BORN2GLOBAL

  • banner
  • banner
  • banner
  • banner

H > News

  • [Innovative Startup 1] Upstart bag manufacturer seeks to do Morethan earn profit

  • Morethan CEO Choi Ian on Nov. 28 at his Seoul office says his company’s growth is based on its innovation philosophy of creating positive social effects for society.

    Morethan CEO Choi Ian on Nov. 28 at his Seoul office says his company’s growth is based on its innovation philosophy of creating positive effects for society.



    By Jung Joo-ri and Yoon Sojung
    Photos = Choi Taesoon 
    Seoul | Nov. 28, 2018

    Korea.net from 2019 will feature companies leading innovative growth in various sectors of the Korean economy. The first part of this series is about Morethan, a company achieving the Korean government’s economic vision of "people-centered growth.



    In 2012, Choi Ian, a student at the University of Leeds in the U.K., loved his car so much but later had to scrap it because of a hit-and-run accident. 

    Deeply saddened, he took the driver’s seat from the car back to his place. His friends asked him why he had brought the seat home, saying it did not fit in his pad. Yet one friend said, "It has good leather, though, you could make a bag with that."

    The idea gave Choi a eureka moment. His senior thesis was titled "The Sustainable and Social Responsibility of Korean Carmakers" and he eventually began a new business, Morethan, which manufactures bags from genuine leather, air bags and seat belts from scrapped cars.

    Choi, 37, founded Morethan in 2015 and launched his brand Continew in 2017 after two years of R&D. 

    The company started out with three workers but saw growth to 16 full-time staff a year later. It exports about 180 items to 15 countries including the U.S., Germany, France, Spain and Japan with an estimated monthly turnover of USD 180,000.

    This graphic image shows how Morethan collects and upcycles car seat leather. The upcycling process comprises six stages: cutting, cleaning, drying, ironing, categorizing and waxing. (Morethan)

    This graphic image shows how Morethan collects and upcycles car seat leather. The upcycling process comprises six stages: cutting, cleaning, drying, ironing, categorizing and waxing. (Morethan)




    Upcycling and innovating products

    Upcycling is the first keyword used to explain Morethan.

    Choi said whereas recycling means collecting used resources or materials to reuse them for their original purposes, upcycling means using such materials to transform them into new materials and create new uses for them. He stressed that car seats, air bags and seat belts are categorized as safety products and thus not recycled for that reason.

    Under a contract with Hyundai Motor Company, Morethan collects approximately five tons of car seats, air bags and seat belts every week that undergo a six-step procedure before being used to make premium leather bags. 

    "The quality leather used in car seats doesn't get dirty easily but the procedure involves washing and drying as the leather can have an unpleasant smell," Choi said.

    Pursuing win-win cooperation by hiring underprivileged

    The other keyword for Morethan is social responsibility shown through its progressive hiring practices. 

    The company has hired as bag designers women who had to stop careers of 10 years or longer due to giving birth and child care. A flexible workhour system allows them to handle both their jobs and childcare and also work at home instead of commuting to the office. 

    "Isn’t it nice to be able to go to the office after sending your kids to school?" Choi said. "Staying at the office for eight hours doesn't guarantee coming up with a good design idea. Companies in the U.K. make employees work at home once a week to save energy."

    Morethan also actively hires North Korean defectors. By doing so, the company hopes to help them better adapt to life in South Korea through more chances to meet people face to face. 

    "A high proportion of (defectors) tend to be isolated from South Korean society, but once they have more chances to meet people at the office, they’ll gain confidence," Choi said, adding that he hopes to offer various job opportunities to them.

    Choi compares the leather used in the car seats of the SUV Hyundai Santa Fe with bags and shoes made with the upcycled leather from the vehicle. Because of the vast array of seats and leather types used in cars, Morethan produces a variety of products using them.

    Choi compares the leather used in the car seats of the SUV Hyundai Santa Fe with bags and shoes made with the upcycled leather from the vehicle. Because of the vast array of seats and leather types used in cars, Morethan produces a variety of products using them.



    Morethan has wooed customers with a social value-based concept by transforming scrapped material into new, high value-added products. Many people saw photos of K-pop artists RM of BTS and Wendy from Red Velvet wearing Continew bags on their Instagram accounts and customers promoted this Morethan brand on their social network accounts, earning the company free advertising.

    Morethan now exports its products to 15 countries and has even set up a branch in the U.S. 

    On his company’s goals, Choi emphasized the need to build a new ecosystem in the economy.

    "We hope to supply leather to every bag company in the world interested in upcycling leather. If we do this, everyone can use upcycling products," he said.

    "The final business model for pursuing our goal is creation of a new ecosystem in the economy based on upcycling so that more people can use upcycled products easily." 

    Through its vision of innovative growth, the government seeks to build a people-centered economy by fundamentally changing the country’s social and economic structures.

    Choi said Morethan’s process of producing socially beneficial products should serve as a model for what direction Korea should take to lead innovative growth.

    "A great company should offer benefits through products rather than just show fancy designs to customers," he said, underscoring his company’s philosophy toward social innovation. 

    etoilejr@korea.kr

     

     

     


    Comments

STARTUPS OF THE WEEK

    • 1 Mesh Korea
      Headquarters

      2~4F, Iksung Building, 6, Bongeunsa-ro 112-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, 06170

      Description

      Innovative Last Mile Logistics Platform

    • 2 SendBird
      Headquarters

      541 Jefferson Ave. Suite 100 SendBird, Redwood City, CA 94063

      Description

      The Simplest Solution for Chat and Messaging

    • 3 SMART STUDY
      Headquarters

      5F, 94, Myeongdal-ro Seocho-gu, Seoul, 06668

      Description

      Sing, Play and Learn with PINKFONG

    • 4 COOLJAMM Company
      Headquarters

      14F, 5, Teheran-ro 69-gil Gangnam-gu, Seoul, 06160

      Description

      Let Your Voice Compose — The Simplest Music Creation App for Dreamers

    • 5 Visual Camp
      Headquarters

      Startup Campus #325, 289beon-gil 20, Pangyo-ro Bundang-gu, Gyeonggi-do, 13488

      Description

      Eye Tracking Technologies for Mobile VR Devices

    • 6 4DREPLAY KOREA
      Headquarters

      3003 NORTH 1ST ST. SUITE#221 SAN JOSE, CA, 95134

      Description

      Creating Experience ─ Highly Advanced 4D Video Solution

    • 7 Dable
      Headquarters

      #301, 22, Nonhyeon-ro 79-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, 06237

      Description

      Explain Your Business in One Line

    • 8 MOPIC
      Headquarters

      85307, corporate collaboration center, 2066 Seobu-ro, Jangan-gu, Suwon-si Gyeonggi-do, Korea 16419

      Description

      Your Breathtaking Mobile 3D Theater

    • 9 MOIN
      Headquarters

      B2F, Google Campus, 417, Yeongdong-daero, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, 06182

      Description

    • 10 Exosystems, Inc.
      Headquarters

      #804, 815, Daewangpangyo-ro, Sujeong-gu, Seongnam-si, Gyeonggi-do, Republic of Korea

      Description

      Exosystems provides a new paradigm of rehabilitation with the slogan-“Fun @Home, Data Driven Rehab!”

    • 11 NEWRATEK
      Headquarters

      2~4F, Iksung Building, 6, Bongeunsa-ro 112-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, 06170

      Description

      New Radio Communications for a New Era

    • 12 ZOYI Corporation
      Headquarters

      15F, KR Tower, 141, Teheran-ro Gangnam-gu, Seoul, 06132

      Description

      Growth Hacking for O2O Commerce

    • 13 Luxrobo
      Headquarters

      63 Building, #10, 4F, Hanwha Financial Center, 60, Yeouido-dong Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul, 07345

      Description

      Create Anything You Want with Robotics of Things

    • 14 SketchOn
      Headquarters

      Corporate Collaboration Center #85313, 2066, Seobu-ro, Jangan-gu, Suwon-si, Gyeonggi-do, 16419

      Description

      Harmless, Easy-to-Erase Printed Tattoos

    • 15 Salted Venture
      Headquarters

      340 Nonhyeon-ro, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, 06227

      Description

      Fixing Golf Swings and Squats from the Feet

    • 16 REDTABLE
      Headquarters

      410, Startup Campus Building #3, 20, Pangyo-ro 289 beon-gil, Bundang-gu, Seongnam-si, Gyeonggi-do, Korea

      Description

    • 17 eyedea
      Headquarters

      5F, 98, Seongmisan-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul, 03986

      Description

      Autonomous Flying Selfie Drone

    • 18 Innomdle Lab
      Headquarters

      2F, 3, Eonnam 1-gil, Seocho-gu, Seoul, 06778

      Description

      Touch Your Sound

startups_left startups_right