Green By Design Podcast Episode 10 - Sustainable Manufacturing with Bret Englander

Updated: May 15





Co-Founder, Director of Business Development at Cerno

In the last episode of the season, Brett Englander, one of the partners of the Cerno Group, gives us a behind the scenes peak at sustainable manufacturing within the home goods industry. Brett describes why they chose to do the right thing by the environment through production, and what that actually looks like in process. We discuss how the manufacturing process is another major element to consider for interior designers going green.


Erica:

You have just tuned into the green by design podcast. So maybe that means you're an interior designer, decorators, stager furnishings maker, or just a fan of going green inside. So whoever you are, thank you so much for tuning in and watching your listening today. The goal of this podcast is to help the interior design industry as a whole, as well as the professionals go green through education, discussion and connection. I am your host, Erica Reiner, and I am coming to you today from eco method interiors, which is my practice from Los Angeles. And today's guest is Brett Englander. Now, did I get that last name, correct?

Brett:

Yep, perfect

Erica:

Okay, great. Well, I'm going to tell you a little bit about Brett. He is currently the co-founder and director of sales and marketing at Cerno Lighting. And he is a native from Laguna beach. So we have that in common from Orange County and in Laguna beach, it's a melting pot of artists, surfers, hippies, and entrepreneurs.

Erica:

And so that is where Brett developed a passion for the natural environment, design entrepreneurship, all in his youth Brett's father ran his own business that specialized in product development for the home building industry. This meant many weekends for Brett spent touring the latest completed homes that he worked on, which Brett credits for his ability to combine the creative and analytical sides of running his business. Originally, Brett wanted to pursue a career in journalism and film, graduating from the university of Colorado. After working at a newspaper, he decided to switch gears and pursued a career in business, which led to a few informative roles in finance marketing in 2009, Brett teamed up with his childhood best friends, Daniel and Nick to start Cerno as a co-founder Brett wears many hats, but focuses his efforts on business development as Cerno's director of sales and marketing. Now Cerno is a California based design and manufacturing company that over the last 10 years has grown from the three founders to a team of approximately 50 people that share a passion for design and making modern lighting in Southern California. So, Brett, thank you so much for joining. That was a great little piece of history about yourself.

Brett:

Thanks. Yeah, I think you covered it all.

Erica:

Yes. It was a very great little snapshot of the progress there. So I would love to just know a little bit more about what you are doing now at the company and maybe how you guys decided lighting And lighting design.

Brett:

Yeah. So an important part of the story, which you just covered is the fact that Daniel Walkolder, Nick Sheraton, my two business partners and I have known each other since we were young boys. So the DNA of Cerno is different than the DNA of many companies in that, the kind of foundation, although there was no foresight, you know, when we were young boys that we were going to start a company 25 years later in our late twenties, the foundation was laid. Then we always just got into the kind of normal trouble and did things that kids do as growing up, spend a lot of time on the beach, but then kind of the, the relationship always almost revolved around these projects. One of the first projects that we ever built was a sailboat together, not the most sea worthy vessel, but it worked. And then kind of after that, there was always a new project. Daniel and Nick started a little ceramics company when they were in high school. I was involved in the arts as well. So we were always working together and collaborating on things there, looking back now it's easy to say the roles were almost defined then where Daniel always gravitated more to the engineering and kind of the logistics. Nick always was a really creative artist and designer. And then yeah, my role back then, because I was definitely the least industrious of the group was often just chronicling it. So I mean, I had my cameras and kind of telling the story and then sweeping and sanding and doing things that I was able to do. But yeah, so that's the beginning, which goes back, like I said, 25, 30 years for Nick and I now and about 25 for Daniel when we decided to start Cerno Nick's background in architecture, Daniel's background in engineering really kind of set my background after school and finance marketing kind of set the roles. So we were really fortunate that there was never too many cooks in the kitchen. There were, you know, a lot of, kind of big strategic decisions that we made as a group. And to your question, how did we decide to get into lighting? We didn't at first it was a lot of furniture, prototypes and furniture products, some which we sold and then quickly in 2009, when the company was founded, Daniel identified kind of this disruption that was happening in the industry. And that disruption was LEDs, which had been used for utilitarian purposes for a long time. Hadn't really had the quality, light output and color that was well-suited for more decorative products. And Daniel said, you know, why don't we design our first line and focus on this new technology and come to market with it. So he identified it, I think Daniel and Nick did an amazing job of embracing this new technology, which really, I mean, if you're an old company, you could say restricted the design process, but as a new company really liberated the design process because we weren't kind of confined to using tools that were made to make other light fixtures. We built our toolbox around this new technology. So it was, it was a really exciting time in the industry. That was definitely the wild, wild West, as far as old companies trying to play catch up new companies, trying to figure the technology out and a lot of R and D to really figure out what LEDs and kind of the other technology suite of components that are used in making led fixtures were high enough quality for us, but also just figuring out your supply chain and you know, all the sourcing that is part of that process.

Erica:

Totally. Yeah. Wow. Okay. That's a great story. You guys were really brave or I can't think of another word, but that's kind of what comes to mind for me to be like, Hey, there's a gap in the market. I think we can totally fill it as these three young guys. Who have never done this before. It's like, what you don't know is kind of ignorance is bliss kind of thing that can you just leapt into it and here you are. So I love that now for anyone listening, I asked Brett to be on this show because I saw him at the West edge design fair in Santa Monica. And he was on a panel for, I think it was like sustainability and design and whatnot. And so obviously I definitely made that a priority on my list for that particular design show. And I saw all these different kinds of makers who were talking about different elements of how they are green in their business. And what stood out to me about Cerno was actually more on the manufacturing and production side. So as I mentioned to you in our correspondence about me working to get you on this show, I said, you know, that was actually really interesting for me because, you know, I've had a couple of people on so far to talk about the end product and the materials and you know, what all goes into that and how those materials are better, which is a hugely important piece of the puzzle. But I think that you bring something to the discussion and actually how you run your manufacturing and your production shop, which you mentioned quite a few green initiatives that you have. And I think this is a piece of the picture that is not to be overlooked. So I would just love to know, maybe you can talk about like a few of the green, you know, operations that you guys have going on and, and we'll take it from there. But I do also want to know how those came to being like, was it intentional? Was it organic?

Brett:

Yeah, that's a great question. And interrupt me if I go on a tangent. Cause I feel like I could go in a million different directions with it just cause it is so there's so much to be kind of spoken about on that topic to the, the one point was it our intent and part of the process from day one? I would say it was always important to us. We didn't cook it into the business model as much as I would have liked. And as much as Daniel Nick would have liked, mostly because we were bootstrapping a company out of a 500 square foot industrial space in Laguna beach Canyon, and just trying to do whatever he could to keep the doors open and keep the company moving forward. In hindsight, I still think we could have, and it wouldn't have compromised much because once you get up and running there, there's definitely a value add to having that in your business model to contradict what I just said, because we are so vertically integrated where, you know, from day one that we love to design and build things. So we want, we never wanted that to be happening in different places. We always wanted it to be happening under one roof. And when you're as vertical as we are, you really control the entire process from start to finish and can ensure that you are purchasing materials responsibly and then using the materials you purchase to get the highest yield out of all of them. And then for whatever drop, which is in kind of the wood shop, the wood that you don't use from a bigger piece of raw lumber that you're cutting down, making sure that you're using that for a smaller product. Now in what we do is we have kind of a box of scraps that we can't use, that we donate to other makers that they can use. And then for the scraps that are too small, we actually recycle all of that and it gets mulched so sad to see a beautiful piece of Walnut or white Oak become mulch, but much better than just getting put into the ground and not serving any purpose at all. So, I mean, yeah, I'm already off on a tangent

Erica:

No this is great.

Brett:

To answer the initial question, it was always on our minds from day one. And we knew our business model was much more responsible with materials because we were in control of the entire process, but we didn't have Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard initiative of 1% for the planet we weren't using fully recycled materials. All the materials were fully recyclable for the most part. And we from day one, all of our metal scraps get, they still get picked up by the same company that picked them up 10 years ago. Obviously there's a lot more scraps that they pick up and then we actually get paid for those scraps and then they go take them off to a recycling plant. So always part of it a lot more happening on the sustainable front today.

Erica:

Okay. I love that. There's really good stuff there. One thing that just jumped out at me was the fact that now you're getting paid for the collection of the scrap metal. And I just love that so much because a lot of times a perceived barrier to entry for going green in business operations, which is what I did in my previous career is that it would cost to do so or cut into your bottom line. But really, I just love that. That is a little piece that adds to the financial, sustainability, a little on the eco-friendly sustainability of the piece of the puzzle. So I think if you're intentional about it, you can set up ways to make sure that the bottom line is people profit planet in a, in a great way that you guys have shown. Okay, so we've got the drop wood and that being either donated to other makers or recycled to mulch, and then I'm assuming like resold to nursery,

Brett:

Like I said, I mean a lot of the bigger pieces get cut down and used for additional Cerno products of smaller Cerno lights that use smaller pieces of wood. So we do that. I mean, one of our most popular fixtures almost comes and all the wood comes entirely from another fixture.

Erica:

That's perfect. I love that. Okay. So we've got the wood element and the metal element and the reuse element. What else have you guys got going on over here?

Brett:

Well, all, all the plastic gets recycled as, as well. We try to not use too much, but a lot of the lights use it as kind of a diffusing property. So we have big bins right outside of the shop where all the acrylic and plastic materials get cut and it just goes in there and then that gets picked up as well. And you do pay for that. So, I mean, to your point, I think there often is a barrier to entry, mostly out of naivete, not understanding the cost and there's a lot of procedures, right? You've got, you have to contact a lot of companies if you're not producing enough waste, they're not interested in picking it up, even if you're paying them to pick it up because it's still not worth it to them. So I think just becoming more informed about what your options are and understanding the cost is really important, but back to all the materials and the, how it impacts the bottom line, I would just say the yield historically before there were modern CNC machines and we now we're using a laser a lot. And we also have, we got our CNC for the big sheet, plastic and wood, and then we have the CNC mills for mostly metal, but you just get a much higher yield and you can understand how to use your material and get the most of it. So you reduce the waste. I think that's also becoming more commonplace now, but even when we started a lot of our competitors, didn't have the technology that we invested in. And we invested in that technology partly because of the products that could yield on the design side, but also to make sure we were getting the most out of these materials.

Erica:

That's fabulous. Now I also want to ask about one more thing on the finished product side. I think I remember you saying, and this was maybe like one to two years ago. I can't quite recall, but I think I remember you saying you were starting to look into different kinds of wet applied finishes and what that would mean in terms of sustainability and non toxicity, all those kinds of things. What's that process been like in terms of the research and development and then trying out, you know, different products. Have you found the, what about the quality and where are you with that today?

Brett:

Yeah, it's a great question. I mean, as far as VOC is go, I don't want to misspeak, but I think there's, there's almost none in any of our standard product line. And most of the wood is just a, it's a Danish oil that we use for both the Walnut and the Oak. And there's kind of two sides to this. A lot of people put these really resilient lacquers on that are gonna, you know, supposedly make it indestructable for however many years, but you can't really refinish it without completely Sanding it off. Right. So is that more resilient and more timeless? And over when you're talking about 10, 20, 30 years, where with the oils often you don't need to resand it. It's as simple as just reapplying a new coat in maybe five years. If you want to do it more frequently, you can, if you want to do it less frequently. I mean, a lot of the Cerno pieces I have, which are prototypes from 10 years ago, I've never applied another oil coat to it and the Walnut still looks great. So yeah, you can absolutely choose your finishes. Well, look, I mean, in most of our case, like I said, have no toxicity to it and it still looks great. I think there's a lot of kind of bad information out there about finishes and people tend to go towards those more toxic finishes cause they think it's going to be more resilient, but over time I don't think it is.

Erica:

Wow. That's great to know. Yeah. I definitely think people would have, you know, questions about the quality versus something with tons of synthetic chemicals and it took then something natural, but really nature not to get too hippy dippy on you, but nature has had millions of years to do all this testing anyway. And so what we have, and if we just look to the products that we can find that are natural, they have had these millions of years of evolution to be the best with certain kinds of qualities that as long as we pay attention and look for what those are. So I love that you pointed that out

Brett:

And I think to elaborate on what you just said, what nature creates is very beautiful. And once you start masking that under coats of other materials, you don't see the natural beauty where if you're simply cutting getting a piece of lumber and then sanding it obviously, and, cutting it to your kind of shape and form, and then just applying an oil, you're going to showcase the natural beauty a lot more. So, yeah, I couldn't agree with what you said more. I think nature does an amazing job on its own. Doesn't need a bunch of humans coming in and screwing that up. So if we can preserve it in its most natural form as a finished product, that's obviously part of our goal.

Erica:

I love that. That's great. You guys have got to go check out this product line, the Cerno product line on their website, or pretty much I would say you guys also work with other distributors as well. Am I right on that?

Brett:

Yep. Yeah, we don't, we don't currently sell direct with the Cerno line. So you would find it through the wild lightings or lumens of the world, or I'm still a big proponent of supporting your local brick and mortar. If they do carry Cerno, definitely go down there and check them out.

Erica:

Yes, absolutely. But wherever it is, Google it just take a look at the images. What's important to me as well is to kind of restate over and over to my target audience, which is other interior designers and home decor pros and whatnot is that this is another perfect example of a company that is doing good and making a really high style, contemporary quality high-end product. It is not like some guy in his garage anymore, like whittling away at a piece of wood that ends up being like Amish looking. You know what I mean? So I love that the lines are so beautiful and contemporary it's like clearly artistically driven and it's just beautiful stuff. And I needed to take the time to say that because that is also another perceived barrier to entry in terms of some potential clients that we might as pros in the industry, be, be looking to overcome as well as designers who have been in the game for a long time, because you guys are 10 years old and you have sort of exploded in the last half of that decade, I would say to a degree. And so that is a good example of all these makers and vendors coming out onto the market every single day and gaining more notoriety in the industry as all time goes by. And we need to overcome that past like of, okay, eco-friendly stuff looks like this, and it's only for this kind of client or only for, you know, the granola eaters who are not aesthetically driven, because I think that it's important to note that where we are right now is that people are going to buy your product and byproducts in general for the other qualities. And I think that the green element is a great differentiator that might tip someone over the line one way or the other. That's certainly the case for me, but I don't think we're currently in a place, even though we've come so far that we're leading with the fact that this is a green product and buy it just for that. You're leading with the fact that this is a high quality product. It's got cool lighting innovations and also it's really a sonically driven and Oh, also it's green and Oh also it's made locally here in California and the wet applied finishes aren't toxic and they actually really care about what they're doing down in there in the factory. So I just love examples like that, where you're hitting both of those really key pieces because it's just proof in the pudding for me. So

Brett:

Yeah, I think you touched on a lot of great points and if we were to distill it down to the most important point, I think that that would be that ultimately the greenest or most sustainable responsibly made, however you want to state it product is going to be one and as a designer or with our company, that designs products, our ultimate goal is to design timeless objects, very hard to do. And we're looking back 1500 years. There's only so many iconic pieces that we know about, but then the aesthetic is timeless and the quality or the integrity is not, then it's still not sustainable. So it's that combination of designing something that's timeless and then building it with the integrity and quality of materials and craftsmanship that will allow it to pass the test of time and kind of break, break that cycle of just furniture, fast furniture. Yeah, just careless consumerism, you know, kind of exploiting the disposability of so many of the things that are made and just the end up in a landfill. I think that's the most important thing we can do as designers and manufacturers is strive to do that. And kind of the commoditization of the industry is sad and often leads to this race, to the bottom. And we've always tried to kind of, as you said earlier, educate people of why this is not a commodity product, even though we can be competitive on price points that compete with some of the commodities, but you're getting more. So, yeah, it's, it's so important to us and that's the kind of really high standard that we're always shooting for is design something that aesthetically will pass the test of time. And then the integrity of the product will also pass the test of time.

Erica:

Yeah. Amen. To all that. I love that. Okay. So what would you say has driven the three of you and gotten you all in agreement that building in these operational green practices is, especially since you said it wasn't, even though, like, you kind of wanted that it wasn't in place from day dot. So as the three of you are working in building, like, what was, what do you think it is that you guys have that you were fairly intentional about this? And then as time went on, you committed to, during to doing, you know, we've covered at least like four or five practices that you guys do. So was it a discussion, do you guys meet about it? Is there an ethos in your like business manifesto?

Brett:

Yeah, I think as you said, it's always been part of the conversation, but I mean, now we have a sustainability coordinator on staff, so there's a lot more efforts being directed at this today, but I think we do it because it's the right thing to do. It's a shame that we're still an anomaly and that's not to say there aren't some great manufacturers out there doing really incredible, incredible stuff, but we believe that you're negligent. If you're not doing it today, based on everything we know that's going on. And then, I mean, all these materials we'd be shooting ourselves in the foot to not do it. We, as a manufacturer of anything, you're going to be consuming natural materials that there's only so many of in the world. So, I mean, we just feel at kind of the most fundamental level is the right thing to do, respect the materials, respect, nature, respect the product and ultimately, and the process and, and your employees who are making it. And then at the end of the day, the customer or consumer of your goods, the designers and architects and end users, they win because they're purchasing a better quality product. That's made responsibly

Erica:

Again. So many, so many things. I just kind of want to do the hands up. Amen thing, because it's like, you just touched on all the best pieces. That is something that I wonder about a lot in terms of like the really big guys and the big box stores and, and the companies that are just churning through natural resources. Like, I wonder if there's anyone in the company looking to the future, like, obviously there's like the financial analyst going here, our financial projections, and then there's like the supply chain people looking at their future and supply chain. I wonder if they ever like talk or ever have the conversation about like, Hmm, is it going to be more expensive for us in the future if we are not sourcing responsibly and we're actually driving up the cost of natural resources because of how much we're consuming in an irresponsible way. I don't know. Now I'm on a tangent here, but I just think about this all the time. Like you're literally shooting yourself in the foot, if you are not practicing natural resource conservation and even preservation, especially as one of the, the big guys in this industry, because you are using so much, you would think you'd want to safeguard your future and put in some practices that are regenerating natural resources for replenishing. And also just like if for no other higher moral reason or environmental reason, just to simply safeguard your financial stake. I don't know. I'd love to dig into that a little bit more at some point in the future and figure out what's going on there. But it may be just speaks to the fact that as humans, we are sort of geared for short-term benefit over long-term and that might be applying to financial gains or, you know, outputs for stakeholders and things like that. So, man, I think about that a lot. It kind of doesn't make sense when you really break it down, that it's beneficial to literally you as a maker to do the right thing now. So hopefully people will see that we're coming to the end of an era of irresponsible practices, which is actually a great question. What would you like to see other manufacturers do a little bit more of, and I would say, is there anything like infrastructure in place holding you guys back from being able to take the next step in your green operations? Like in terms of accessibility to any programs that might help you go a little bit greener?

Brett:

Oh, the second part, I think I have a lot more learning to do. And we, as a company have a lot more learning to do as far as things that would potentially be holding us back. I'm not sure. I think we're doing a lot. There's definitely a lot that we can do. And we plan on doing, you know, you can't bite off too much at one time and, you know, jeopardize the health of the company. So you have to do it kind of responsibly and the different kinds of sustainable, but make sure the company remains sustainable. I think the bigger, bigger question or a bigger kind of issue is the lack of legislation that is mandating it. And I think when that happens and it will, we're going to see it. I mean, if we're fortunate to live for many years in the future, it will become much more of a standard, obviously on the city level and state level. Some States are a lot more progressive than others, but it's not. I mean, and then there's, there's so many great examples, kind of smaller companies. You know, you look at what he ceramics is doing and working towards, if not almost there zero waste. What, obviously I mentioned Patagonia on the apparel side is such an amazing steward of the planet and just doing things well and correctly and customers like it. And I think they consume it partly because Patagonia does such an amazing job of telling the story of what they do. I think Lowell, our friends in Minnesota with all of their recycled, they make all their chairs 100% from plastic milk jugs. And then they're actually working towards using some more pet products as well. I think on kind of a bigger, a little bit bigger than some of the other companies I mentioned not Patagonia is obviously pretty darn big these days, but what Greg buck binder is doing with Amoco and a lot of the recycled materials they're using and just how the kind of their process and how much he makes it a priority. There's a lot of on the big and small. I think there are a lot of leaders out there that we all can learn from, and obviously it's working for their business model. So that might be the best lesson to take away when you see these other companies, but also how are they communicating it to the customer? How are they educated, which I know I can do a better job of, and we, as a company, we can do a better job of letting them know that there is a value add and that we do work all these things into our practice. It's often not the path of least resistance, it's the path of most resistance, but with an end goal and kind of an end result that is better for everyone. So there is a lot yeah. Specific to the infrastructure. I'm not exactly sure. I do think making recycling easier would be better. It's way more difficult than people think. You don't just call your local waste management company and say, as a manufacturer, it, and we pay for it. I mean, it definitely the most of the materials other than the metal To get them picked up, it's not inexpensive, but we do it because we know it's the right thing to do.

Erica:

However, what I would say is to that exact point, it kind of ties everything you just said together here in Los Angeles with, I think it started with the new mayor, but there's been a new initiative for zero waste LA I think is what they call it. And so you're physically not very far away from here, a couple of hours down South, but you know, I went through the same thing when I was first starting my business. I actually wanted to take on out a few moving parts and I was playing with like, what exactly all my services were going to be. And I was toying with the idea of doing some just straight up like green sustainability consulting alongside the design, which I don't necessarily do separately anymore.

Erica:

It's all integrated. But at the time, and I was looking around and this was about five years ago and I was looking around for this hair salon that I was working with to do a bit of like a sustainability report and guidance for them because they were taking the initiative trying to go green. I loved it. I wanted to help. And it was so hard to find anywhere where we could just recycle the green waste, which in this case was like the human hair and some other things. They had biodegradable products that they had incorporated in. So she was stockpiling bags and bags of it until she could find and physically take it to a place to be properly disposed of. And then, you know, we talked about other things like chemicals and whatnot, but, but I was doing so much research for her for all the different kinds of like waste and how that was going to work and then cut to now, LA has this initiative, the zero waste LA. So it is now mandated that there is going to be green waste and recycling beyond just the homes. So it wasn't mandatory for businesses or anything like that. So even in just that short span of time for a huge metropolitan city, with all these logistical components, I am just like very proud of LA for this. I think it's great. Also I've talked about this before in other episodes, but waste and recycling is something that a lot of people are already familiar with it's associated in terms of environmentalism. And I think it's a good gateway into other issues like climate change and pollution and resource use. So if the community can get on board with that, I think it's like opening the window a little bit into the world of all the different issues that we have to contend with. So I hope that Laguna gets on board, maybe can implement something. I would encourage you. And maybe you could like gather some other makers down there and maybe have some sort of influence in your city. And I would encourage anyone listening to think about how they might be influencing locally in their own towns, especially as RA has so much value to offer the community in terms of jobs and just economics. So I think that that is not to be overlooked and I would encourage everyone, especially any makers to sort of think about the same thing and how you might be able to come together as a community and make some change for the better. And then I have this theory I'm working on about us being California. And so I talked to the guys that medley who furniture, who kind of have a similar story to you guys, they're brothers, but not friends, but from California and myself being from here, basically my whole life, I almost wonder, like, do you think, do you agree with me that just the landscape that we have and the access to nature and the coast and the mountains and forest and all the different kinds of landscapes within our state and basically the ability to get outside and exposed them. Do you feel like that has had any impact on you and the values that you internalized?

Brett:

100% I don't think it's specific to us. I think it's relative to where you live anywhere in the country, sharing different landscapes that are beautiful, that you can connect with, but as, as surfers and sailors and the things that we've been doing since we were really young, you're always aware of keeping the ocean clean and then yeah, the natural environment it's 100% influences us and puts it front of my end. I mean, every time you're out in the lineup and see a piece of plastic float by, and we're really lucky, our beaches by comparison to many others are super clean, but not without, you know, trash and litter. And so, yeah, no, it definitely, it definitely impacts us. And it's something we think about a lot. We, we actually had a cool opportunity a few years ago where we purchased and planted. That was, I think it was about a hundred, right around a hundred trees in one of the natural creeks, just inland from Laguna, that the kind of a lot of the indigenous vegetation had been wiped out through development and just a lot of things. And we planted these trees in this Creek bed that then act kind of as an aquifer filter for the water that ends up filtering back into the South Laguna beaches that we swim at. So I'm not trying to celebrate that as this triumphant victory, because it was such a small part of a really big problem. But I think if everyone starts kind of looking for those opportunities and pursues them, the greater impact is significant and meaningful.

Erica:

Absolutely. And I would say don't, don't discount that anyway, because I think you're sort of changing something in your own brain and in other people's brains when you just take the first action. So even if it's only a hundred trees in quotes there, but because that is a great number, I think you're setting yourself up for the future and anyone who literally saw you do it and the community who knows about it. So I think it can have a really great ripple effect, even if it's quite small. And in my former days as an environmental lecture, an educator, we always talk about this concept of place-based education. And so anytime you can do something locally, it really has an interesting ripple effect. And so, you know, props to you guys, and what I would want to know is if there's anyone like that, this comes across, is there any advice you have for folks that are wanting to start their own company, start their own product company, their own home decor products company, or maybe they're in it now they're already doing their thing. Do you have any advice for them as to, you know, the implementation of some of the practices that you've got going on and, and how to approach it?

Brett:

Oh, I think we've touched on some of it, which is the perceived barrier to doing a lot of these things is much higher than it has to be or than it actually is. And I think just being really conscious of where your materials are coming from, and we've kind of spoken about supply chain a little bit and, you know, making sure you're not unnecessarily getting something that's shipped across the globe to get to you when you could purchase it locally from, you know, a smaller farm or a smaller supplier, depending on what the material is and what you're making. So I think just doing the homework upfront to a lot of the things that are in your control, and I think people run into trouble when they do only take the path of least resistance. Cause sometimes, you know, a couple of weeks of research and develop mint could shift your entire kind of paradigm and the model you're operating under and in the end, although it was more difficult to get there, it's going to save you money. It's going to create more value in your product. It's gonna reduce the footprint. And there's just so many amazing things that can come from from often just doing a little bit more research and development. I'm really lucky because my business partner, Daniel, I think we all care about it equally, but he is just the most voracious and consumer of important information. And I mean, he's been the one that's kind of alerted us to a lot of the opportunity for improvement and kind of, you know, he two years ago, and this is a little bit of a tangent, but also really, really applicable. We went down the lean manufacturing road. So we're, we're almost, I mean, it's lean, the base of lean is about continual improvement. So it's going to be a journey that never stops, but I would really tell all the makers and manufacturers out there, if you haven't seriously looked into lean, educate yourself on it, because it will inherently make your process a lot better, more efficient, sustainable. I mean, it's not easy. It's definitely been disruptive, but a disruption that we welcome, some things that get overlooked, but we think is probably the most important, but like employee morale, because you just create a lot more accountability and ownership of what all your employees are working on and they know where the product's going and they see it through from start to finish. So yeah, I would say long-winded answer, but I just think, understand how many good opportunities there are to do things more responsible. And I think educating yourself about lean practices out of the Gates. If we had done that 10 years ago, we never would have been a disruption because it would have been the model, but we totally shifted and broke away. We're now, I mean, our lead times are shorter than they've ever been. And we have zero finished product on the shelf. We make everything when it comes in. So even though we used to stock products, the lead times are long because of all the just kind of bottlenecks that were in that old way of thinking. And now with this new way of thinking and lean manufacturing, and it's not just manufacturing and you can be in the service industry and apply lean to your business as well. Yeah. Our, our products, the quality has improved the lead times have gone down and actually the pricing is now going down. We just did one and we're announcing another, I think a few hundred of our most popular skews will be the price will be reduced because of lean practice.

Erica:

Wow. And I don't know how many people can say that we're actually our lead times and our prices are going down, which has a direct benefit to the customer for this. I am familiar with lean and that approach to business. I listen to the author of that book that you and I are both thinking of probably at this moment, but I can't remember the author. And the innovator.

Brett:

Lean Manufacturing? That one? Which?

Erica:

The like founder of the movement. And he does some consulting and writing. And I'll have to put that in the show notes for people, but.

Brett:

Thinking of lean turnaround?

Erica:

Maybe

Brett:

That book is really good. I mean, we we've read a lot of them. I mean, obviously Toyota led the revolution, but this one, this isn't the cover cause the jacket's off, but lean turnaround really, really good book. It was art burn. Yeah. As the author, he kind of, I mean, led, he was working with GE and a lot of, you know, Wiremold these enormous, you know, billion, billions and billions of dollar companies and just shook their foundations down to the core with implementing and rolling out lean. And I mean, most companies that stuck with it, why our mode very much did, it's only made them, you know, kind of more of a leader and stronger in the industry. So yeah, lean is it's I know we're going off topic a little bit, but so important

Erica:

It's good. It is important. You have to have a thriving business in order to contribute to the green economy. So that's important for that reason it's important for literal product deficiencies. And I think, you know, you also touched on the fact that you have a champion you're, you're all into it and sustainability champions, but it sounds like you have, you know, someone at the company who isn't a champion in that they're wanting to do the background research. And then also you have brought in recently a dedicated sustainability person who is acting as the motivational champion and the logistical components and the operations and stuff. And then the point about taking the time to do a little bit of research and background and getting your ducks in a row before you dive into one thing or another, whatever that may be, I think is a really good point to reiterate as well. And shameless plug feel free to reach out to your local green interior designer or pro to help you bear that load of time and research, because that is a lot of what green home pros are trying to do is be that wealth of knowledge and resource for you and come in and kind of help save time. You know, and this is a little bit different. We're talking about the maker's end and then on the client's side, as well as like, you know, what do I need to do? Because I find that a lot of people go down that scary rabbit hole and get completely overwhelmed. And so if you can lean on someone, save you some time and then have them walk you through and educate you in a way that's kind of like efficient and specific and custom to your needs. That's also a great way to do it. So shameless plug right there.

Brett:

That's important.

Erica:

Yeah. But I think I will let you get back to your very busy day running a company. And I really appreciate the conversation that we had today and you bringing all of your insights and I knew it was to be invaluable for this kind of discussion. I'm setting up for everyone across the country. So thank you so much for being here, everyone check out Cerno and that is C E R N O. And check out their amazing products and hopefully I will get to see you in another cool, a festival or design fair or something and keep doing what you're doing.

Brett:

Yeah. I'll be speaking again at West edge, I think on Sunday, not specific to sustainability, but it will touch on it. It's going to be more about indoor outdoor living, but yeah, thank you very much. I really appreciate the time as well. I think the most important part of everything we're talking about is just creating a broader awareness of the importance and, you know, baby steps, but this, you and I speaking about this and hopefully a few people listening that will keep the momentum going. And I, I, I'm very optimistic about the future as it relates to this topic, but it won't come without a lot of hard work. And I think, yeah, the more we can make people aware of the importance and the accessibility and the, all their options, the better the future will be. So yeah. Thank you. I appreciate the time as well.

Erica:

100% agree once again. So absolutely my pleasure. Good luck at West edge. I think that's still an LA am I right? So for any of you check it out, maybe you can catch next year and see Brett in person. Okay. Well, thanks again and have a great rest of your day

Brett:

Thank you. Take care.


17 views0 comments