- Text by Alex King
Friends Jason and Mat were born on the edge of the Cotswolds and have always felt a strong connection with nature and they try to carry this through in everything they do. Before setting up Kovered, Mat worked as a business sustainability consultant but became disillusioned with being hired to help greenwash the image of companies with no genuine concern for the environment. He and Jason knew they could do better, so they founded their own business and put sustainability at its heart.
Kovered produce a beautiful range of smartphone and tablet accessories made from organic materials like wood and mother of pearl. Unlike most companies, for them the natural world is more than just a resource of materials. Their relationship with nature inspires the pair’s creativity and they are fully aware of their responsibilities. Jason and Mat are committed to making sure that every stage of their supply chain has a positive – or at least neutral – impact on the environment. Mat spoke to Huck about their first steps in the world of sustainable business.
How and why did you start Kovered? What were you doing beforehand?
“After graduating from my masters in Sustainable Environmental Management I couldn’t believe the lack of decent jobs in the sector. So, instead of opting for an unpaid internship or desk-based button pressing role I thought it was time to lay my cards out and make my own job with my travelling business partner. Seeing that everyone was spending so much time with smartphones and tablets in their hands, we thought it was about time to create a business which offered something a bit different and was catered to our outdoor and adventurer lifestyles. In the process, we wanted to try and humanise the internet just a little bit, by offering a sustainable, natural option that was conscious of good old fashioned customer service. We felt it was important to develop with those around us, so we made it a priority to take the time to listen to the community and see how we could grow together.”
Is it a good time to strike it alone?
“Either you’re comfortable being employed or you think you can credibly make a difference as your own boss. We aren’t saying going it alone is for everyone, but for us it’s about problem solving, spending downtime outdoors and hopefully engaging people around the concept of sustainability. But we don’t really see ourselves as alone. We are trying to build an element of micro-community management into Kovered. There’s a wealth of talent that pours out from uni’s and colleges each year which is often lost to other industries and never comes to light. We want to get designers, entrepreneurs, and ideas people onboard as we grow. None of what we have created would have happened without support and advice from other likeminded souls and the skills of our talented graduate friends.”
What challenges have you faced?
“There has been a steep learning curve and a level of detail we never thought imaginable. One of the biggest challenges is keeping in line with our sustainability pillar whilst maintaining the desired level of quality. But we are making sure things are solid on this front from the bottom up. We’re often balancing crazy ideas like truly organic packaging with practical things like, postage and protection. It’s hard adapting to the evolution of the business while maintaining our original ethos and goals, but stick with us and we’ll pull out some pioneering and original green ideas.”
Who or what do you take inspiration from?
“Life, and its ever changing way of challenging us. We want to do something a little radical and be inspired by having a Kommunity for others to share their ideas. We want to interact with people and see where this can take us.”
Are there any indie brands out there that you think are doing great things?
“Finisterre are doing great things for the environment whilst crafting some pretty special threads. We also love the community spirit of Grannies Knits, who have drawn a network of grannies across the South West to help scale up production here in the UK. When it comes to sustainable business, the leaders of the pack are Rapanui who are really changing the public perception that eco is expensive and un-fashionable. To us these guys have led the charge and set a high bar.”
What does independence mean to you?
“Independence has taught us to learn from the lessons of previous employers, and conduct ourselves in a more respectful manner. To us, independence means flexibility. Flexibility means we work unsociable hours at times but can spend time outdoors and doing what we want, when others may be confined to their desks. We have missed countless surf opportunities and most of the Autumn sun… but it’s about the bigger picture, right?”
What’s the single greatest lesson you’ve learned from setting up your own business?
“Patience and humility. You need to be motivated to work unconventional hours whilst embracing your ethos and sustaining the effort until you see results.”
What are you ambitions for Kovered’s future?
“We have so many ideas for Kovered that we’re probably too ambitious. But for us the plan is to bring manufacturing back to the UK, build up some talented designers and source materials from the vast array of beautiful materials on this little island in a sustainable manner. We’re interested in sourcing high quality durable solar products, battery packs and lifestyle packs. We would like to take the idea that a business can grow with the input of the customers and ultimately hand over more control to our tribe of followers. We already commit to planting a tree for every 100 phone cases we sell, but we want to make sure we are carbon neutral within the next year or two. We’re working on many ways to improve our social responsibility by developing ties with our Energising Education campaign, which provides solar power packs for laptop and phones in developing countries. That’s further down the line but we feel it’s good to have vision.”
Get your tablet or smartphone back in touch with nature at Kovered’s website.