Charge up over java
With increasing demand being placed on the grid and rising electricity costs, this novelty solar table might be the beginnings of a pretty cool business idea.
The sleek, glassy table top pictured is actually a 30-watt solar panel that is capable of fully charging portable devices like tablets, MP3 players and smartphones in 3,5 hours via two USB ports. Two DC ports also allow laptops or other low wattage devices to charge.
When not in use, a concealed 12-volt rechargeable battery holds the charge, and a sliding cover protects the outlets from the elements. This particular table is 76cm x 64cm, weighs 15kg and retails for around $299,95.
Our Expert Says
This could have a niche market as a gimmick addition to the patio, if the design was acceptable to that market. It has a green appeal by saving electricity and catering for blackouts but an equivalent solar charger is available for a fraction of the price. An entrepreneur considering this product must test market it.
High margins will be required because volumes are likely to be low.
The sales channel selected must have access to the relevant market. Marketing and sales costs are likely to be very high.
Another potential market is as dual purpose furniture for camping, but this has limitations. Tables are made to put things on which would reduce the solar panel effect, it’s heavy and would be more practical with folding legs.
Paper goes back to the stone-age
Paper is made from trees right? Think again. Hong Kong company, Repap, which is paper spelled backwards, makes paper from stone. Made from powdered limestone recovered from quarries, building and industry waste, and mixed with non-toxic resins, it looks and feels like the real thing, but it’s 100% tree-free, water resistant, tougher, and uses less ink for printing. It’s also recyclable, emits less CO2 in production, is resistant to discolouring and tearing, and edges don’t cut you so it’s safe for children.
Our Expert Says
This is a novel idea, and I like the superior features of the product which shows it’s not merely a gimmick. The green appeal of using waste material from building sites and old quarries rather than trees could be a powerful message.
Marketers attempting to introduce this product would need adequate marketing budgets to promote its advantages and green credentials in competition with the pulp industry, which promotes the fact that more trees are planted than cut down as its green credentials.
The price will be key in assessing its potential market. If it’s considerably more expensive than conventional paper it should be sold by specialty stores to a limited market for invitations, annual reports, marketing promotions and the like.
Shoebox living gets chic
Repurposing shipping containers to use as homes, retail outlets or offices isn’t necessarily new. But living in a container doesn’t have to mean being boxed in by cheap materials and finishes.
This prefab concept, created by New Zealand architects Atelierworkshop, shows classy, comfortable residential containers at their best. Interiors are spacious enough to sleep four, and accommodate a dressing room, kitchen and bathroom. Room dividers offer privacy and versatility. The whole concept is lock-up and go, it’s self-sufficient, transportable, and perfectly suited to remote or non-service supplied land.
Our Expert Says
This is a product that could be very applicable in other parts of the world but may not work here. Conversion of shipping containers into dwellings and office space is not new; what sets this apart is the level of finishes, fittings and features like the sliding doors, all of which will add to the cost.
The question is who would buy it? I suspect people looking for low cost housing will see this as expensive and impermanent accommodation, middle class families would want more space and security.
There may be a niche market for holiday cottages or construction workers away from home with their families, but there are existing solutions for these applications. In the local market this looks like a solution looking for a problem to apply itself to.