Home Anty-Climax The future of business isn’t 'Free' – it’s 'Re'

The future of business isn’t 'Free' – it’s 'Re'


Re-cycled (Haul, materials in manufacturing)
-made (to original condition & sold)
-invented (Dues ex machina)
-turned (renting businesses Flexicar, rentoid)
-novated (houses, cars)
-newable (energy anyone?)

There are plenty more examples that fit into the above category. Nothing gets me more excited – not as a marketer, but as a consumer – than innovative products that take something old or disposed of and make it awesome again.

Seeing input materials, ideas or products creating value a second or third time around is inspirational. It’s almost like a little bit of trick marketing where we can make a quicker emotional connection with the product or brand. An emotional connection, not just because we acquired something good, but because we did something good. We can talk about it, show our friends and evangelise the product in a much more new millennium way. These days we rarely rave about something unless the benefits it creates go beyond us. These days, we’re altruistic advocates.

One of my favourite Re exemplars is Melbourne-based business Haul. Haul not only gets the ‘Re’ model, but has a whole business based around it. Which, of course, has also evolved from something very different to what it is today, which again re-enforces the importance of doing and iterating the original business concept.

Founder and ringmaster Scott Kilmartin started out selling his recycled number plate journals off a card table at the Salamanca market in Tasmania back in 1998 – under the original brand name ‘Urban Boomerang’. From this the original Journal and a range of number plate accessories ensued. But it was in 2004 that the true recycled epiphany occurred and they started making über cool satchels, bags and laptop sleeves from materials including rubber truck inner-tubes, old seat belts, and old vinyl advertising billboards.


At this time, Kilmartin also changed the name to Haul. Fast-forward to 2008 and Haul is green, street, design, furniture, art and innovation. With the workshop and showroom both in North Fitzroy, Melbourne, Kilmartin often takes new customers and fans into the workshop for a bit of ‘industrial tourism.’

Why is ‘Re’ a cool, business ingredient?

  • It gives us ‘eco’ credibility, which is much better than being evil and green-washing with carbon offsets.
  • It gives our business a media angle – something people want to hear about, from a business and consumer perspective.
  • It’s often more profitable. Getting inputs cheap or even free doesn’t hurt the bottom line.
  • Government assistance. They are a zillion government grants and handouts for businesses that have strong sustainability credentials.
  • Long-term positioning. Green isn’t a fad. Rather it’s becoming a human survival necessity. When we start as green, we don’t need to ‘clean up our act later’. As time goes by, being green will be enforced by governments – just like work safety is today. It’s certainly better to be at the leading edge now rather than reacting at significant cost later.

Green is über cool. If you want to get the key influencers and mavens of society into your product, then it better do the world some good. Being shiny isn’t enough these days. It’s got to be circular, real and authentic.

So how do we ‘re’ our business:

While the Haul example is easy to understand, entrepreneurs might find it hard to work out how to ‘Re’ their business. The simple starting point is for us to review our supply chain. What materials can be replaced with something recycled? How can we use renewable energy in the process? How can we take back the original product we sold to build newer versions of it?

Or even better, we can even quit the job we’ve got at our polluting company and start a better version of it – you’re reading an entrepreneurs’ magazine, after all.

Maybe this is what beleaguered car companies should be doing – building cars in large, replaceable sections. As new technology arrives, we implement it on the chassis we already have. How about pulling an entire engine out, every few years, and replacing it with the newest electric version when the car gets serviced, simply by plugging it in? This is the type of thinking they need.

The current economic system we live in is a linear one. The steps we go through as a consumption-based society are:

Extraction > Production > Distribution > Consumption > Disposal.

It’s what I call an infinite mindset on a finite planet. We simply can’t continue to do this if humans want to exist in the future. We desperately need more ‘Re’ businesses.

It’s fortunate that the economic and government benefits are starting to stack up in favour of our Re champions. Not only do they cut out most of the steps in our consumption-based economy, but they just might be the solution our species needs.

Steve Sammartino is the founder of rentoid.com, teaches Marketing at Melbourne University and is the author of Startup Blog.