Tran and Son Chu are friends and entrepreneurs that are about to launch something unique in November 2019. They met at a coffee shop in Helsinki, Finland during their study 2 years ago. As their friendship developed they also sharing common passions.
“I can never have enough of Vietnamese coffee,” says Tran. But the duo are not in the coffee shop business. They are using coffee ground residual as raw material for shoes, a combination of creativity that has never been done before.
They brought together their experience and involved the start up ‘FactoryFinder’ that connects businesses with factories that can make products to specifications with minimal hassle.
The duo continued to further their research and found out that there are more companies who have tried to use coffee grounds to produce garments but never made shoes with them. If they could do it, they would be making use of a resource that would otherwise go to waste, and providing an alternative to the conventional chemicals used in the fabric factories.
This summer the two friends and their team managed to raised $550,300 from Kickstarter and $572,300 from Indiegogo to create the kind of coffee shoes that they’ve got in mind. The company has 9 investors and thousands of backers in 69 countries. Their first products will be delivered to their expecting clients next month.
“We want to make shoes that are good looking and eco-friendly. What we have in the market now are not well designed.”
“But then our first prototype was disgusting,” Tran recalled.
Rens means “Clean and pure” in Scandinavian languages. It also means “The great feeling you have when you do something good to others,” in ancient Chinese.
“Which is out motto. Rens gives me and my colleagues this great feeling by doing something positive for the people and for the earth,” Tran explained.
Rens shoes are waterproof and odor-free. Each pair is made from 300 Grams of used coffee grounds ( equivalent to the remains of 21 cups of coffee) and 6 recycle plastic bottles.
“The used coffee grounds are cleaned to extract the oil. That is mixed with polyester from used plastic bottles to make the coffee yarn. From this process, the coffee oil can be use for cosmetic while the yarn have an excellent natural anti-odor qualities, offers UV ray protection and is fast to dry.”
When Tran first shared this idea with others, many thought it was unrealistic since Finland was not the place for manufacturing or consumer goods industries. Later on, they thought of moving the production side to their home country in Vietnam. However, when they finalised the prototype of an intricately designed shoes with hashtag signs knitted on top, the venture attracted more support.
“Since then, we have a good reputation among the start up communities of Northern Europe. We are fortunate to have so many interested in this and applicants filled for every job position, we are advertising currently. They are all excited and passionate about Rens”
After starting with their first employee in February 2019, the duo now manage a team of nine people from six countries in Helsinki. They continuing with extensive research to find greener material for Rens shoes, aiming to upcycling the life cycles of many waste items, not only coffee.
“Any regrets over the last 2 years? Well, I broke up with my 6 years long relationship since managing a start up company was so overwhelming and I didn’t have time for my fiance,” Jesse said.
As for upcoming future plan, Tran is going to enjoy Saigon rain and Vietnamese food before leaving again to the U.S. where 30% of his clients are.
“The only love I’ve got now is my company,” Tran explained.