Made of Bamboo create eco-friendly bamboo toys that don’t cost the earth. Born out of a passion to reduce the amount of toy plastic that ends up in landfill. Founders Mittul and Munir Vahanvati first developed the idea after the birth of their son, discovering that non-toxic, high quality and affordable toys were hard to find. Frustrated with difficult to recycle toys, Mittul and Munir set out to put their fifteen years of bamboo experience to use and create a toy range made from sustainable materials.
Let us introduce you to the founders of Made of Bamboo.
Where did you get the idea for your business?
Mittul: The idea emerged when we had our first son. We also come from an architectural field, which means everything we did was specific and tailored to the client’s needs. When we had the idea for Made of Bamboo what we needed is something that could be produced multiple times, as well as something that could be scaled.
Munir: We already have a business called Giant Grass, which engages in design and building of bamboo structures and also conducts hands-on construction workshops. So we have more than ten years designing and building with bamboo in terms of business. This idea saw us take what we do with Giant Grass and create designs that can be replicated.
Mittull: We were making bamboo toys for our children and we kept having our friends and family asking “why don’t you sell them?” We decided to run a Kickstarter campaign, as we had sold at some markets and people loved them. Our goal on Kickstarter was ten thousand Aussie dollars, which we reached in August 2017 and delivered all the products in December 2017. The success of the Kickstarter campaign gave us the confidence to move forward with our business and also meant that it was viable.
How did Giant Grass get started?
Munir: Initially the workshops were mainly booked as corporate team building, but we now offer a range of workshops for beginners, children, advanced designers as well as businesses.
How did you get into bamboo?
Mittul: After we graduated as architects we both had this idea around sustainable design and working with natural materials. We were lucky enough to have an opportunity come up that allowed us to work with tribal people in India. It was skill building for us learning from them and we also imparted our design knowledge on them.
What lessons have you learnt on your business journey?
Mittul: Turning an idea into a business requires a huge commitment.
Munir: Once we were exhibiting in Korea, but what we had were only prototypes, so many people wanted to buy but we had nothing to sell. That was a big lesson.
When you are ready to launch, launch early but also make sure you have something to sell. In LaunchHUB what we have figured so far is that we can make this business sustainable, that there are support structures, we shouldn’t be doing everything ourselves. We’ve learnt a lot about grants, mentoring and other things that we need to tap into.
Munir: Kickstarter taught us a lot about the role of marketing and how important it is.
Mittul: So now our focus is to learn how to market ourselves efficiently.
How important is it to have a business mentor?
Mittul: It’s actually crucial.
Munir: It’s the one thing you can’t get from the internet or books!
Mittul: It’s important because its an experience that someone can share with us that’s tailored to our needs and our business rather than just blanket, abstract things that one needs to do.
Why did you want to join Activator?
Mittul: As designers, we were struggling with the whole idea of the business side of things. We could design and manufacture, but when it came to making it a viable business we just didn’t know how to proceed, how to get customers, how to grow. Activator came to our attention because I’m a part of the RMIT community. We applied to LaunchHUB first but were told to go through Sandbox and that was a good route to take.
What has been the best part of your Activator journey so far?
Having someone like Linda, the Expert in Residence is amazing because she has tremendous experience in Marketing. That’s not to downplay all the other things we get, like the opportunity to develop friendships with the other teams as well as the facilities and support at Activator.
Munir: It’s been exactly what we were looking for, the masterclasses are really great as well.
What are your top 3 tips for starting a business?
Mittul: Take the plunge entirely, it takes one, if not two years to turn an idea into a business. It is an isolating process that has emotional and financial ups and downs, which is a why a partner, friend, or cohort is essential.
Munir: Clarify the problem you are trying to solve, one of the things LaunchHUB has helped us to do is to narrow down our focus to its bare bones, and rid ourselves of all the unnecessary things. It’s very easy to get distracted and try to do everything.
How would you describe your life as an entrepreneur in 3 words?
Munir: Like a rollercoaster
Mittul: a love-hate relationship
What book are you reading now?
Munir: Cradle to Cradle By William McDonough
Which soundtrack best represents your life?
Mittul: Hang on little tomato by Pink Martini
Munir: Desert Rain by the Indian Ocean
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
Mittul: Gandhi has always been an inspiration, especially his quote ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’.
Munir: Steve jobs, but that’s a bit expected isn’t it? For me, it’s all about the challenge.
Mittul: There are many times we have thought let’s give it up, but it’s the challenge and the fact that we like to keep ourselves in a precarious situation that keeps us going.
What’s next for you?
Giant Grass has recently won a few awards for a glamping pod we created that sowed the seeds for us to sell the things we design. We’ll be looking at getting this pod into market and maybe having up a huge glamping set up too.
We’re also exploring DIY Build kits for the toys, a few ideas for children, including another range of 3D puzzles. We’ll be getting our products tested for under three-year-olds to meet Australian standards and maybe later international standards. Our main focus as always, customers, customers, customers!