The ‘Secret Sauce’ entrepreneur series: Purple Land Trading
When Market Gravity recruit new team members, we look for like-minded entrepreneurs. The ability to inject entrepreneurialism into projects is at the heart of what we do to help big businesses create new, successful propositions. It’s this ‘secret sauce’ that makes us different to other innovation and proposition design consultancies.
Many of the team at Market Gravity are entrepreneurs. They’ve started their own businesses outside of Market Gravity — something we advocate and actively look for. Our entrepreneurs know the work it takes to get something off the ground. They are passionate about ideas in the same way our clients are passionate about theirs. And they’re able to draw on their experiences when working together to create new products and services.
And because we love to share, celebrate and support our teams’ entrepreneurial passions, we’ve created a series of blogs about them. This month we chatted to Andrew Cowley one of our Engagement Managers about a start-up he created and launched — Purple Land Trading.
Hi Andrew. What did your startup do?
In general, it helped British exporters to get a foothold in Latin America. Specifically, my first customer was a… wheelie bin company. The UK’s largest manufacturer (have a look, they are everywhere): www.taylorbins.co.uk.
Where did the idea come from?
Initially, by chance, an ex-colleague was involved in the purchase of Taylor Bins by private equity, and asked me if I could do some research for him on the market in Brazil. As I started to have conversations with the major players in the waste industry out there, it began to emerge that this product had some clear benefits over competitors, and that Brazil was at a real tipping point (pun intended), transitioning from manual collection to more efficient, automated collection. The potential was enormous — so I took on the role as sole agent in Latin America.
What did you find most rewarding about the experience?
Well, there was nothing quite like making your first sale. Add in the fact that it was in a country where I hadn’t spoken the language before, in a sector I’d never worked in, with clients I’d developed from scratch — it was an enjoyable moment.
Without getting too worthy, I also felt it was doing good for society, in its own small way. More cost-effective waste collection meant cleaner living conditions and freed up money for much-needed investment by municipalities elsewhere.
What was most challenging?
It might sound odd, but bins are very technical things to sell. They need to fit with trucks (which have numerous lifting systems) and there are norms that govern almost every specification, route planning with complex algorithms to optimise collection, and customers are used to using them in very different ways. It was a good while before I felt I could talk authoritatively about the subject.
Other than that, my timing was awful! I arrived in Brazil in 2012, when it was the next big thing, and left in 2015, when it was well on its way to economic disaster. As a result, there was a steady erosion in the value of the currency, which meant my imports constantly crept up in price, to the point where it was almost double my original quotes to clients.
When my Portuguese was still in, let’s say, a development phase, I mistakenly told a client that I had ‘woken up’ with his colleague, when I actually meant ‘agreed’. I like to think the ensuing hilarity built trust.
How has the experience helped you at Market Gravity?
It is quite tempting as a consultant to work at a conceptual level: it is somebody else’s money, so who really cares if an idea will work or not?
I think my startup experience has taught me to be both conceptual (make sure it is a good idea before you commit to it) and practical (do what it takes to make sure it actually happens).
Ultimately, you need to be able to find the excitement in any project. I never thought I’d be selling bins to Brazilians, but I was hooked. I could recite European safety norms, the exact process of hot dip galvanizing, the benefits of injection-moulded vs. rotation-moulded lids… you name it.
If you’d like to talk over any ideas that you have for launching a new proposition, or how to overcome innovation challenges you’re facing- get in touch.
Find Andrew on LinkedIn