Names: Evgeny Myshkin and Thatchakon Chaisathitporn
Course: Marketing and Management in UEA London.
Thamon London is a start-up project aimed at creating sustainable materials from real tree fibers: leaves, flowers and bark. With it we hope to give the world more ethical alternatives in fashion and decor made from renewable materials.
We make the leaf fabric by preserving the dried leaves and bark with eco-friendly, water-resistant coating. This makes our fiber stronger without leather and helps keep the original plant patterns. All our products are vegan-friendly. 10% of revenues are returned back to the forester communities harvesting the leaves.
What inspired you to start the business?
The business idea of Thamon London (Initially Thamon Silk) was establishing a London-based B2B unique ethical handicraft import agent. Our main focus on the stage of visa application was selling and promoting of 100% hand-woven Thai silk fabrics with organic dyeing.
We have now broadened the business focus to promoting exotic ecological materials from Asian village communities. Our major product right now is the treated sal leaf accessories. We discovered the leaf material while researching the cultural and religious traditions of Hindu in the Northern part of India, where people are using the leaves of sal to make ceremonial leaf plates. Eventually we repurposed this concept for making lifestyle goods and accessories by coating the leaf in a polymer and introduced a line of products (wallets, cardholders, cosmetic bags, totes, slippers, etc) made from sal leaf without the use of leather, chemicals and animal cruelty.
Our products are vegetarian-friendly, naturally long-lasting and promoting the arts and crafts of South Asian communities. Our big goal is to make the leaf material "a thing" and to affect the hegemony of traditional cruel and chemical materials like leather or synthetics, and bring unique, nature-inspired, sustainable fashion to the next stage.
How did UEA Student Enterprise help you?
UEA Student Enterprise gave a fundamental mentor support on both business plan, project development and business launch stages. Our team constantly kept in touch with UEA Enterprise team for master-classes, speeches, business insides and network meetings. During the business plan preparations, a lot of crucial business databases were available to us as UEA students.
All the aforementioned tools and connections are still available to us even as post-graduates. Great post-studies support!
What worries did you have while setting up your business, and how did you overcome them?
Everyone worries that they will fail. The hardest is to start doing. But if you start - aim to win.
What 3 pieces of advice would you give to someone thinking of starting their own business?
The application process will end up being much longer and much more complicated than normally a student might expect. It will definitely require all the resources and ideas that you have. Apart from that, we would suggest three pieces of advice based on issues that we actually faced:
- Find a reason, an actual and important to you reason, why you have to make the business idea work. Motivation is the only thing that will keep you working really hard. Find a good one.
- Be patient. Don't be upset if you have to start all over, throw away plenty of ideas, can't figure out how to make things work. Just keep on working. The complex puzzle will fit by itself step by step.
- First things first. Don't try to work on loads of things at once. Figure out the priority and do one task at a time. If you are time constrained, try collaborating with others. Otherwise you will end up with a mess in your head and no real progress.
What ignited the spark in you to start a new business rather than look for work from someone else?
Family did. Both parents are businessmen. Also, the desire to make something autonomous, that will evolve and develop even if you step aside and let be by itself. Always interesting to be a creator.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful engineer?
- Hard work
- Constant improvement
What motivates you?
Seeing the business grow from where it was to where it is now. Discovering all the possibilities that were hidden before. Seeing success of what you are doing.
How do you define success?
When you place a target and you achieve it - that is success.
Where did your funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? Was UEA part of this?
Mostly we were self-funded or funded by our families. UEA has offered us grants and equity loans which we are currently considering.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Taking the first holiday off. Seeing how you have distanced yourself from the business for 1 month and it still lived independently and brought in profits was an extremely satisfying new feeling.
What piece of advice would you give to university students who want to become entrepreneurs?
As I mentioned before, never stop. If you start - finish. If you took a break - continue. If you decide to quit - remember why you started. It will all follow through. Patience is a virtue.