In a world where every second adult owns a smartphone, the market for mobile phone accessories is enormous, but with the high turnover of products, many of these items end up in a landfill.
Rather than become another contributor of waste, small business owner Ghulam set-up online accessories store Echno to use discarded materials to create quality eco-conscious products. At Echno most of the products are reused or recyclable – even the packaging is eco-friendly!
Now a leading supplier with a loyal customer base and a huge office and warehouse at Access Self Storage in Mitcham, Echno’s beginnings were somewhat more complicated.
Originally a shop situated on the High Street in Morden, the business was forced to close at the beginning of 2009 with the onset of the recession. This left owner Ghulam with a living room fill of stock.
Expecting a further loss in profit, he decided to try and sell the remaining items on eBay. The response was incredible and with no overheads and little effort, Echno became profitable again.
Restarting with a new business format, in early 2009, Echno re-opened as an online retail shop. After a couple of months, the team realised it was impossible to fulfil the increasing number of offers from a small house. At this point, they thought about renting a commercial space but were not in a position to rent a warehouse.
“One day I was driving past by Access Self Storage in Mitcham and saw an advert on the wall Offices to Let. I stopped by and was greeted by staff who were professional and worked around my budget. My problem was solved and within a week we moved our business from a box room to a 225 square foot office in Access Self Storage” said Ghulam.
Over the past six years Echno has increased its storage usage by over 17 times to keep up with the demand. Echno now rents a 4,000 square foot office cum warehouse space. The flexibility offered by Access has allowed the business to expand its storage requirements on a needs basis, which has undoubtedly reduced both costs and stress levels.
Remaining ahead of the competition has kept Echno staff members truly busy. Since beginning in 2009, Echno has expanded its catalogue by over three times with a new product introduced daily. “We want to become one of the favourite online accessory stores so we always bring new and quality products to our customers”, said Ghulam. The attentiveness and strong customer focus shown by Echno staff was evidenced recently by one very happy customer who said; “I ordered this item on Monday evening and it arrived the next morning! Good price for genuine replacement earphones, which my cat chewed up! ”
The most interesting and profitable side of the company's operations is the mobile parts recycling. In partnership with big mobile businesses like Carphone Warehouse, Echno bulk-buys used phone parts and resells these to customers. Anything from the glass screen to the frame of a phone can be cleaned and fixed by the Echno team and ready for resale. These products are particularly important to the staff at Echno as it supports their eco-friendly ethos by maximising the reuse of recycled products to then minimise what could end up in landfill.
With the help of a manufacturer in Hong Kong, Echno has created its own-brand mobile phone cases made from recycled phone cases. Recognisable brands like Case-Mate, Griffin and Cygnett are also on the Echno accessories catalogue.
More recently Echno launched Cup a Cake pods for presenting and preserving baked goods. These have already become a quick favourite within the UK market.
Looking to the future, Ghulam wants to continue to add new products to the catalogue, process more orders and eventually hire more staff.“Business is all about challenges, solutions and success. I believe the more challenges you have the better you progress”, Ghulam commented.
If you're in the area, use Echnolocation - or, you know, Google Maps or whatever - to make your way to Access Self Storage Mitcham.