By Jolyon Bennett, CEO and founder of Juice Mobile Phone Accessories
As the CEO of a mobile phone accessories business, it might seem strange that I started out selling cars. That’s not strictly true; I was 12 years old and managed to negotiate a deal to sell my parents’ car (including a test drive) for £50 more than the asking price, in the hope of keeping the extra for myself. It didn’t work out, but I knew from then that I loved doing a deal.
After that, I managed a group of friends to put lids on wheelie bins and negotiated to pay them less than me. As the bins were deployed across Oxfordshire, I learned that if you get more money than you are paying out, you can make a profit.
From there, I got my first break, post-university, working in the mobile telecoms industry, which was in boom at the time, in the late 1990s. I learned everything, good and bad, from the entrepreneurs driving that business.
But I always wanted to run and own my own business. What makes me happy is being able to live and die by my decisions and be in charge of my own destiny. That’s why I was compelled to start my own business, Juice (previously Gusto Telecoms), in 2012.
When you run your own business, you make decisions – some good, some bad – but my advice is to listen to your heart and do what you feel is right. My aim was to supply high-quality and beautifully designed electronics accessories to a tech-savvy mobile generation. The team has since developed an ever-growing range of products to protect, charge and complement mobile devices. But we have also removed single-use plastic from all of our packaging.
We only have one planet and businesses need to think about how they can look after it. I knew that if we were to make all of our packaging recycled or recyclable, people would buy the brand because people want to do the right thing. There is a growing army of consumers that are making buying decisions based more on the impact and attitude of organisations. They are increasingly looking ‘behind’ the brand to see who you are and what you stand for.
The vast majority of business in the UK economy is done by SMEs, so we all need to limit the impact of our business practices on the planet. The misconception is that you need to make massive changes and haemorrhage huge amounts of money, and this puts people off, but just starting with tiny changes is part of making a difference.
There is so much resource out there now to enable people to make positive impacts on the way they are manufacturing or recycling. Even putting a recycling bin in the office for paper is a start. Look at where you are having your biggest impact – so if it is your electricity usage, find a way of switching to a more renewable energy source. Look at your business and assess where you can make a change.
At Juice, we addressed our packaging, as I firmly believe that this is what we don’t need yet produce the most of. For me, sustainable manufacturing should be focused on removing single-use plastic and making everything that is packaged and processed out of recycled or recyclable packaging.
This is not where we want to stop. I’d like to see all products being made from organic, biodegradable material and for factories to use clean energy to support the manufacturing process. We have a long way to go but we’ve made a start.
Contrary to popular belief, I believe that we should be using plastic as an alternative material to almost anything. But we need to be using recycled, post-consumer waste and recyclable plastic to produce what we need.
Right now, there are over 300 billion tonnes of plastic on planet earth and it’s going to be around for up to 3,000 years so let’s use science to find ways to reuse our mountain of plastic that previous generations have made, and let’s be inventive with it. There are already roads and cycle paths made from recycled glass and plastic so there must be so much more we can do with it.
Within my business, I have no desire to be seen as a role model, a leader or an ‘eco-warrior’, rather someone who does the right thing. I don’t believe that eco credentials or eco beliefs are something that are in my business; it’s just about doing things the right way. Just because I believe in minimising our impact on the planet doesn’t retract from my desire to be successful.
Jolyon Bennett is CEO and founder of Juice Mobile Phone Accessories. Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of FSB.