Architecture and Entrepreneurship are perhaps the two most creative professions that encompass multiple fold aspects not restricted to a particular field. Both professions are undertaken by individuals driven by innovation and making the world a better place. This is perhaps one of the reasons why Architects are venturing out into the domain of Entrepreneurship. Years of learning instills adequate hard and soft skills to ensure a multi-disciplinary understanding and the ability to command control over various aspects of work. One such story is that of Safia Qureshi, an Architect based in the UK, who delved into the field of circular economy to establish CupClub: a company that develops recyclable, daily use products.
About the firm and the architect/designer
Born in London, UK, Safia Qureshi is an Architect, educator, and innovation designer. In 2015, she launched Studio [D] Tale, an organization aiming to create and develop projects that have a high environmental and social impact. Later in 2018, she incubated and launched CLUBZERO (Cub Club): a returnable packaging system for beverages and foods.
As an Architect, Safia’s work has been known for its innovative approach and use of design, digital design-oriented explorations and interventions that challenge the conventional notions of cities, spaces and management in the built environment.
Her list of awards includes top prize winner for CLUBZERO from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and IDEO, NextGen Winner from Closed Loop Partners, and Fast Company’s Best UX Design 2019. She has been mentioned in several media and publications, such as Bloomberg, BBC, Core77, Design Week, Dezeen, Design Indaba, Evening Standard, Fast Company, Forbes, Sky, The SUN, and The Drum. She has also been a notable guest contributor and speaker at the World Economic Forum on the subject of reuse and packaging.
When it comes to her contributions towards academia, she has been a visiting juror for the Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL), London Metropolitan University, and Royal College of Art. She is also a member of the guild of professional mentors for the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
How they have established their practices
Safia Qureshi started CupClub while working in her creative design firm: Studio [D] Tale. Her architectural design background insinuated in her the thought of creating a company that could develop ways in which Design could be used to alleviate some of the largest problems that the current environment is facing, concerning concerns around the global use of plastics.
In the year of Studio [D] Tale’s launch, she observed increasing harm being created from consumerism through plastic packaging. She pinpointed this issue as the major area in which design could resolve the issue. So she aimed her focus towards designing products that were constantly disposed off. The idea of Coffee Cups came when Safia observed a group of individuals with paper cups disposing off the product post its use, thereby inducing the idea of developing a better product that would be reused daily, instead of being thrown out every day on commute. The idea of a food system in which people could borrow products and packaging and just return it as opposed to throwing them away. This became CupClub’s first product category- A club model, with a suite of sustainable products.
According to Safia Qureshi, Architects happen to be an interesting combination of designers and project managers, bound by regulation, working within the constraints of requirements; from legal requirements to city requirements.
However, her journey in building CupClub has been quite contrary to her journey as an architect. The similarity lay in knowing how to build and manage something and get to a finished complex thing, a procedure that is synonymous between a business founder and an architect. When creating a building, one thinks about the technique of laying a foundation first, before thinking about getting all of the materials for the structure on-site first. The procedure is step by step; but in the case of building a company, a product is evolved from scratch to a full-fledged service all at once.
The strategy and philosophy
A cup service designed to reduce single-use plastic packaging, CupClub is a returnable packaging service designed to contain both hot and cold drinks. They partner with businesses to form drinks-on-the-go more sustainable; working together towards the last word goal of zero waste. CupClub’s products are designed within the United Kingdom by a team of experienced designers and engineers, to an extent where each product can last for a minimum of 1,000 uses. CupClub was created as Safia was an individual highly interested in the intersection between technology and style, a combination that could boost the circular economy.
CLUBZERO has contributed towards developing a zero-waste system for cities, brands and retailers across foods and beverages. CLUBZERO has created partnerships with businesses that consciously make food and beverage on-the-go more sustainable; collaborating towards the ultimate goal of re-use. Presently, customers across the United Kingdom and North America, including the world’s largest food delivery company, Just Eat Takeaway, NextGen Consortium brands (Starbucks, McDonald’s, Coca Cola, Nestle, Wendy’s, etc.) along with the leading foodservice company Baxter Storey. With a philosophy of making re-use easy and simple to switch to, CLUBZERO has achieved a market-leading return rate of 95% vs industry standard of 60%. The aim moving forward is to build the next robust sustainable consumption model that sees efforts roll out beyond food and beverage to other re-use product categories such as Home and Body through the size of operations already built.
With environmental consciousness, a need of the hour, humans all over the world need to deliberately participate in a circular lifestyle, one that believes in the longevity of products, and their ability to be reused and recycled. Safia Qureshi through her company has taken a small step, albeit with a potentially large impact. This is just the beginning, and an initiative by a single individual, however, if this particular thinking and philosophy were to appeal to the masses overall; maybe the world has a chance of coming back to a point of ecological control before it is too late.
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Qureshi, S. (2014). Safia Qureshi Profile [LinkedIn]. Written 5 June 2014. Available from: https://www.linkedin.com/in/safia-qureshi-4ab43615/?originalSubdomain=uk [Accessed 23 December 2021].
Design Indaba. (2015). Safia Qureshi: A project to help eliminate paper cup waste in London. [YouTube video]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ru6goQzri8 [Accessed 23 December 2021].
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