Felix Böck, Innovation Support Specialist in the Machine and Saw Performance Group (Primary Manufacturing) at FPInnovations, has turned an original idea into an innovative business by collecting chopsticks from restaurants in Vancouver and transforming them into home decor and much more. He has started his own upcycling decor startup, ChopValue. We met with him to know more about his exciting project!
How does ChopValue work and what products do you offer?
At ChopValue, we recycle chopsticks through a unique process into high-performance design products. In order for it to be a viable business model, we connect recycling (urban forest resource management), material research, and product design while welcoming customer involvement at every step. Our vision is to inspire and educate by setting an example of how to redefine the term “waste” into “resource” by offering a variety of lifestyle products.
Since its launch in September 2016, how has ChopValue evolved?
Approaching our one-year anniversary, we have quite a few milestones to celebrate. Since the launch of our first product line of design products in September 2016, we have built new partnerships for our recycling program which have resulted in more than 1.5 million recycled chopsticks to date, established several distribution channels for a variety of lifestyle products, and launched a new “Vancouver product line”: the ChopValue Endurance and Exercise Blocks for active yogis. ChopValue has created four full time and two part-time jobs and offered four paid internships in the summer of 2017 in Business Development, Marketing, Urban Forestry, and Manufacturing.
As a young entrepreneur, what do you find the most challenging? The most rewarding?
The most challenging thing is not to lose track of the bigger picture in this journey. My vision was always to create impact with the work I do, no matter where I live, and I quickly realized that research only does not fulfill me. But now that I realize how hard it is to understand and experience the financial pressure of running and sustaining a business, I am challenged with wanting to commercialize and implement technologies we develop in projects at FPInnovations even more. In fact, I often relate to examples of challenges as well as opportunities I face or the impact I created through my own business when I am communicating research results to members or industry partners. I guess the rewarding feeling that comes with having the additional workload of running a startup is paying off in my work responsibilities.
How do you see ChopValue in the near future?
We are planning to transition from a lifestyle business that has built a strong brand recognition with an inspiring story to a scale where we can offer sustainable building products that are convincing in performance and design. ChopValue as a concept will not only leave an impact in Vancouver, but I strongly believe that we will expand in the next three years to at least five new locations through the partnerships that we have already built. It’s important to grow at a healthy and sustainable pace while we explore our options, educate customers and partners along the way in exploiting new markets, and inspire others to compete with a variety of other underutilized materials that could be processed and engineered into new value-added materials.
To learn more about this project, please contact Felix Böck, Innovation Support Specialist in the Machine and Saw Performance Group