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Friday 1st May

What we cover this week: supply chains gone digital, how money affects our mental health and the post-Covid office.

From roastery to logistics hub.

KC Roasters, based in Mumbai, has adapted its roastery and warehouse into a logistics hub, launching a ‘Shop Local’ initiative with other local businesses. Filing the paperwork that confirmed it as an essential service days after India went into lockdown, KC began by listing the chocolate bars and cakes of patisserie company La Folie on its website; since then, plenty of brands have reached out via a small business WhatsApp group. ‘We're trying to limit it to guys we've had a relationship with previously or that align with the values we have,’ says owner Shannon D’Souza. Brands selling salad dressing, tonic water, cheeses and granola bars send a small quantity of their products – if they’re able to provide the paperwork on Mumbai’s heavily policed streets – to KC’s warehouse once a week with KC following just-in-time delivery norms due to the perishable nature of the products and space available. The items are then packaged and shipped by KC staff from a repurposed production area normally used for wholesale coffee orders. The goods are sold separately and delivered by third-party delivery apps like Scootsy, Swiggy and Zomato. KC is selling on slim margins – often what the brand would give to retailers – and with a wide delivery radius, occasionally loses money on orders. But Shannon is keen to keep KC’s logistics hub busy and support other businesses in the short term.

How businesses around the world are adapting and evolving.

. An ancient water mill mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 and now used as a tourist site has relaunched production following flour shortages due to the rise of at-home sourdough baking.

Amsterdam. Community-driven delivery platform Roodkappje has launched, allowing volunteers on a jog (or out to walk the dog) to deliver parcels around the neighbourhood. Elsewhere in the city, coworking brand Fosbury & Sons, featured in the latest issue of Courier, has launched private offices ‘Day Suites’ for those looking to escape their WFH arrangements.

Helsinki. For those who aren’t escaping their home is this multifunctional work-from-home station, the Fem Desk, from office interior architecture agency Fyra.

Minnesota. Loll Designs has designed a hospital field bed out of recyclable, easy-to-clean and hygienic High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), using leftover material from its outdoor furniture line.

Colombia. Meanwhile, fashion brand Maaji has launched a colourful collection of protective clothing using recycled plastic.

Czech Republic. Unpasteurised and unfiltered beer can go bad quickly – coming along to help ‘save’ the bottles is this initiative which connects local beer lovers with hundreds of breweries in trouble.

‘Scaling in the physical world should be as easy as in the digital world’

Stephan Ango, Co-founder and Chief Product Officer of Lumi
Los Angeles

Lumi is a marketplace that connects companies with sustainable packaging solutions. With delivery booming during the pandemic, how has it affected business?

Have you seen a drop in efficiency at the factories you work with?
We have about 2,000 factories across our US network. Most of the manufacturers are still online, because the US has a really vertically integrated packaging manufacturing ecosystem. For example, we grow all of the trees to make all of the paper to make all of the boxes and all of those supplies. They're considered essential. For the most part, they haven't gone down aside from one or two exceptions.

You have a great vantage point on e-commerce and direct-to-consumer sales right now...
There's definitely been a bifurcation. The brands that are doing better are food, alcohol, anything related to health, pet or baby products. In the short-term, at least, fashion, apparel, outdoor and travel gear are getting pummelled. But in the long-term, we're also seeing people adopt all kinds of new behaviours such as purchasing groceries online. Six months ago in the US, only 5% of groceries were bought online. In the past month, it was 50%. People have discovered that buying groceries online is actually pretty robust.

Is Lumi in a good position to survive the crisis?
Business is lower than we would have expected, but what we're working on is aligned with where the world is going. A lot of our work is on supply chain resiliency, and this is a huge problem that people are trying to figure out right now. We take inspiration from cloud computing and bringing that to the physical supply chain. Look at Zoom, which had 10m active users in December. The company recently announced it has 300m active users. To scale this quickly and this smoothly overnight would be so hard to do in the physical world. The concepts of load balancing, redundancy, network regions – all the things that allow you to quickly expand production and scale it back down if you need to – should be as easy in the physical world as they are in the digital world. Yet the way packaging historically has been bought and sold is through a very regional network of salespeople visiting your office.

Dunder-Mifflin style!
Yeah, very old-school. Some of the manufacturers in our network have been operating for more than 150 years, but they're coming online now.

Tell us about your new initiative, Slash Packaging.
The idea is to have every company you can think of have a page on their website at /packaging. So if you're Nike, it would be On that page, you’d talk about your packaging philosophy. There's a huge shift in that consumers now want to buy from companies that are thinking about this stuff, but they have a hard time finding this fragmented information. We’re standardising it around a specific URL. It’s also for companies to open-source their knowledge about what’s worked for them. Patagonia, for example, decided to keep using poly-mailers despite the fact they're made of plastic. Patagonia found the footprint was much lower than allowing the product to get damaged in transit and then have return shipping.

To hear the full conversation, tune in to this episode of the Courier Daily.

Want to generate more revenue? Stock Courier (for free).

For our upcoming June/July issue, we're offering new stockists a free trial of Courier magazine. If your shop, cafe or restaurant is planning to reopen, we'll send you 10 free copies of Courier to sell – with 100% of the revenue yours to keep.

Drop us a line at with your business name, delivery address and phone number and we'll do the rest. Think of it as a small gesture from us to help you get back on your feet and a risk-free way of seeing if selling Courier could be good for your business. The deadline to place your order is Friday 15th May.

Managing your relationship with money: How money affects our mental health needs constant monitoring – maybe now more than ever. Alexandre Holder, author of Open Up: The power of talking about money, offers advice.

1. The founder of Haus with quick rules of thumb for selling DTC products in an age of unpredictable supply chains.

2. A fantastic piece from the Atlantic on how the pandemic will transform mom-and-pop stores and change American retail forever. Plus, if you missed this New York Times piece on restaurants, it’s well worth the read.

3. The rise of the anti-anxiety Instagram cartoon.

4. Sometime is a ‘creative call to arms’ platform, asking freelancers and other professionals to use their spare time to solve the big problems that have emerged from the crisis.

5. Today's conference from Sharmadean Reid of Beautystack (mentioned in our Briefing, below) features everything from resilience to building a sales funnel.

6. A weekly dose of five happy links ‘to make you smile and feel good.’

When we return to the office, what will it look like? 

As the founder of Motive Productions, a London-based studio that has designed offices for Beautystack, Desmond & Dempsey and Papier, Rosie Chatwin is used to creating spaces with ‘community and congregation in mind’. But now the 28-year-old has a completely new set of challenges to overcome.

For the stationery company Papier, Rosie explains, ‘We created a kitchen so that 100 people can eat together. A lot of that space will now have to become desk space again, which is something a lot of companies will be thinking about right now.’ She has also been rushing to find suppliers for freestanding hand sanitiser dispensers and vinyl floor markings, which her team will customise with brands’ fonts and colours.

In completely rethinking about ways to reconfigure offices, Rosie is not alone. If and when you return to your office or shared workspace – and some workers in European countries, including Denmark, Norway and Austria, already have – you’ll probably notice some big changes. Lots of founders are gearing up for social distancing, which will likely mean hand sanitisers, floor markings making sure people stand two-metres apart and establishing a flow of traffic.

Founders are also looking at how they can put in doors that open automatically so workers don’t have to touch them. In common areas like meeting rooms and kitchens, there might be fewer chairs and posted documentation of the last time they were cleaned. Over in the Netherlands, BeeSafe is helping companies implement social distancing rules in their offices by providing organisations and employees with up-to-date overviews of office occupancy via a digital platform.

For Brian Chen, the co-founder of New York-based ROOM, which launched in May 2018 selling prefabricated noise-proof phone booths, Covid-19 will speed up a pre-existing shift towards more flexible, hybrid office spaces. ‘Even before Covid-19, there were big problems with distraction in open-plan offices, and a need for hybrid offices with spaces for quiet work and privacy as well as collaboration,’ says Brian, whose company has seen revenues of more than $30m revenue in its second year. ‘One upshot of the pandemic is that companies will be even more reluctant to sign long leases, and there will be more pressure to create adaptive architecture: flexible spaces that can easily be reconfigured. Creative wall systems and dividers will be part of that, as will our booths, which can be installed in a few hours.’

These new offices might not be as beautiful as the ones we’ve become accustomed to. There’s already been a spike in demand for acrylic and plexiglass dividers and sneeze guards, with reports of three-month waiting times for plexiglass in the US. Demand is also booming for smooth, antibacterial materials, including bronze and brass but also newer materials like Sharklet, an antibacterial plastic sheet with grooves inspired by sharkskin.

Longer-term, the biggest impact from Covid-19 could be psychological, with roughly 17m workers in the UK having been forced to adapt to home-working, something 1.54m workers were already doing. ‘People have realised that they can actually do real work from home,’ says Gabriela Hersham, co-founder of Huckletree, a London workspace community in an industry that is particularly vulnerable. ‘We need to acknowledge that shift rather than fight it, and respond.’

Huckletree’s response has been to double down on adding value for members while they are working from home, from online masterclasses to ‘Ask Me Anything’ sessions with successful founders, and the Renegade Academy, a week-long digital boot camp taking members through pitching, financing to taking products to market. ‘We can’t just be about desks, seats and funky colours anymore,’ she says. ‘Companies like ours will need to innovate more than ever, and prove that our communities have lasting value.’ 

Illustrators: Yosuke Yamauchi | Giulia Sagramola | R Fresson

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