If you look at the furniture industry as a whole, it has always been predicated either on design or functionality, and these two ends have largely ignored the environmental impacts of what it takes to make furniture. One company looking to address both the customization needs of customers and sustainability concerns is Model No. Furniture, who believe that one size does not fit all. They produce custom 3D-printed pieces made from food waste. The company’s CEO, Phillip Raub, joins us to share his insights into where the world of furniture is headed.
We kick off by hearing about the impetus for founding the company and how its mission has grown over time. By addressing their own pain points, the founders have stayed committed to their vision of running a low-volume, high-impact business that is rooted in transparency and innovation. We then hear about some of the unique business strategies the company hopes to leverage, like micro-factories and allowing customers to redesign pieces based on their changing needs. After this, Phillip talks about his personal shifts in consumption patterns and how this led him to join Model No. after his time at b8ta. Wrapping up, we discuss accountability, creating a culture of mutual learning, and why companies who are truly mission-driven should be altruistic. Tune in at one of the links below for the full episode.
Key Points From This Episode
Model No. carved a niche for themselves when they realized that though 3D printing was being used in other spaces, it was not utilized in the furniture industry.
One of the many sustainable aspects of the company is that the material used in the furniture is made of food waste. Phillip provides the inedible parts of corn as an example, which can be ground into pellets and eventually be 3D printed.
Other interesting aspects of Model No.’s business model/future plans:
1. A goal to eventually ensure customers can continually customize an item of furniture they’ve bought
2. A strategy to utilize micro-factories, which reduce some of the environmental burden that is created by furniture production.
With the advent of fast fashion and other factors, our views around consumption have shifted over time. We no longer value craftsmanship and reusing items in the same way as we used to. It is important to try to get back to these kinds of values, where we do not view items as disposable.
Some of Phillip’s business insights:
1. Companies should help one another if they truly care about their mission (example of Allbirds offering advice to Amazon Basics on how to make their shoes more environmentally friendly).
2. Companies should be recognized for their commitment to improving, not just berated for what they have done wrong (especially when related to sustainability).
3. We need to hold large companies accountable and ensure that if they say they are committed to sustainable practices that they actually follow through.
“If you look at the toxicity of furniture, and you look at the impact that has from a supply chain, it’s so destructive.” — Phillip Raub [0:03:00]
“The idea of being able to have some sort of identification to everything, really has a lot of benefits as a consumer to be able to track and understand where that’s going to, then ultimately understanding where the lifecycle of the product has gone and come.” — Phillip Raub [0:08:46]
“I think that is what we ultimately want to get to, the point where we’ve got a series of maybe 25, 30 micro-factories that are in the US, where we can cover 80% to 85% of the population within less than 100 miles of where they live.” — Phillip Raub [0:12:44]
“We have to embrace the fact that everyone’s going to come along on this journey, but it’s going to be at a different pace.” — Phillip Raub [0:26:20]
“I hope that there’s a lot of people feel empowered as small entrepreneurs, as people coming in now and starting new companies, that they can feel that they’re not going to be punished because they’re doing the right thing, or because their product is going to cost you 20% more because they are utilizing a more sustainable method or more materials or because they’re thinking about those dollars are going to something that are going to have a little bit more impact on society.” — Phillip Raub [0:41:24]
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode
Benjamin Von Wong
Building Community with Inter-Faith Foods ft. Mohammad Modarres
Peak Design Official Site