Virgin 'Change Makers' Start-Up Event, Founder Interview Series: Part 1 of 7
In this honest and insightful interview at a recent Virgin Start-Up event Brian Walmsley, founder and CEO of ReBorn Homeware, talks about his personal and professional motivations and the idea that started it all.
We'll be bringing you excerpts so you can share in the journey of ReBorn, the UK's first sustainable homeware brand, and some of the lessons we've learnt along the way. With host Nathalie Pearce asking the questions, she and Brian start from the very beginning and cover:
- Personal Background and Upbringing:
- Idyllic and tragic start to life.
- Influence of upbringing on personal and professional life.
- Professional Career Development:
- 20 years in corporate, including roles from junior brand manager to marketing director at Johnson & Johnson.
- Focus on homewares in the later years of Brian's corporate career.
- Catalyst for Reborn:
- Observation of the environmental impact of products in the homewares industry.
- Recognition of the gap in the market for sustainable homewares.
Q: We'd love to hear the story of how you decided to go it alone and what led you to this point. How did you come up with ReBorn?
The first answer to that is, like all of us, I’m heavily influenced by my upbringing. I had wonderful parents, and an especially talented and hard-working mum, Sue. She came from a very working class background and, through incredible hard work, became one of the first people in her family to make it to a Grammar school and then onto Cambridge University. She instilled that huge drive into me, which I carry to this day – and for which I’m incredibly grateful. She died suddenly and tragically when I was 16 and a big part of my impetus to start a business focused on people and planet is to honour her memory and hope to continue her positive legacy in the world.
Then there's the professional career development. I spent the best part of 20 years in corporate, mostly at Johnson & Johnson where I did everything from junior Brand Manager roles through to Marketing Director, including brands like Neutrogena, Johnson’s Baby and Clean & Clear. I have also spent a lot of time working in homewares in the last few years and that, more directly, is the catalyst for ReBorn sustainable homeware.
Homewares is a huge category. We spend seven billion pounds a year just on new stuff for our homes. If you walk into a Dunelm or John Lewis, or an Argos, you'll see these most amazing products. So many things to choose from, but almost all of them are made in the Far East from virgin materials.
So a huge amount of carbon is involved in both making and transporting them. Moreover, if you look at items closely, you'll notice that they're often what’s called “co-moulded” [co-molded for our US friends]. This means different virgin materials made and stuck together like metal, plastic and silicon – which means that things are practically impossible to repair or recycle at end of use.
So lots of homeware products, 70 million a year in the UK alone, end up in landfill. This is big problem.
Isn't it crazy that you walk into a grocery store and you might see where your food comes from – but you would rarely know where your homeware products came from, or even what would happen to them at end of use. Because the story is not great.
Your lovely products are mostly made the other side of the world and from virgin plastic, which ultimately ends up in landfill. That was the catalyst for ReBorn sustainable homewares.
Join us for the next episode where Brian will be discussing the entreprenuer's journey, advice for sustainable business and how Virgin's Start Up accelerator has supported him.
ReBorn® Homewares was created with one key mission in mind: to create a premium and sustainable homeware brand in an industry rife with products that are mostly imported from Asia, made from virgin materials and ‘co-molded’ with different materials, typically making them non-recyclable or repairable. ReBorn is dedicated to creating stylish, functional and planet-friendly homeware, with all products in the range made in the UK from recycled materials and ‘circular by design’.