that was easy to get to, not too far from home and close to public transport systems and logistics. Not much too ask! Well turns out leasing a warehouse is not that simple and a decent location, like houses is rather unaffordable. Finding a decent vacant warehouse proved to be almost impossible, so being an ex-builder, I had a thought to approach a development company and see if any of the new owners were looking for a lease tenant. Long story short, it worked and we got a great deal in an acceptable location, I mean who wouldn’t want their investment property leased before it was even built. Now we wait, completion date was set for early April 2020.
Focusing back to our primary product range, we realised we still had a problem with no plastic prototype to test and develop. As we could still not find a place to help prototype this, we decided to take matters into our own hands and build our own machines to work on the development. Thankfully, Precious Plastic is an open source resource and they have plans for a basic plastic extrusion unit that will be the first step in our R&D process. As mentioned, I’m an ex-builder and can do most things with timber and basic fabrication, but very little with machine building, so we needed help. Searching around the Precious Plastic community we found a local fabricator, Blake Witherow from Toil and Prosper, and engaged him to help build the extruder. Blake was very excited to get involved and started work straight away. These machines were designed in Europe and have several specialised parts which are proving hard to obtain, for affordable costs. This is making our original cost estimate well off. As well as the time it is taking to get parts and engineering work done, making what should be a weeklong job, into what is now looking to take a couple of months. The major hold up is most engineering firms refuse one off job’s or charge astronomical amounts to deter your business, disheartening but we will continue to search.
With everything happening so far, we were starting to get excited at our future prospects, while trying not to be overwhelmed at the amount of work that needed to be done. During our research, which is ongoing at the moment, I really wanted to do more with recycled plastic and in particular make it a positive structural component of the bench tops. We had an idea of what we wanted to make and implement, but no way to make it so we could test it. Researching this path lead to the discovery of the Precious Plastic movement started by Dave Hakkens in Europe - now global movement. We discovered there were several precious plastic workshops in Melbourne and reached out to them. This resulted in some cool chats, but they were predominantly schools / universities and were unable to help with our product development. We continued to search for a facility that could help us prototype our idea with no luck. We decided to put that idea on hold for the time being.
However, we discovered this Plastic movement was only just beginning to gain momentum here in Australia, so we kept reaching out to various members and formed some good working relationships. We decided we would stay close and become part of the movement as it has amazing values and ideals that fit in closely with ours and what we were trying to do.
On 26 September, 2019 Acoye was born. We had a shareholder agreement drawn up and acted, because even sometimes the best of intentions can go south, so better to be covered. At this time, we decided to Trademark our newly designed logo and went down the process of submission, which was a relatively simple, just time consuming. Wait time for this was up to 12 months for processing so we submitted and had to wait. We were constantly in discussion about branding, marketing and social media. Being that generation in between Boomers and Millennials we have plenty to get up to speed on.
We started getting out into the local communities to see what was going on and who we could meet. Attending maker fairs, expos on waste, chatting to a few companies on silicone mould making (random but we still planned to make smaller products) and other Precious Plastic members. Not to mention more research, research, research, we know plastic really well now. On a sadder note, we saw more and more evidence of how bad our countries plastic waste problem really was, and the lack of action from both the government and the community to address it.
We decided from our newfound information and love of plastic recycling, we would look at producing products from recycled plastic as well.
We spent time discussing possible product lines and applications, marketing approaches, branding and identification (logo) concepts. We decided the application was bigger than pot plants and dog bowels and discovered there was a market for green ecofriendly manmade bench tops of both concrete and timber. Both items solving land fill issues, and the reuse of recycled materials in a market that is well in front of the consumer with a lot of room for new and replacement products. A positive side effect we also discovered was that this new mix was silicosis free which is a major issue with most manmade stones. All of a sudden we had a strong marketing direction. We made a mock-up brochure and approached a few industry based companies with the idea of ecofriendly bench tops made from recycled materials and found them to be quite receptive of the idea.
After several email exchanges and catch ups, throwing ideas around further, with product options and different materials at the for front, we decided to go ahead and form the company. This involved setting up our business plan and talking to friends and advisers to get some feedback and opinions on the idea. All of which was well met, with overly positive reactions giving us the confidence and motivation to carry on. We sought some legal and financial advice to help direct the setup of the company structure and financial systems.
We then set about developing these and working on how we are going to fund the operation. We simply decided to deposit an equal amount each into a joint account. To start to pay our own way and document expenditure and become equal business partners. (This is possible a very hard step to take as most new businesses cannot self-fund and need to source funds from various sources and we were not exempt). We, as most do, figured a grant would be an option given the nature of the product and the current climate on waste. Several enquiries to Sustainability Victoria and professional grant application companies all ended in the same answer - No funding for start-ups! Generally you needed a minimum of 3 years trading to access grants. So we decided to reassess in 12 months and see where the State Government is at. We would fund our initial start-up and set about doing this from several sources including a bank loan. We now had a strong product idea, a business plan, some support systems and supply chains in place, and cash to move forward.
Starting a company with nothing more than an idea and little small business experience is a daunting prospect, but that is exactly what we are doing. We know a little about how to get started and we know a lot about what we want to achieve. Taking our ideas from our minds, to paper, to reality will be a journey and one we decided to document and share. I’m Mat and my partner is Tama, welcome to Acoyé (pronounced a-coy-ay).
We are a couple of old blokes on a mission to help clean the planet by starting here, at home, in Melbourne. Building a sustainability aware community together and designing products for the future made from landfill destined rubbish and general waste; with an emphasis on plastic.
‘To make a difference in a world suffocating from pollution. To bring awareness to the importance of recycling, reusing renewable and sustainability through community involvement and education. To provide lifestyle products in a changing climate starved of alternatives, created from our waste. Becoming part of the solution by not reinventing the wheel but simply making it better.'
This being our official first post I need to back track a little. Earlier in April 2019, Tama (who is an old Uni friend) approached me with an idea and a business name, to make lifestyle products out of recycled materials and sell them at local markets, in particular from moulded concrete. Not being an ideas man I’m always open to hearing new ideas and keen to explore their options. However, the idea of making small trinkets and spending my weekends at market stalls didn’t overly appeal to me. So, I politely suggested I would think about it as we continued our very overdue catch up. I was slightly intrigued however, as to how he intended to make concrete from recycled or environmentally friendly ingredients. He enlightened me to a bi-product from the coal industry called Fly Ash. A product I knew nothing of its purpose or uses. We parted ways with plans to catch up again soon.
Over the next few weeks I did actually look into Fly ash and it uses and turns out it could be used as a cement supplement up to 60% and had a positive CO2 reduction on concrete among other things and it was a land fill issue. This got me thinking, what if we could substitute other products in concrete with recycled materials. This lead me down a path full of published research papers concrete alternatives and additives, chemical equations and plenty of stuff way over my head. Long story short I came up with a mix that had the potential to be made from up to 80% recycled materials including plastic with lower CO2 emission and no side effect benefits from manmade stone. This was all theory of course.