Mike Schlebach and Jasper Eales are both board members for The Beach Co-op. We feel very honoured to have them as part of our team – caring for our planet and particularly for our oceans drives their hearts and souls. We look forward to discovering new paths and ways of working together with them to encourage a community of people that cares for our planet and each other.
We caught up with them and had time to ask them a few questions to understand what drives their business and to get an idea of where they are heading.
We love the Sealand Gear brand and what it represents. Why did you start the brand and what does it mean to you?
We knew that there was high quality waste materials out there that has nowhere to go other than a dump site. We also knew that that we have a huge unemployment problem in SA so when we combined the two issues and added Jasper and Mike’s individual expertise and passions we knew we could create something special. Now that the ball is rolling, we rest easier at night knowing that we are doing our best for the planet and for the people of this magnificent country.
What was the first thing you made under the brand? How many products do you sell now?
We started with a simple range of bags and accessories we knew were popular styles. Probably around 10 different styles all up to start which has now morphed into around 20 bags styles with some added periphery products like apparel.
What are the challenges associated with using “second-hand” materials? How do you overcome them?
The thought of paying top dollar for a waste material product has been quite difficult for most people in SA to get their heads around. Couple that with an extremely time consuming and difficult manufacture process and you get a business model that is not for the faint at heart. We are overcoming these issues by educating our customers on the environmental benefits of buying and using up these waste materials and by also putting out a high quality product that lasts a lifetime. By offering a lifetime warrantee on our bags it gives people comfort in knowing that they are not buying a waste product that will fall apart.
How do you balance the need to make a profit with environmental concerns?
We are a for profit business but we look at ourselves as an environmental social business. We are also a low volume high, margin business which means that because we hand make our products one at a time, we need to fetch good margin on each product we sell. We also pay our people more or less double the going wage which all factors into our costs and therefor our selling points. By default we are an environmental business but when you factor in all the facts around what our business is and stands for, it is not difficult to see that we are not in it for the cash.
Is the local and international market receptive to eco-products and responsible consumerism? Are there any particular challenges or opportunities to marketing eco-brands?
Yes for sure. The international market, especially in the Western or 1st world countries has and is supporting brands like ours more and more. The third world also has to get onboard ASAP as our natural world is under huge pressure on every level so if we don’t all club together, who knows how long we have got.
We love the beach cleanup bags you have made for The Beach Co-op. Are you selling them and, if yes, where can people buy them?
We also love the beach clean up bags as it gives us an opportunity to upcycle certain materials that are specifically good for that type of bag. We are going to start selling them early next year(end of January) and they will be available on both the Sealand and Beach Co-op websites with all proceeds going to the Beach Co-op.
What is next for Sealand Gear?
There is soo much good stuff in the pipeline but most exciting is a new 90m2 store that we are opening at the Waterfront in January 2019.. With this store finally comes the opportunity to showcase our full collection and gives us a great opportunity to show the world what we are really all about and to tell our story.