Small Business: The bin firm changing office behaviour

By Aimee Shaw

Method Recycling founders Steve and India Korner.
Method Recycling founders Steve and India Korner.

Wellington-based Method Recycling aims to create good behaviour change in the office. Husband and wife duo India and Steve Korner explain how the business is helping to promote workplace sustainability.

A brief description of the business?

Method sells good-looking recycling bins. We sell mainly to the corporate market and also to the education market.

What inspired you to start the business?

India: Basically we felt there was a need for a really good-looking product for workplaces.

I had a background in office leasing and Steve was a mechanical engineer and we realised the amount [of money] people were spending on their offices these days and how they kind of convey a company's brand that really there could be a much better solution for office recycling, so we decided to launch in and create one.

Steve: We are using product design to drive good behaviour change in the office and create good recycle habits within the office space - that's part of the value we add.

India: We found everyone was recycling at home but not all businesses were doing it, and some still don't, so we felt it was such a simple thing we could do to benefit the environment.

How long has the business been operating?

Steve: We launched in January last year when we first started selling, but we had a couple of years prior to that where we put a lot of effort in to research and design for the product.

I came from a product design background with Fisher & Paykel Healthcare so I knew how to design products really well and we embarked on a really robust process to really understand our market.

Who are your biggest clients?

We've got clients in both Australia and New Zealand.

Our biggest New Zealand client would probably be the University of Auckland and then in the corporate space we have IAG, BNZ, Westpac, Wellington Airport, Meridian, Trade Me and Z Energy.

Method Recycling office  bins.
Method Recycling office bins.

How did you launch the business into Australia?

Steve: Australia kind of came to us. Our first Australian client was Atlassian and they found us through Google Images.

They really liked the look of our product, compared ours to competitors and we managed to be the preferred option.

India: We had been thinking of going into Australia at the start of this year, but after that happened we sort of brought everything forward. So we moved to Wellington to be closer and so the business trips to Australia were more achievable.

We're really targeting the Australian market now - it's really our focus - but initially it sort of came to us.

What are the long-term plans for the business?

India: We are just keen to really stay in the same space, solving problems in the office with good design and thinking about sustainability at the same time.

Steve: In terms of where we want to head we've had some really amazing enquires from the United States but we don't want to invest too much in that market until we've really got Australia up and running really well.

India: Things are changing pretty quickly for us so once we've got the Auckland person on and one in Sydney that will certainly free up our time a lot more and enable us to focus on other markets.

You recently won a Westpac growth grant, tell me about that?

India: That was a business competition run by Westpac - open to companies in New Zealand with turnrover of under $5 million - there were six online questions which we entered and then they short listed it down to 24 businesses (430 businesses applied) and then we made it into the top six.

The top six businesses were all sent on a fully-funded business vacation to Fiji for networking and there were speakers such as Diane Foreman and Lisa Carrington, and it was kind of time out for five days to think on your business. The top six businesses went to Auckland a couple of weeks ago and we all pitched a dragon's-den style 15 minute presentation followed by a 10 minute Q&A and they picked us [as the winner] which we were really amazed by.

Method Recycling bins for the workplace.
Method Recycling bins for the workplace.

Some of the other businesses had being going for four, five or up to 15 years, so we were one of the youngest businesses there.

I think they [the judges] understood our growth story, the potential we had, where we were going and obviously believed in us enough that the $50,000 [prize money] would make a real difference to our business.

How are you scaling in revenue?

India: In terms of budget we're on track.

Steve: We set ourselves quite an ambitious target this year and we are growing faster than we thought we would which we're pretty proud of. We've got some pretty ambitious targets ahead as well, so we're pushing ourselves pretty hard.

India: In six months this year we have already done more than last year's whole turnover.

Get advice from other people in the business community.
India Korner, Method Recycling co-founder

What has been the best thing to come from Method Recycling?

Steve: We've got some really amazing customer stories.

One of them would be that we're working with a pretty amazing, iconic New Zealand company and their headquarters was the worst recycler out of all their facilities. After using our product they managed to drive their diversion from landfill from 50 per cent to 80 per cent by using our product.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced?

India: Initially when we were growing, cash flow was always quite an issue, but we're getting to a stage now where that's less of an issue.

Steve: Sleepless nights for me personally when we were [first] getting it in to production. We had this really nice design and we were really pushing hard to try and achieve that in production.

What advice would you give to other small business operators?

India: Get advice from other people in the business community.

We got some really good accountants on board. They really helped us drive the strategy of the business and just put some simple things in place like an advisory board and helped us along the way.

Method Recycling founders Steve and India Korner.
Method Recycling founders Steve and India Korner.

We sit down with our advisory board every two months. They've got such different skill sets so getting they're advice is really helpful.

As first-time business owners what surprised you after starting the business?

Steve: Being a business owner you do take on a lot of responsibility but it also gives you a lot of freedom at the same time.

We've found that we've managed to juggle having a young family as well as running a fairly fast growing business.

It [the business] has provided a lot of flexibility for us as well. It means we can pick up our kids at the end of school at 3.30pm and just do some extra work in the evenings.

India: A couple of days a week one of us will pick up the boys from day care and other days grandparents or baby sitters go to get them, but it just allows us to build a bit more flexibility.

Are you facing much competition in the market?

Steve: There is a little bit of competition but we've carved out a bit of a different niche in that bins hadn't really had a lot of design talk put in to them.

At the moment there's no one really in that space in New Zealand or Australia, but there is some imported product particularly from the UK and Canada, but we feel we've got an advantage over them.

India: We do also have competition from people trying to build in and hideaway bins, but we really trying to encourage people to move away from that.

How big is your team?

Steve: Currently we are two and a half but will be three and half in about a month's time. We're also going to employ someone in Sydney next year.

- NZ Herald

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