Student startup's mission to make first beach robe 'made and manufactured in Cornwall'
24 June 2022
Student entrepreneur Ben Penrose has already launched one successful clothing business – and now his new spin off company Zen Beach is now relocating its production and manufacturing to Cornwall.
Following the successful launch of Vintage Religion – an online sustainable clothing re-sale company, a Falmouth University student entrepreneur has launched another venture which is set to switch its entire production and manufacturing process to Cornwall after previously importing all their product base from China.
After successfully securing an initial £2,000 investment in 2021 to help accelerate Vintage Religion, Ben was able to establish robe challenger company Zen Beach with the startup’s profits.
The final year Business & Entrepreneurship BA(Hons) student designed simple fleece and towel-lined robes which would appeal to active surfers, paddle boarders and swimmers, like his friends, who wanted to warm up after cold water activity but without breaking the bank.
With the help of fellow creatives at Falmouth University, he has so far engaged a number of student entrepreneurs and creatives in both paid and voluntary roles including social media, web management and marketing and has worked with models, artists and photographers to launch the new challenger brand.
We’ve created a bit of a movement via our network of students, graduates and small business owners looking out for one another and helping with favours, introductions and swapping goods and services.
But in 2021 when the Suez Canal crisis caused chaos with supply chains around the world, Ben suddenly saw his international shipping costs soar from £400 to over £3,000 within four weeks. In the months that followed, he began undertaking a special social action project as part of his studies at Cornwall Business School. In tandem with this, Ben came to understand first hand that buyers in the UK were not only extremely invested in the origins of his product materials but in the manufacturing and shipping process too.
“Through a combination of the pandemic, the Suez crisis and increasing levels of buyer and consumer concern around sustainable products, I realised I could no longer continue to use supply chains in the way I had been. Until then, I had been working with numerous suppliers in the Far East and despite our best efforts as a company, it was very difficult to ascertain the full picture when it came to conditions within factories, worker protection and environmental standards. It felt that the checks and balances I was looking for weren’t there – so it became difficult to have full confidence in the product and integrity in our supply process."
I’m proud to be able to pivot the business away from overseas imports and make steps to address some of Cornwall’s bigger challenges.”
With support from his tutors and student/entreprenurial network, Ben set out to re-design and re-launch his products as part of a renewed mission to help benefit the Cornish business ecosystem.
“I have been lucky enough to receive incredible advice and mentoring, meeting a fabulous contact at a Chamber of Commerce event. Essentially, we’ve created a bit of a movement via our network of students, graduates and small business owners looking out for one another and helping with favours, introductions and swapping goods and services.
"This year, I will be launching our very first poncho-style towelling robes which will be entirely manufactured here in Cornwall – before moving on to our fleece and towel-lined robes.
"I’m proud to be able to pivot the business away from overseas imports and make steps to address some of Cornwall’s bigger challenges.”