Jon Walker, Founder Of Fellow53 tells us all about his dream to develop dwiss to help us up scale our recycling efforts and make it simple to do so. You can check out dwiss videos on youtube for a quick summary, dwiss design video & dwiss environment video.
If you’re interested in what it takes to come up with a new product concept, form a team, create the end product, then bring it to market using crowdfunding it’s no easy feat, read on to find out more about Jon’s journey so far.
Can you tell me a bit about you, your background and your team?
Hi, I’m Jon, the inventor of the dwiss. I’m part of a team that’s helping give people a fair chance in life by preserving a healthy environment in which everyone can live and grow. We’re doing this through recycling – the more we recycle the healthier the environment.
I’m from Sheffield, where I live with my wife Lou, kids Bella-Rae and Hudson, and three cats Benny, Boots and Poppy. We’re lucky to have an allotment and old campervan which we enjoy whenever we can. I’ve loved the outdoors and design since my early days, when I’d be found in the garden making mud pots or in the garage building tables.
Between 1999-2015 I worked in business improvement manager in the UK construction sector. With my colleagues we analysed business performance and implemented improvements, often involving multiple departments, clients and supply chain partners. I gained a broad view of business performance and started to develop ‘systems thinking’ skills.
In 2015 the business I worked for ceased trading so I used the opportunity to start Fellow53 Ltd (trading as ‘dwiss’). I’ve teamed up with Paul Timmer (Design), Alex Swain (Production) and a host of other experts. I contacted Paul after seeing his amazing wooden bike in the Observer – it was featuring in a cycling exhibition at London’s Design Museum. I thought ‘a wooden bike needs to be able to get wet and still work, perhaps Paul can help me with my bin’ (I’d had a few glasses of wine – it made perfect sense), fortunately Paul agreed.
Paul is a skilled designer / maker based in Amsterdam so I went over to meet him and we agreed a 4 stage design development process that would take the concept and prototype feedback through to finished product. Paul was brilliant – knew his stuff, a lovely guy and real thrill to work with. Then I met Alex whilst exhibiting the dwiss at London Design Festival in 2016. Alex runs ByAlex, a great furniture brand whose ‘purity by design’ ethos reflects our values. He has helped build my supply chain and prepare the dwiss for large scale production.
It’s worth mentioning Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) at this point. I was studying Quantity Surveying there when I came up with the dwiss. Back in 2005 I entered a business plan competition of theirs, came second and used the prize money to pay for my patent application (filed in 2006 and granted in 2009). In 2015 I reconnected with them through Design Futures, their internal design company.
Design Futures helped me conduct product research and develop some prototypes that were trialled by family and friends. The feedback from these trials was collated and was an input into Paul’s design brief. I continue to work with SHU’s business students through their Venture Matrix programme – I provide ‘real’ hands-on projects for the students to work on and I benefit from their knowledge, energy and perspective. It’s a real win / win situation. They’ve conducted some excellent market research that has shaped by marketing plan, and they’re currently helping me with my social media strategy.
Before starting this journey I had no idea of what would be involved. As such I’ve benefitted from the skills of my old school friend James Dykes who has developed the branding; Graphic Design in-turn Eve Ballie that has worked on our packaging, Rosie Hardy – IP, Andrew Hulse – Financial, David Beasley – DIT, Hemmant, Sophie and Soumya – Godrej & Boyce… Meeting and working with these guys has been the best part of the journey so far, and together, we’ve just won an ‘A Design Award’, collecting Silver in the ’ Furniture, Decorative Items and Homeware Design’ category.
How did the journey to create Dwiss begin?
It began 2004 with a need… my need to get a job done – the recycling. Working in environmental management I was aware of the benefits of recycling so did as much as I could at home. I soon found the worktop was covered in piles of paper, bottles, tins… I needed something that worked well, looked good and was itself a sustainable product (it always seemed ironic that we did something environmentally sound like recycling using a product made of oil based plastic or aluminium, two unsustainable materials).
I went to a friend’s house for dinner and saw they had the same problem. I talked to lots of other people and, sure enough, everyone said they had the same problem – piles of recycling on the worktop. So I sketched out a few ideas, got chatting to a family friend who turned out to be an industrial designer (handy), and started my path to achieving ‘Inventor’ status when I secured my patent in 2009.
Please can you tell our readers a bit about the dwiss, how it works, where can it be used and what the benefits are?
The dwiss gives you one one place to do all your recycling before you take it outside. Take a nice cold after-work beer or G&T for example. You take the metal lid off and pour your beverage of choice into a glass. The empty glass bottle then goes straight into one compartment, the metal lid the other. Job done. Clear worktops. Happy days. During the prototype trials people refused to return their dwiss they were so happy to get their worktops back. #reclaimyourworktops
The dwiss makes recycling quick and easy by providing 4 compartments that are easy to access, empty and clean. The Top two compartments are accessed by a single lid: one can be discreetly fitted with a bag for non-recyclables and the other has a removable tub suitable for composting (you can transfer it to the worktop when peeling veg for example). The two lower crates provide more flexible recycling capacity for paper / cardboard (a large cereal box is easily accommodated), glass (each crate can hold 8 wine bottles), plastic, tin etc. They are simply pulled out to access and empty, when they can be easily carried in 1 hand, allowing the other hand to open the door when transferring the recycling outside. To clean simply wipe with a damp cloth. All 4 compartments are no deeper than your forearm and the tub can go in the dishwasher.
So not only does the dwiss easily get the job done but it does it in a sustainable manner due to it’s innovative design. We’ve made the dwiss out of wood grown in managed forest. Wood is durable, carbon neutral (i.e. it absorbs carbon as it grows and releases it as it decomposes/combusts), repairable, recyclable and can be used as fuel at the end of its useful life to generate heat and power. Result!
But we’ve not gone mad with the stuff, in fact the complete opposite, using as little wood as we possibly can. Most bins have an outer shell that looks… pretty dull really, and an inner compartment that holds the waste. With the dwiss the parts that do the work also look simple and stylish. The result – nearly a 50% reduction in the wood required AND more capacity – WIN / WIN!! Throw in the avoidance of mechanical parts that often fail (there’s 1 hinge, that’s it) and a laser engraved serial number on the back should a part have worn out by 2036 and you need us to send you a replacement (simply tell us your number and we’ll teleport the exact part you need straight over), and your dwiss needs adding into your will along with Herbie the tortoise!
The dwiss is suitable for any environment where domestic waste is generated but is most likely to be found in the home and office. We’re currently developing a dwiss range that will provide a larger version (although at over 80 litres / 17 gallons the launch version has the largest capacity on the market despite its modest size, which is due to our innovative ‘frame and compartment’ design), a two compartment version for those who live where anything that can be recycled is mixed together) and a smaller two compartment version for the bathroom / under a desk (this is a great opportunity to increase recycling).
How long did it take to perfect the design? What challenges did you face?
I had the idea for the dwiss in 2004 and did some design development from then into 2005, when I started to looking into securing a patent. The dwiss’ design then didn’t really change until I hooked up with Design Futures in the summer of 2015. From then until the summer of 2016 was intensive design development. But the dwiss’ design is always evolving – new variations, a version made of recycled plastic that we can offer as a ‘product as a service’ to support the circular economy… Everyone that uses the dwiss is invited to feedback how they use it, which bits work best, how we can improve it etc.
The real development that took place was my development. When I was granted the patent I had no idea what to do with it. I didn’t have the contacts, the confidence or the cash to do anything. I tried to license it to a few companies but they were always “working on something similar” so that didn’t go anywhere. So I spent 10 years listening, watching, reading, trying, failing, succeeding, thinking, absorbing, growing, teaching, learning (usually what not to do rather than what to do) until I got to the point where I was sat in Board meetings thinking “these guys don’t know what they’re doing, I could do a better job than this”. And so I started to plan for Fellow53. I could see redundancy was inevitable so I lined things up so that I could use it as a springboard to launch. I wasn’t sure I was ready for it until I was in a meeting. We’d spent 2 hours discussing the dwiss and the meeting had come to a natural conclusion, as which point the guy got all non-committal – maybe, perhaps, possibly – and from nowhere this new found strength within me emerged and I said “Don’t mess me about, you’re either in 110% or you’re out! I need full commitment from everyone involved.” The guy looked very shocked and stuttered “I’m in.” Previously I wouldn’t have felt I had the right to say that as I was really after a favour, but that’s when I knew I was committed to the core, and come success or failure, the dwiss was going to happen.
You have an indiegogo campaign running at the moment, what are your targets, what rewards are up for grabs and how can people get involved?
To join the dwiss community and make it happen simply head to our Indiegogo page (search ‘dwiss’ at Indiegogo.com), select a reward that works for you and share our crowdfunding video with your friends. No worries if you can’t afford a reward, just sharing our video is a huge help.
So, our rewards, or ‘perks’ as Indiegogo likes to call them…
- They start at $10 with the ‘Lucky’ dwiss for which you stand the chance of winning a dwiss. You’ll also receive a personalised note of gratitude and your contribution will be acknowledged on yourdwiss.com, happy days!
- ‘Make someone smile’ gives you the chance of winning a dwiss. You’ll also receive a personalised note of gratitude and your contribution will be acknowledged on yourdwiss.com, plus you get 3 stunning postcards showing the dwiss taking time out in the glorious Yorkshire Dales.
- The exclusive, one-time-only, For the 53 ‘Founders’ includes 40% off, nice, but your dwiss also carries additional laser engraving on the back, acknowledging you as one of the 53 founding fellows of Fellow53 Ltd (‘dwiss’ is our trading name) and will be serial numbered 1-53.
- Or there’s the ‘Early Bird’ you can grab your dwiss with 25% off.
- We’ve then got a ‘Multi-Buy’ reward if you and a friend want to buddy up for a 10% discount, or you want one for home and one for the office.
- And finally we’ve got the ‘Presentation Package’ reward, which includes 2 dwiss and a visit from me to deliver a presentation or talk sharing the story of how I brought my idea to life.
We’re targeting $30,000, which we’ll use to complete our first large production run, with the money being used to pay for tools, labour, material and sales costs. This will enable us to start building working capital that we’ll use to develop a super low-cost version of the dwiss, that we can install in social housing as a ‘product as a service’ by working in partnership with local authorities. This way we can introduce recycling to communities not familiar with the practice, and so scale up to a level where we start to make a real difference, where we support the circular economy and shift to a more sustainable position with regards the use of natural resources.
What has the response been from backers?
We’ve had a great response, hitting 17% funded in the first 24 hours. A lot of people that trialled the prototypes have selected a reward that gets them a dwiss because they know how good it is. We’ve also had some great donations because people want to see dwiss succeed as they believe in what we’re trying to do, and while people are loving the wooden version they want to see the recycled plastic version get going.
Are you taking pre-orders?
If you select a crowdfunding reward that includes a dwiss then this is effectively a pre-order at a discounted price. We’re also taking pre-orders at yourdwiss.com
What are your company values and why are they important to you?
Our vision is that everyone gets a fair chance in life and so our Mission to help people shift to a more sustainable position on the use natural resources as this helps to preserve a healthy environment in which to live, which is a key part of getting a fair chance in life.
Our values are fairness, authenticity, growth, kindness, respect… We believe that everyone is equal and so deserves a fair chance. We want to spend our time on this beautiful planet of ours helping them get one.
Whose kitchen would you love to see Dwiss being used in?
Great question. Ellen MacArthur, or Dieter Rams maybe. In the late 70s / early 80s Dieter developed 10 Principles of Good Design which are reflected in the dwiss. Dieter has gone on to champion sustainable design, captured in his tenth Principle ‘less but better’. The dwiss has been developed in this spirit. I’ve seen pictures of inside Dieter’s house it it’s full of exquisitely designed items, so it would be the ultimate compliment to see the dwiss at the end of his worktop.
Following Ellen’s recording breaking sailing career she has gone on to start the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, whose mission is to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. As a sailor I imagine Ellen appreciates good design and is very aware of finite resources, so I think it would be great to see Ellen ‘dwissing’ her waste.
There is a trend for businesses globally to act more responsibly, how important do you think this is for brands to be successful in future?
Incredibly important. I think this trend will become a ‘given’ due to the growing awareness amongst the general public that irresponsible business is not environmentally sustainable, and as such those that behave this way will find it harder and harder to survive as legislation and spending patterns make irresponsible business practices economically unsustainable.
Industry and the public see that our current ‘linear economy’ (i.e. extract natural resources, turn them into products use fossil fuel energy, own the product and then throw it away) cannot support a growing population indefinitely, and that we must shift to a ‘circular economy’ where products are made using recycled materials and clean energy, used (e.g. hired) rather than owned, and then returned for reuse or recycling.
Which are your favourite brands that are making a positive impact on people and planet?
Brands that are economically successful (and so support social gain through responsible employment) whilst being environmentally gentle appeal to me.
Car manufacturers have made significant progress over the recent years and of those Tesla has to be the stand-out brand. Patagonia is doing a good job on the clothing front, Opportunity International is an interesting charity and Vitsoe is a great product brand. They basically have a few simple, modular products (seating, tables and shelving) that are designed (by Dieter Rams) and built to last. Vitsoe will help you evolve your products as your needs change (e.g. add extra seating as the family grows), or help you re-plan your shelving layout when you move home. I like the simplicity and longevity of it.
I also like the companies that are starting to provide ‘products as a service’ such as Phillips, where you pay for the light rather than the fittings and bulbs. As Phillips retain responsibility for the hardware they’re driven to make more durable products. Ikea are starting to do the same and I think driverless cars will be a game-changer with regards optimising the value of resources.
The Sunday Times ran an article about Dwiss, read it here.
A huge thanks to Jon for taking part and sharing his story, I hope the Indiegogo campaign is a huge success!
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Bough to Beauty Bespoke
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