Sustainable business using up-cycled glass to create bespoke designs benefits from the Welsh Government’s Business Wales Mentoring programme.

Founded by Dr Tyra Oseng-Rees, Oseng-Rees Reflection offers sustainable, artisan installations for interior and architectural purposes made from fused recycled glass bottles. She has benefitted from the support of a volunteer Business Wales mentor, who has helped her focus on key aspects of the business, overcome challenges and plan for the growth of the start-up.

Introduction to business

Founded by Dr Tyra Oseng-Rees, Oseng-Rees Reflection is a sustainable business, creating artisan sustainable up-cycled glass materials from fused recycled bottle glass aimed for interior and architectural installations.

With passion for up-cycling, art, science and a doctorate focused on the functionality and aesthetic attributes of fused recycled glass materials, Tyra has successfully managed to merge design engineering and design thinking methods to create bespoke state-of-the-art products and launch the business in 2017.

Why did you decide to set up your own business?

Growing up with an entrepreneurial father, I always dreamt about starting my own business. I remember my father proudly telling me his story of how he, after having to give up his former trade due to an injury, started his business: "with the book in one hand and the tools in the other hand", he always encouraged me when I had ideas, urged me to sell or to negotiate prices at any opportunity and told me I could do anything I wanted if I just worked hard enough.

This became a lifelong dream, although at times, I questioned my dreams. As I grew older, I saw more challenges than opportunities in running my own business, and with a lack of a safety net and funding for start-up companies, I thought business start-ups are for the affluent and not for me.

With a shrinking confidence about my skillset in an ever-growing global competitive market, I didn’t believe I could start my own business. But a pivotal moment happened in my life and I realised that if I was ever going to follow my dream, this was the time. I handed in my notice, secured my first commission and finally started my entrepreneurial journey. 

What challenges did you face?

The biggest challenge was to overcome the fear of failing, to trust my own instinct and decision-making skills. All other challenges have been overcome in a step-by-step approach and I will continue to conquer them through taking them one at the time.

Business Wales support

Having attended several Business Wales workshops on topics including tax, bookkeeping and marketing, Tyra received further advisory support on getting her business off the ground.

She was then matched with a volunteer business mentor, Steve M Williams, who helped her focus on specific aspects of the business and build her plan for the growth of the venture.

Outcomes

The opportunity to have a business mentor have been incredibly beneficial for me and I am very happy with the arrangements. My mentor Steve has kept me focused, allowed me to discuss thoughts and ideas, and I have trusted his professional experience to give me the right advice. Starting your own business is difficult in so many ways and at the start of my journey, I experienced well-meaning advice from many people who I respected and admired. However, much of the advice was not tailored to my business needs and was not fit for purpose, but as I was new and inexperienced, I took it all on board although the opinions were often conflicting.

With a mentor that I could trust, I could start focusing on one task at a time and then build up my business, my strategies and my future directions. It has been very good to have a mentor who I trust and who takes a genuine interest in my business and wants me to succeed. We have had a combination of Skype and face-to-face meetings, and we look at my business plans, terms and conditions, social media, marketing and strategic development within my limited budget and timeframe.

I have also had great support by attending free Business Wales workshops on various topics including tax and finance, starting your own business, marketing and social media, amongst others. All these bite-size chunks of support have increased my skillset and being a sole trader with a limited starting up budget, there is very little spare cash to buy external services, so all my business operations have been completed in-house.

Future plans and ambitions

Oseng-Rees Reflection is currently in its first couple of years of trading. It was formed following a commission to install a recycled glass reception desk in the main entrance of a new multi-million-pound academic building in 2018. This was the test base which formed the business plan and cost strategy.

The plan is to establish the material as a viable alternative to the high-end architectural and interior market. Presently, this new and innovative material is the only recycled glass material that is made from hundred percent fused recycled bottle glass. I want to grow the business organically in the first three to five years by expanding the product range, refining the cost strategy and establishing collaborations for outsourcing various processes, e.g. waterjet cutting, engraving and fitting.

If you want to read more success stories of how Business Wales has helped other people like you to start or grow their businesses, visit https://businesswales.gov.wales/case-studies or follow @_businesswales / @_busnescymru on Twitter.

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