We will establish a small manufacturing company to create buttons and other notions from oyster shells. Our business will help in reduce oyster shell waste in the Austin area, and support growth of the local fashion industry. ‘Notions of the Oceans’ will be reintroducing a skill set from the past, create local job opportunities, and elevate sustainability in garment manufacturing.
By creating sustainable notions from shellfish waste, we support both local restaurants and the Austin fashion market. Restaurants who serve seafood have no feasible diversion options for waste from shellfish. Local fashion designers and garment manufacturers (such as Stitch Texas) are challenged to meet consumer demand for unique sustainable products with few options for notions that meet this demand. We see continued growth in both the restaurant and fashion industries; Notions of the Ocean will be an essential component of both, and support the establishment of reliable manufacturing in Texas.
We will use oyster shells from Quality Seafood Market.
Our business model is built on a unique concept to use oyster shells for notions. As an additional business line, the remaining shell waste (after notion manufacture) will be repurposed into a landscaping pebble. Our purpose is to both divert the waste from shells and minimize the use of non-recyclable plastic buttons.
We have identified our target consumer from the Austin community that designers using our button can appeal to. Our consumer profiles include hipster and vintage inspired, fair trade/idealist and zero waste. Each of these groups has an interest in choosing sustainable items and will be willing to pay a premium price.
Our research has shown that there are no sources producing or selling our item. Currently, these types of buttons are only available as an online purchase. Notions of the Oceans will provide the Austin community a sustainable notion for their apparel that is not currently available.
Our business model has potential for exponential growth. By investing in high quality equipment and labor, we can cut our manufacturing time efficiently in order to produce more products to accommodate a higher demand. By partnering with local vintage apparel shops, resale shops, and local fashion designers we can offer a variety of notions attached to garments or sold separately, creating a wider variety of product options for the consumer. We will always be competing with buttons manufactured in developing countries with limited labor and safety laws for factory workers that limit the cost of manufacturing. However, in the recent past a market dedicated to responsibly repurposing materials has grown in popularity. An increase in tools such as the HIGG Index suggests that the market for sustainably produced apparel notions will continue to expand. Partnering with local fashion designers is also a venture plan for our company’s future. Our greatest opportunity for growth is the ready availability of oyster shells in the Austin area. Since our raw material is a free resource for our company, our profit margin increases with the increase of manufacturing and sales. The limit to the scale of this business is only created by the willingness of apparel manufacturers to pay for a quality notion.
For our proposed business model, we will need to apply for a small business loan from a local bank for $25,000 to be paid off within seven years at an interest rate of 8 percent. Adding this to the additional Reverse Pitch funds we will be able to expand from our basic equipment of hand tools such as the Dremel and other materials. Investing in higher quality industrial equipment such as an industrial dishwasher for cleaning the shells, grinding, cutting and drill tools for each employee, an ample amount of safety wear, packaging and display materials will allow us to hire more employees. As we expand as a company we may also require a heavy duty industrial crusher in order to dispose of a large amount of excess shells and make them usable for landscaping purposes. The ability of accessing a free raw material to create our product (mother of pearl buttons and other notions), we have a very low startup costs since we can acquire this material at no cost. Research of current competitors pricing for different varieties of buttons, we have established a reasonable price range for singular or multiple buttons that will produce a profit. Through partnerships with local businesses such as apparel manufacturing companies, vintage resale shops, fair trade boutiques, the Austin Fashion Association and alteration shops that could use our notions as an upgrade to their already available products we can expand our profitability.
Our team is composed of four graduate students with specialties in merchandising and sustainability. Our first member has 13 years’ experience in the retail industry and is familiar with retail management and human resource guidelines. Our second member has experience in sustainability graduate work and also offers an international perspective because she is a native of Turkey. Our third member has experience in visual merchandising with product development training and all-around knowledge in purchasing and finance. Our final member has a background in consumer research and analyzes current trends. Together our backgrounds and experience helped us create a sustainable and forward-thinking product.
Our company would impact the Austin economy positively by reviving a lost art of button/notion manufacturing in the United States. By establishing a small manufacturing company in the Austin area, we would be able to initially create 10 to 15 new employee positions to the area. The positions would train and educate employees on learning the business, sustainability and developing a skill of creating and designing notions. Our plan is to develop relationships with area Universities who have a Fashion Management and Design program by creating internships and recruiting from newly graduated students for management, marketing and other similar positions. Due to the artistic aspect and unique nature of our product, we plan to work with Austin area drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, by training and hiring recent graduates we will be giving them a hands-on skill set that will help them establish a solid foundation. By being able to train and develop a skill set in the manufacturing of notions, employees will also learn about sustainability and the importance of spreading the awareness of zero waste. If able to create a manufacturing of notions in the Austin area we would like to establish partnerships with local apparel manufacturing companies, vintage resale shops, fair trade boutiques and the Austin Fashion Association. By establishing relationships throughout the Austin fashion community we would like to contribute to the success and continuation of the fashion market in Austin, Texas.
Our team does not promise a full-on war on plastic buttons, but we propose the battle begin here. As Austin continues to pioneer the zero-waste movement in Texas, we suggest taking a hard look at the buttons on your shirt and hone in “on the little things” that have made a BIG impact on our environment. Working alongside a local Austin company, Quality Seafood Market, we hope to reduce the use of the plastic button and offer a more sustainable alternative, the oyster shell button, otherwise known as the mother of pearl button. This button is not only better for the environment, but it also reawakens a lost art of button making. An odd form of art you might think but what better place to repurpose an oyster shell into a button than the place known for its “Keep Austin Weird” slogan. A century ago mother of pearl buttons were replaced with the plastic button, but history shows the highest and best sustainable use for the oyster shell was the mother of pearl button. The process of cleaning the oyster shell involves sustainable practices consisting of vinegar and baking soda in a standard dishwasher. Oyster shells can make 3-4 good quality buttons depending on the size of the button created and with the pebble-like excess we can repurpose it into decorative landscaping material. As our button-making skill improves we hope to create enough buttons to eventually be working alongside local retailers to replace the plastic button in an effort to get Austin a little closer to zero-waste in ALL aspects, notions included.