An estimated 92 million tons of textiles go to landfills across the globe each year. Today’s guest is Graham Ross, a serial entrepreneur looking to change this. During a mid-life crisis, Graham switched careers into the fashion industry, without having any experience. This isn’t a story about how Graham started a fashion line just to look more fashionable, but rather a story about how Graham, while pulling on a thread of curiosity, discovered an industry that was toxic and wanted to do something about it.
Graham was curious about how he could start solving the problem, so he went on a mission to create the greenest t-shirt on the planet. That t-shirt, made using agricultural waste, ended up being his first product, which then grew into an entire clothing line called Kusaga Athletic.
Realizing that he couldn’t take on major fashion brands, no matter how many t-shirts he sold, Graham took a more technological approach, starting BlockTexx, which is an Australian clean technology company focused on recycling textile waste. In this episode, Graham talks about how he essentially Googled his way to solving one of the world’s greatest challenges, how he built up a company inside the fashion industry despite not having any experience, and what he does to stay inspired to keep fighting the good fight. Tune in at one of the following links for the full conversation:
Key Points From This Episode
How to ask the right questions
When networking or searching for information from others, go into it with enough knowledge to elicit conversation, but then allow the other person to drive it. Ask follow up questions such as, “is there anything else you think I’m missing?” Know what you want to gain from a conversation, establish a rapport, and make sure you’re providing value to the other person as well.
You can’t have an impact if you’re not influencing people
In order to change the world, peoples’ attitudes need to change — and that doesn’t happen overnight. Graham states that he’s not in the business of selling t-shirts, he’s in the business of changing attitudes. By demonstrating that an eco-friendly company is successful and providing a product that people can buy and wear, overtime the public’s attitude shifts.
The advantage of being an outsider
You don’t have to be an expert in the industry to start in something new. Curiosity is a key component to success. Not being an expert allows you to approach others (at events, for example) and ask them about themselves. You gain knowledge in the industry, and each person you meet can lead to 100 more connections in your network.
How to make something when you have no background knowledge
Envision the big goal and break the process down into substages. Curiosity is key. Start local and ask questions about processes and follow the thread until you reach a solution. Graham started at his local charity shop to discover that 80% of clothing donations were shipped overseas — but they didn’t know where they ended up. This ultimately led him to found BlockTexx, to track these materials so they could be recycled. He used the same process to figure out a new way to recycle blended textiles such as polyester and cotton.
“Growing your network is incredibly important when you are an entrepreneur. It is the key point of what you’re trying to do, because the person you meet today may be of no value to you or you may be of no value to them today, but in 12 months, two years time, when you’ve got an idea, then you can come back to that. You’ve always got to leave that person with a great memory of your conversation.” — @Graham_Ross[0:08:59]
“It’s easy to solve a problem, it’s harder to change an attitude, and what we need to do to make this world more sustainable is we have to change people’s attitudes.” — @Graham_Ross[0:11:26]
“You can create impact through product, or from the way you behave, or the way you collaborate with people, or the way you can help them be better at what they do. I don’t think it is mutually exclusive. I think that is culturally, we as a business, that’s what we are bringing. Yes we have got clever technology, yes we are really serious about what we are doing, yes we have got an environmental impact, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help those people we work with as we go along.” — @Graham_Ross[0:29:42]
“There’s a huge lot of opportunities here at this present time. There’s obviously challenges and tragedy, but it’s a huge opportunity for the world to re-tool the way we operate.” — @Graham_Ross[0:41:52]
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode
Coming Up Next
Something new! Next week we will have two guests at once: Hugo and Diego, who work for the advertising agency AKQA. While not technically impact individuals in a traditional sense, they have created impactful projects. Tune in next week to hear about a variety of projects, including Code of Conscience. Subscribe here so you don’t miss out and leave us a review here so we can keep growing!