ARTICLE / THE MAKING OF... SERIES
The making of...
Shopping in a mass market sports store to find the ideal exercise roller (the kind of product you'd want in your home), co-founders Gabriel Briggs and Lillie Gredley quickly realised there was nothing out there to meet their needs. The search led them to create and launch their own brand Meg (Modern Exercise Goods).
The making of... Series
Meg was a brand we stumbled across on our travels... and not seeing anything else like it in the market we were so intrigued we decided to reach out to Gab to find out more about their journey. Enjoy.
So... Gab, how did Lillie and yourself come up with the idea?
I was on the hunt for a new foam roller as I'd managed to snap mine. Lillie and I dropped into a big sports store and immediately felt like none of the options on the market were the kind of products we wanted to bring into our home - all made from PVC plastic and EVA foam and pretty ugly to look at, we felt like there must be a better way.
After a quick internet trawl, nothing promising appeared. As far as we saw it there were three major issues with the current offering: durability, aesthetics and sustainability.
I was studying for my Masters in Sports Technology at RMIT at the time, so was pretty interested in materials and product development so started to have a look into more sustainable alternatives to foam that might be suitable for the function of a massage roller.
As I'm sure is the case with all great ideas, we stumbled into the idea after a few glasses (bottles?) of wine. The answer was staring right back at us. After doing a bit of research into the properties of cork, it didn't take us long to realise it could be a really viable option - it's naturally anti-microbial, impermeable to liquid, highly biodegradable and the harvesting of cork has been named one of the most sustainable agricultural practices in the world. Plus it's pretty nice to look at.
Gabriel Briggs and Lillie Gredley, Founder of Meg
What research did you do to arrive and what you've got now? How did you test your product market fit?
Armed with our idea for a cork roller as an alternative to traditional foam roller, we took part in RMIT's Activator programme in 2018 in Melbourne.
After working our way through Lean Canvas and deciding we might be onto something, we got hold of some samples of cork from the world's largest manufacturer in Portugal, and built our first prototype (with the help of some of our more handy mates!) by sanding down a big block of cork into a pretty dubious cylinder!
During the 12-week intensive at Activator, we took our first prototypes out into the world to gather feedback and rapidly iterate! In doing so, we started to build a community of wellness studios, health professionals and small businesses who were also looking for more sustainable products, and their feedback helped to shape our range.
We took some very amateur photos of the prototypes and got them up on social media to see if there was any interest. And believe it or not we started to grow a following!
How did you fund everything?
Lillie and I put a small amount of seed money in, just enough to cover the costs of registering a company, the website and a sample order from a manufacturer in China.
Our pricing has always been based on a retail and wholesale offering. Our wholesale offer is tiered, to incentivise customers to order larger quantities of product. This worked really well when we were starting to get off the ground as we were able to sell the small amount of product we had on hand at a better margin, while securing larger pre-orders. This meant that by the time we were ready to put in a more significant order with our supplier, we just about had enough money in the bank to cover it.
What were the first batches of the products like?
We were lucky in that the first batches of products were really high quality and didn't require much development. We found a supplier in China who was already producing a wide range of cork products so it was relatively straightforward to send them our preferred dimensions and grain of cork. There was some back and forth on quality assurance, as to be expected, but our only significant issue was that we were finding it difficult to get full transparency over their supply chain.
Running a sustainable, transparent and ethical business is extremely important to us and this was ultimately the main reason why we ended up changing suppliers last year.
We now source all raw materials from Portugal and selected our new harvesting and manufacturing partners due to their commitment to innovation, sustainability and ethics. Each batch, we continue to make small adjustments to ensure our customers are getting the highest quality, most durable, functional and aesthetic product possible!
Branding? Tell us about your process and how you arrived at where you are today?
Our original brand identity, Sure Project, stood for the 'sustainable recovery project'. Which was quite a literal representation of our mission! Lillie mocked up a logo and designed our website which served us well during our initial growth phase but we always saw it as more of an interim solution rather than a longstanding brand and knew it would need revisiting at some point.
After moving to London in 2019 and as we continued to grow, it was clear we needed to move towards a stronger, more ownable brand in order to reach more people with our ethos of sustainable recovery. In particular, we wanted to bring our brand to life and incorporate packaging into our retail offering, which was certainly beyond our own design capabilities!
Our wonderful friends Martina Casonato and Richard Clarke designed and developed the new Meg concept, brand architecture and packaging and we couldn't be more grateful! Our brief focused on making sure the brand felt inclusive and relaxed but also simple and clean, complimenting the natural aesthetic of our products. With our little bear mascot being the epitome of our vibe.
Meg stands for Modern Exercise Goods. It represents our desire to be a modern brand, considering all aspects of production and consumption, using materials that are sustainably sourced and biodegradable or recyclable. We want to set the bar high and encourage other brands to do the same.
To us, exercise means anything that gets your blood pumping. From walking your dog, to running a marathon, to dancing with your friends. We want to keep you moving with products that fit seamlessly into your lifestyle and aesthetic.
And finally, our goods are good for you and your environment. We will never create products for the sake of it.
Finally how are you getting the word out there?
Instagram is our main vehicle for communications, and slowly but surely we're starting to work with more influencers and explore brand collaborations to grow our audience.
We're so grateful to our amazing community of stockists who produce some amazing content that has helped our brand grow organically. Word of mouth is a powerful tool and one of our most important marketing channels.
One of the real joys of starting a small business has been the opportunity to meet so many amazing people, and we feel so grateful for all those that have supported us and helped spread the word.
We've recently concentrated more on PR, particularly in the UK and have seen Meg featured in The Telegraph, The Stylist, Women's Health, Women's Running, The Design Files and more! Which has been really exciting.