Mei Chun Huang and Moosun Yoo are two University of Brighton international graduates (2017). They are currently taking part in the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visa programme, endorsed by the university to develop their business and make a local impact. Here they share some of their tips and experiences learned while working on their recycling and upcycling venture. 

mei and moosun

Describe your business

The Student Plus Project aims to provide a hassle-free, cost-effective service to students while being good for the environment. Our business rents out used and upcycled furniture and household items to students for the duration of their studies and then collects them at the end of their course. We also upcycle furniture that is no longer wanted by students, landlords, tenants and letting agents to sell it on.

How did you get your idea?

Student populations are transient communities often living in a place of study for 1-3 years. Whilst furniture and household products are readily available and relatively cheap, the short period of use means most items are discarded when students graduate. This presents a significant and unnecessary waste stream. We thought our business would help reduce the financial and organisational stresses of student living and alleviate the waste burden in the city. Also, based on studying Sustainable Design and Fine Art in Brighton, we were inspired our belief in the core concept, as the student population in particular is very environmentally aware and already receptive to creative reuse.

What makes your business unique?

We focus on the waste stream of students who are living in Brighton temporarily. It is about the social issue and environmental concern. Also, we offer a rental service rather than just selling, to provide more options to different groups.

How do you market your business?

We do promotional activities at universities to advertise the reuse service to students, as well as using social media. Our blog posts detailing our creative projects attract followers and interest. We also cooperate with local property agencies and other shops.

What has been your biggest business challenge and how have you overcome it?

Our biggest challenge was customer awareness, which we have to overcome as a young start-up.  We face the challenge of achieving sufficient exposure to grow our client base. Scaling our storage and production facilities affordably is also difficult. We always explain our service when we meet new people. We ask people to help, talk to professionals and tutors, and do research as much as we can before we make decisions.

To what do you attribute your business success?

We are in the early stages now, there is a long way to go. It is good to make the business open, exploratory and adaptable. Some opportunities can bring take business to another level, others do not bring any benefits. We believe that it is a process no matter if it is positive or not, and the process brings us experience for future decisions.

What are your business plans for the future?

We are planning to develop some prototype products to form a brand. Our experience volunteering at The Wood Store has inspired us to develop marketable designs and given us the skills to produce them using common materials such as waste wood, plastic and fabric. We are excited at the interest we’ve received in performing upcycling projects. For further development, we have registered with The Good Business Club as a member and look forward to receiving funding advice. We hope we can build up a community as a social enterprise which encourages green living.

What one piece of advice would you offer to someone starting up?

Do it! If you have an idea, then do it. Do not afraid be failure. You do not know the result before you do it. Even you think the plan is perfect, there will be always something coming up that you couldn’t expect.

What three skills are the most important for an entrepreneur to develop?

Interpersonal skills, creative thinking and social networking skills.

Any tools, resources or books you recommend?