Lori here, the marketing manager at Tangle. As someone who’s constantly inspired by the voices of thought leaders, let me introduce Changemakers, a series interviewing a variety of people who are driven by purpose, personally or professionally. Our aim is to hopefully inspire you and who knows, you might pick up some top-tips along the way!
So, without further ado, where better to start than close to home with our founders at Tangle, Sam and Xavier.
Xavier: It's quite a long story.
Sam and I co-founded the business back at the end of 2021. During my university days, I worked in the yachting industry and saw a lot of plastic pollution in our seas, since then, the search for a way to raise awareness of this and stop the problem in its tracks has been ticking away in the back of my mind - how can we do something about it?
We thought there was a niche that we could really go after and create a commercially viable business that can make profit and turn that profit into something good.
Sam: The reason I was keen to get going with Tangle was because I kept seeing these photos of ghost nets with dolphins and whales getting caught in them and I was getting really angry. We felt that no one was being held accountable and the issue was constantly swept under the rug.
We started learning more and more about these ghost nets and the effect that they're having on the ocean, for example, ghost nets make up nearly 50% of ocean plastic in some places! The focus was always on things like plastic straws and bags - we thought, let's do something about it. And that's how Tangle came to be.
Xavier: We knew what was out there and what other brands were doing and ultimately decided that the dog sector would really benefit from having products that would last longer and be more sustainable.
Sam: Firstly, no one is making dog products out of recycled fishing nets. That’s great in itself because we're unique, but we’ve learned that these fishing nets are brilliant for dog products because of the material. They're built for the ocean, they're built to be in the sea for hundreds and hundreds of years.
Take our dog lead for instance, it's really strong, it's waterproof - it's practically indestructible.
Secondly, we've realised how unsustainable the pet industry is. It kind of replicates fast fashion in the way that products are normally made very cheaply, thousands of miles away. They're not designed to last for that long. They might last for a maximum of three months and then the whole idea is that you then have to go and buy another one.
The beauty of Tangle is that not only are we stopping ghost nets by using recycled fishing nets but we're also trying to make the pet industry on the whole a lot more sustainable.
Sam: I've got one that comes to mind straight away: finding a manufacturer to work with. So as we've said, with these fishing nets, no one’s really doing it at all and especially not through our process . For us at the beginning, it was just two guys with an idea who really wanted to make a difference. Once we had actually found someone who could do it, the challenge was then convincing them to take a chance on these two guys with a bit of a crazy idea.
Xavier: For me the challenge is in conveying the message in the right way. Reaching our target customer can be very difficult. In the early days it's very expensive for a start-up to be paying big money for advertising space. Ultimately we're trying to be as sustainable as possible and spread awareness in the right way.
Sam: On top of that we want to make it something that people want to be a part of. There’s a very fine line between being preachy and seeming like we're on our high horse, which we definitely don't want to be. We very much want to be better, not best.
Sam: It's a bit of a tricky answer because speed is of the essence and if we didn't do it quickly, we may not have done it at all. I'd say, thinking back to the very start of it, we were really keen to get it out there and we rushed the dog lead out
Xavier: A piece of advice I would have for someone in the same situation, wanting to start a brand like ours is just get the right sort of advisors and team around you. Make sure that if you're making a rope product, you have an expert in that field to lean on, someone who’s made many products in that field before.
Sam: Obviously the first sales, they naturally came from friends and family, which was expected but when we got a sale from a random person both Xavier and I checked with each other: Is that your mum? Is that your family friend?
We both said , no! It’s an actual customer that's seen it online. They’ve thought, I want to support this mission, I really believe in it. I remember that one very vividly and we realised we could be onto something. There is an interest, people really care about it, which we knew deep down, but having it validated was massive for us.
Sam: What I love is when we're at events and you get to talk to a customer directly so you can tell them about our story and what we're doing. When they buy a product and you see them then walking around the event with their lead, and they might even post about it on socials - that makes me really excited, it makes it all worth it because you think, okay, we're doing something good here.
Xavier: I feel we’ve done a really good job creating a product people enjoy using. It’s often a challenge to get product-market-fit in today's day and age with the barrier to entry for starting your own start-up being so low. The huge amount of competition makes it hard to make a little niche for yourself but I feel we’ve proven demand for our product and are now, ‘if we can say simply’, simply make our offering better, improving the product and the awareness of Tangle - the sustainable dog products brand on a mission to prevent marine life being harmed by these lost or discarded ghost fishing nets.
Xavier: Someone I really look up to is Al Barrat - founder of Grenade - the performance nutrition brand. It’s inspiring to see someone building such a strong brand and business, going up against the big boys and sticking true to his vision despite many doubting the product strategy and potential for him and his amazing team to grow it to the global champion it is today.
Sam: For me, I’m a massive fan of Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia. He’s not your typical businessperson, he built a product based on his passions and something that he wanted in the world. He showed there’s a way to create great products, keep customers happy and make money, all without compromising on his values of protecting the environment.
Sam: Don't just do it because it's sustainable. If you're interested in sustainability, that's great, but don't just say, okay, I want to do a sustainable business. Actually look around and see what makes you passionate because people will see through it. Think - I want to do this because I really care about it and then that passion will show through.
Xavier: Get involved in something you care about, something that if everything goes badly and you're having a terrible day, then you would still wake up the next day and think, you know, this is really what I want to do. Even more so if it’s a mission based/ sustainability based brand or project. You're restricted on material, restricted on budget, there are so many more hurdles to overcome building a business in the right way - you have to be really passionate and driven to succeed.
Xavier: We've just got an amazing team member (readers:that’s me, woohoo!) that's joined us. We've expanded the team at Tangle and we're starting to do much more marketing. There are many community events and collaborations with different brands coming to fruition which is exciting, we have lots to talk about! (Check out our socials @TangleMission and keep-in-touch!)
Sam: We've got a load of new products that we're looking at making as well. We want to be known as the ‘sustainable dog brand’ in future and we're on our way to achieving just that.
Our main focus is having a huge impact on ghost nets, and we're in a fortunate position whereby the more products we sell, the more impact we can have on the ghost net problem.
Read more about the ghost net problem and how Tangle are recycling fishing nets to make their sustainable dog products.
Masterful camerawork from Cansen Yilmaz!