Who are you?
My name is Rowan Minkley and I’m the CEO and co-founder of Chip[s] Board. From buttons to bookcases and spectacles to school chairs, there’s a huge range of durable items that need to be brought into a circular economy through using sustainable alternatives to petroleum plastics.
And plastics aren’t the only problem. Resources are being wasted across the board, with one third of all food produced becoming waste.Our core objective, is to find value where others see waste, creating a true circular economy bioplastic, using abundant waste as a feed source. Supplied by McCain, we’ve developed a process which transforms their waste into Parblex: plastic from potato waste.
What inspired you to create Chip[s]Board?
A passion for sustainable solutions and first-hand experience of the abundance of food waste generated every day in the hospitality and industrial processing industries.
Social and environmental impact is my core focus. I have a background in design and was shocked by the lack of material diversity on offer for manufacturers – non-toxic and environmentally friendly materials weren’t even a consideration for most designers.
Customers want sustainable options, but they also don’t want to compromise on the quality of products they have grown used to. So I realised that new alternatives had to be developed, and what better way to do this than to combine two problems to make a new solution?
How does it work?
In its simplest form we convert sugars and starches from food waste into a biopolymer without the use of solvents or any toxic by-products. The final material is compostable, recyclable and can be processed using traditional plastic manufacturing equipment.
What makes working at Chip[s] Board so worthwhile?
Knowing that if we are successful in scaling up, the world will be one step closer towards a circular economy for materials and resources.
2020 has been a strange year for everyone. What's it been like to run your business through a pandemic and what have you learnt from the experience?
It’s been a pretty hectic time, but the best learning for me, has been knowing how much I can trust my team to keep working hard and not lose motivation, even when we’re all split up and working independently.
What’s next in the pipeline for Chip[s]Board?
We have an investment round open at the moment to establish a pilot plant in Yorkshire and begin our journey towards commercialising Parblex®. 2021 is going to be a big year in our development – we’re going to be scaling up from a laboratory to a small pilot plant and will be beginning to prove the demand for our product.
What’s the top piece of advice you would give to a budding engineering entrepreneur?
Focus on the problem – your idea/solution is likely to change over time so ensure the reason you are in business is to solve a real-world problem.
What impact has the Launchpad Competition had on your business? What are the most important lessons you’ve learnt?
Since winning the Launchpad Competition we have been supported in securing investment, guided through many business decisions and have been connected with a mentor and some advisors who have been there and done it, so we don’t have to make the same mistakes. (You hear him talk about his experience on the programme in our recorded event here!)
What advice would you give to potential applicants to the Enterprise Hub?
If you are unsure about why you should to apply to a programme, rephrase the question to ‘why shouldn’t I apply?’. The worst thing you can come away with is some great feedback from some very experienced entrepreneurs.
And finally, if you received an infinite sum of cash, what’s the first thing you would do for your business?
Expand the team – as a laboratory focused company, the more hands on deck the faster we can progress.
What do you want for Christmas this year? Some time off! Taking a break when you’re working at home becomes pretty tricky.
Who is your role model? Tim Brown (IDEO)
What is your secret talent? With nine years as a chef, I’m pretty good in the kitchen.
What’s your guilty pleasure? I’m a sucker for pastries.
I don’t understand why… it has taken so long for major brands to start implementing refill style systems.
When I’m not working at Chip[s] Board, I am… climbing, surfing, experimenting in the kitchen or finding something to build.
What makes you happiest in business? Getting random messages from the team about how much they enjoy working towards our vision.
Do you have any business regrets? Underestimating how fast we could scale up.
If I could have a superpower, it would be… the ability to control the weather – I thrive in sunshine.
If you could switch places with any famous entrepreneur, who would it be? Eben Bayer – CEO of Ecovative (a mycelium material company)
The tech that I could not live without is… probably my phone (although I hate to admit it).
If you had to choose another sector to work in, what would it be? Sustainable food (meat replacements)
And finally, if you could invent a new piece of tech, what would it be and what problem would it solve?
Computer screens that auto adjust in height to constantly match your eye level whatever strange position you put yourself in.
It would prevent neck strain and improve posture.