Turning your passion into a vocation isn’t something that happens overnight. Felix Böck, a wood engineer and the founder and CEO of ChopValue knows this well. “Launching a circular economy chopstick business is obviously not something that you come up with as a career path when you’re six years old,” he tells Daily Hive.
Böck wondered if he could create a viable business with chopsticks because bamboo is an underutilized, neglected resource we have in our urban forest. In the fall of 2016, he launched his first product at the Interior Design Show. Since then, ChopValue has recycled more than 25 million chopsticks and transformed them into new products.
The company collects used chopsticks from Vancouver restaurants and businesses, saving tons of waste from the landfill. However, the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has resulted in a huge drop in recycling collections, and Böck says the market has changed from “nice-to-have” products to necessities.
He feels that every local business owner is in a slightly different position during this challenging time. To give you some insight into how ChopValue is adapting, here are some of the approaches Böck has employed.
Collaborating with the community
Now more than ever, collaboration is extremely important for small business owners. Böck says it’s a chance to be creative and have your brand’s voice heard. Although ChopValue is seeing a huge drop in revenue, the company is still saying “yes” to helping others in the community.
“We just welcomed a 3D printing company into our facility that is working on the COVID-19 Emergency Manufacturing Response Plan, producing 3D-printed components for very specific PPE (personal protective equipment). On evenings and weekends, we support our friends from the Chinese Restaurant Awards with their #chopstickstoheroes campaign delivering meals to frontline health workers,” says Böck. The entrepreneur explains that helping others can open new doors and avenues for innovation for small businesses.
Stepping up as a leader
Leading a team presents challenges under normal circumstances. During a crisis, Böck says keeping your team informed about decisions is integral. “This helps me to get out of bed in the morning every single day, because I know I’m coming to work for my team. They count on me for transparent communication.”
The brand’s corporate and office staff are working from home, and Böck sent them ChopValue desks so they can enjoy the same experience from home. “That’s the first wave of motivation that you can provide your team,” he says.
In order to accommodate safe work practices with physical distance, ChopValue’s microfactory is now accessible to staff 16 hours per day. This means the production team has flexible work hours, and the number of people working in the shop space is limited at all times.
Scheduling time for unproductivity
When your team is working from home, it’s easy for some people to work six hours without taking a break. To avoid this, and help the ChopValue team structure their calendar while working remotely, Böck has scheduled a daily “unproductivity hour” using Google Hangouts.
“It’s 45 minutes for a coffee break, and it’s giving us all something to hold on to,” he says. It’s not the same idea as after-hours beers on a Friday. Instead, it’s a time where everyone can log in and have the background noise of office chatter that they are perhaps missing in their workday.
“What I’m finding is that the time leading up to our unproductivity hour, and the time afterwards, is more productive because everyone has something to structure their calendar with,” says Böck.
Working on ideation
Before things get better, Böck expects that his company will face more challenging times that will require the team to innovate.
“Uncertainty is a stress factor that you would like to avoid your team having to feel, which is why it’s easier to work on opportunities and creative ways of looking at challenges — at least that is the philosophy we are trying to follow.”ChopValue is thinking of ways to combat challenges and approach opportunities for the future.
“There’s always a silver lining to a very challenging situation, whether it’s a new business opportunity, the restructuring of your business, or a new side of yourself that you can show to your team by the way you handle this situation,” he concludes.
ChopValue is currently working with a contingency plan, and the company has buffer material to keep production on full force for the next few months.
The brand has refocused its in-house production to meet current market needs and is creating everything from height-adjustable desks to fun, sustainable lifestyle games for families who are staying at home.
To view the brand’s range of limited-edition products and explore their interactive WireWax online trade show booth, visit the ChopValue website now.