A couple of years ago something sad happened. My wallet gave up the ghost. As a creature of habit I’d had it for over 15 years and it had accompanied me through literally everything I had done in my adult life. But one day it died. Being a man who likes things to last I began to look around for something that might accompany me for the next phase of adulthood!
It was then that I came across Cycle Of Good. A company making products from recycled inner tubes to help community products in Malawi. The wallet that I bought from them was excellent. A tough, well put together one that was even lined with traditional fabric from where it was made out in Malawi. This was clearly going to last me a long time.
At that time we had some cycling wallets on the market. We printed some ducks on them and they were really fun. They sold well, we sold all of them, and I am sure they are still going strong for those that bought them. But for me though there was something missing with them. A bit of individuality. I wanted something unique to us and for one reason or another these weren’t doing it for me.
And so I approached them to try and make us a cycling wallet based on one that we already had out there and after some prototyping and a little patience we got a product that we are both immensely proud of.
As we restock our Essentials Pack we caught up with George Furnival, the UK manager of Cycle Of Good, to chat about what they do and give us all a bit of background of Cycle Of Good.
Putting old inner tubes to good use!
Morning George, we’ve obviously had a decent amount of contact in the last year or so but for those that don’t know can you explain what Cycle Of Good is?
Hello Nick! Cycle of Good is our effort to end poverty and to help the planet at the same time. We collect waste materials from around the UK, things like old inner tubes that would have gone to landfill. We then use the material as packing in our shipping containers filled with educational supplies, books, bicycles and sewing machines. We send the containers to Malawi where we work. The resources are distributed around our schools and enterprises (like our tailoring school and bicycle workshops), the inner tubes go to our Cycle of Good Malawi workshop. Around 20 women are employed on above living wage (with full employment rights and access to childcare), they’ve been trained to sew the tubes into belts, wallets and bags. Everything is shipped back to the UK in shared container space. We then sell it all to raise more funds to do more work in Malawi.
Our Essentials Pack. Bombproof!
What made you start it do you have a personal connection with the area?
I came to work for Krizevac Project (which is the name of our charity) 13 years ago, before that I was a SureStart Children’s Centre Manager in Stoke on Trent. A former colleague called me and said “hey, do you want to come and build a children’s centre in Malawi?”. With a degree in International Development that I had never put to use, I leapt at the opportunity! What he didn’t tell me was that I would need to help set up and run several non-profit enterprises to pay for all of the work with the children! But the challenge has been amazing and I’ve loved every minute. We built the children’s centre in Malawi in 2012, since then we’ve helped over 10,000 children to have a better start in life. I’m proud that we’ve done that without ever asking for charity donations, instead we sell wallets that just happen to do a whole lot of good.
Matilda, one of Cycle Of Good's tailors in Malawi.
You also have another business called elephant bikes, can you explain a little about that?
In 2010 Royal Mail began to phase out the use of bicycles for delivering post. We found out that the bikes would be scrapped if another home could not be found for them. We’d already been shipping bicycles to Malawi for a couple of years because they are a vital, cost effective transport solution. Studies show that owning a bicycle in Africa can increase household income levels by around 35%. So we began to drive the length and breadth of the UK collecting 20,000 beautiful Royal Mail bikes. The collecting, storing and shipping of the bikes began to cost more money than our charity could afford. So we asked Royal Mail for permission to sell some of the bikes in the UK to raise funds to ship the rest of the bikes to Malawi, essentially a “buy one,give one” offering. They agreed, but they were keen for us to re-brand the bikes. Some of the ones we’d sent to Malawi had been re-sprayed green to make them “bush friendly” for rangers in the national parks, this was essential as the bright red Royal Mail colour could attract the attention of the elephants who get startled by bright colours… this led to the brand name Elephant Bike for our UK limited edition. We’re still selling them today, we’ve engaged with lots of local youth projects who have helped our qualified mechanics to restore the bikes, so it’s been a really interesting project to work on.
Each Essentials Pack is lined with traditional fabric.
You have a real array of product and produce custom things for other companies in the industry but our project is a little different. Can you explain how what happened after our initial phone call and sending you in our samples?
Your call to us came in the middle of the Covid pandemic, I remember being in my spare room/ home office chatting to you! I liked your ideas straight away. Your sketches went to our UK Product Designer, she worked out the best way to construct the multi-pouch (as we call it). Once you told us you were happy with it, we ordered the special waterproof zips and sent them to Malawi. While they were in transit, we drew up fabrication instructions and delivered training to the tailors in Malawi via whatsapp. We had great debates around which fabrics to use for the lining! Matilda Jalasi, our lead tailor, went to the markets and sent is photos of “chitenge” the bright African wax-print fabrics so we could choose what to use. It was almost as good as being in Malawi! The tailors then started sewing your first order, they like this product because it’s not too complex to make and it’s so neat when it’s finished. We like it too, in fact, we think it’s probably our best product to date!
I don’t know about that, you have you great things in your line up! I am genuinely so pleased to now have such an awesome little product that both you guys and us can bring to our customers.