Resource type: Case study
Cornish eco-business ashortwalk
A trailblazing Cornish eco-business is using superfast broadband to help grow sales, boost profits and create new jobs.
ashortwalk is leading the way in transforming household waste into reusable, modern homewares and garden accessories.
Set up by Dan Dicker in 2003, the Perranporth-based company manufactures high quality house signs, garden and household products from recycled paper cups, plant pots and used hops from Cornish brewer Skinners. Some 15% of the company’s sales are international.
With the support of Superfast Business Cornwall, the company is embracing digital technology so that it can increase its number of direct customer sales and better connect with an impressive client list including Waitrose, Oxfam and National Trust.
Dan left his job as a product designer and inventor for global technology giant Dyson, to move to Cornwall and set up his own business. He said:
“I started the company in my shed with the ambition to create something that was really sustainable.
“Throughout the industry, products are being recycled but they aren’t truly recycled until they have been reused – transformed into something else, and we are one of a few companies that can recycle single use cups.
“The harsh reality is that some recycling ends up being incinerated because we don’t have the infrastructure to recycle it or it’s not cost effective, but we are now working with big coffee chains and other companies like Pret a Manger and McDonald’s, to help them realise what they can do with their recyclable waste. We are also collaborating locally with Skinners to re-use their spent hops.”
Dan began working with Superfast Business Cornwall in October 2016, completing a technology for growth workshop before working one-to-one with business adviser Dan Piper on a digital action plan. This covered efficient use of technology for internal and external communications, remote working, disaster recovery and using information to develop marketing intelligence.
But the main focus of the work with the Superfast team has been a project to give customers the ability to design their own house signs online in a move that is expected to grow sales, reduce manufacturing waste and save time.
“We wanted to develop a unique system online that would enable the public to start designing their own signs in a really easy and manageable way, and then integrate that with software that can take payment and feed their order straight into the manufacturing tooling system, rather than having to enter it manually.
“All of this is fully integrated with our back office sales and accounting which will streamline operations, and will allow us to significantly increase our direct sales through better customer engagement. It also has the potential to be applied to other product lines.
“We wouldn’t have been able to get to this point without the support of Superfast Business Cornwall, and with our new digital focus there are real growth opportunities for the future. We are already looking to take on two new members of staff”.
“The work we’ve done with our adviser Dan has also helped us to look more polished and professional when dealing with huge global brands, and has allowed us to cut down on travel time and costs by communicating digitally.”
The support the project offered included grant funding which is available for new digital projects enabled by superfast Broadband. These are projects which develop new products or services or access new markets AND create jobs in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The programme can support businesses in completing the grant application and decisions are normally made within two weeks.
Dan commented “The grant application wasn’t onerous. The questions were sensible and covered what you would ask yourself as a business owner to check you are making a rational investment. Procurement requirements were straight forward best practice and I had the benefit of help from the team from start to finish”.
“We’ve learned how to engage directly online with our customers and promote our brand more effectively, and the superfast team has really opened our eyes to so many new avenues”.
“In Cornwall, we can be seen as being remote from our markets, so we need to lead the way with the use of technology to remain competitive, communicate and network. By using superfast technology to innovate we can compete with the best.”
Superfast Business Cornwall business adviser Dan Piper, said:
“It is always good to work with a business leader who is passionate about their company. Dan has been open to new ideas and has had the ability to use innovation to grow his business. I enjoyed working with Dan, he is extremely knowledgeable in his sector and forward thinking. It’s great to see him collaborating with other Cornish based businesses to support sustainability in Cornwall.”
You can find out more about ashortwalk at: ashortwalk.com