Manufacturing for millennials

The Australian manufacturing sector has taken a significant knock in recent decades, but that has done nothing to deter Felicity Ford from entering the industry.

In fact, 31-year-old Ford saw an opportunity she felt others had overlooked.

Felicity Ford is the founder of GoLusty.

Felicity Ford is the founder of GoLusty.

Australia is brimming with creatives with the ability to create amazing products that appeal to millennials, she says.

So last year, Ford launched a business that focuses specifically on ethical and sustainable goods that appeal to the millennial consumer, GoLusty.

She bootstrapped the launch with her own savings and turnover is more than $250,000, predicting strong growth in the coming years. She currently has two labels in the market – a reusable water bottle called 321Water and a reusable tea and coffee cup, Uppercup.

Ford surrounded herself with like-minded types, working at Melbourne co-working space for female entrepreneurs, One Roof. It is home to more than 70 businesses in a range of industries at varying stages, giving her access to plenty of like-minded talent.

Felicity Ford (centre) with the GoLusty team.

Felicity Ford (centre) with the GoLusty team.

The potential for the business consumes her, she admits. "You don't have set hours. You find yourself constantly working and thinking about the business 24 hours a day."

Ford had been working in the manufacturing sector with injection moulding plastics when she came up with the GoLusty business idea. She now has three employees.

"You consistently have people providing feedback from their own knowledge. I've had to learn to become more resilient and understand that you can't service everyone," Ford says.

She has dabbled with exports into mostly Europe and Asia, prompting her to focus on streamlining an international distribution strategy next year. "The size of the Australian market can be somewhat limiting, so exports would be a significant growth area, and enable us to export Australian-made ethical products around the world."

It's been important to stick to her own value system and focus on manufacturing products she loves, rather than chasing ad hoc designs with some market potential.

And while implementing operational efficiencies are great, it's far more important to rely on those around you in business, she says. "You cannot do it alone. Your team and support network are the most valuable tool you have. They provide support, feedback, community and sanity."

Reusable cup business UpperCup is one of GoLusty's businesses.

Reusable cup business UpperCup is one of GoLusty’s businesses.

Ford says the trend for ethically made products and concern for the environment goes beyond millennials.

"As sustainable acceptance and awareness of collaborative impact campaigns such as War on Waste movement has shifted to the wider population, this has considerably changed the space of environmentally focused products," she says. "With this comes an increased demand for products that aren't only sustainable but also made ethically and locally as consumers are becoming more widely educated and interested in this area of products."

Next up for GoLusty is building on its range of products that will be manufactured in Australia.

"For us business is most defintely more than just profit," she says.  "We are working with some brilliant designers, manufacturers and tool makers in this country, and this will enable us to shift our business model away from just the current retail strategy of selling consumer goods."

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