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Combating plastic pollution with reusable beach products

As efforts to address plastic pollution take the spotlight, alumnus Mick Armstrong tells us about the eco-friendly approach of SeaPigs - and the role that Newcastle University and the START UP programme played in starting his own business.

“Going back to university as a mature student was a phenomenal experience. I studied International Marketing, focusing on what millennials want from brands of the future, and received an award for my thesis. It was on Prosocial Branding, which is ‘a brand that within its core promotes positive helpful human behaviour, doing the right thing for the planet, society, customers and stakeholders; while making a profit’ and that’s exactly what I wanted SeaPigs to be.

“My time at Newcastle was part of the plan to set up SeaPigs. Our mission is to find a fairer way to do business that balances the needs of the people, the planet and the organisation. Since founding we have launched our first product – the SeaPigs Bottles – and moved into the final stage of R&D for our SeaPigs Drifters. By partnering with Newcastle University and Dr Brook Galna, industry expert, our aim is to design the most comfortable and coolest beach footwear, that doesn’t cost the earth.”

Mick was also happy to tell us about his positive experience with Newcastle University’s Careers Service START UP programme: “START UP has been critical in our progression as a brand and they have offered support, guidance, expertise and asked us lots of difficult questions. We have been lucky to work directly with Stephen Bowden, Nicky Burke and Jackie Wade who have offered us honest advice and asked us challenging questions. We owe a huge amount to the START UP team. We were very lucky to be involved in a Dragons Den style pitch for Newcastle University funding and we very lucky to be successful - gaining additional funding to support our launch campaign back in February 2019. Their support, advice and guidance has helped us steer the SeaPigs Ship through some challenging, but always fun times.”

The SeaPigs team also consists of Amanda Mitten ('Herd of Operations'), Steve Harrison ('Herd of Product'), Daniel Charlton (''Herd of Communications'), four interns from Newcastle University (Derya, Victoria, Chloe and Rosie) and one intern from Northumbria University (Lucie). Together, the team has developed multiple re-usable beach and lifestyle products, worked with artist Emma Garrod to create fun new designs for the SeaPigs Bottles, launched several blogs on the SeaPigs website and will soon be launching their own entertainment channel as well.

When asked if he had a message for the alumni community, Mick answered: “Two million plastic bottles are thrown away every 60 seconds and our planet is warming up exponentially. We’re asking everyone to join the reusable revolution – every marginal gain adds up – and to applaud people who are making a difference, encouraging good behaviour, rather than belittling bad behaviour.”

Find out more about the START UP programme.

published on: 8 April 2020