From inner tubes do fashion accessories grow

SOME people set out with the deliberate intention of running their own business, others stumble into it, writes Roger Trapp. By her own admission, Julie McDonagh is firmly in the latter camp. "It just happened," she says.

Her business, The Inner Tube, was born when she undertook a project on recycling while studying art, design and media at Portsmouth University. She discovered that most discarded tyre inner tubes are buried in landfill sites and resolved to find a use for them.

Inspired by the way in which people in developing countries use old inner tubes to make products ranging from water carriers to shoes, she identified a market among fashion lovers for rubber bags and luggage. The results are the distinctive plant-shaped rucksacks and other bags seen on high streets across Britain.

Two-and-a-half years after starting the business with the aid of a pounds 2,000 loan from the Prince's Youth Business Trust, she is producing 200 bags a day and selling them to designer shops as far afield as New York and Hong Kong. It is a performance that has made 25-year-old Ms McDonagh a finalist in the Shell LiveWIRE competition to find the 1999 UK Young Businessperson of the Year, which will be decided at a gala event in London on Thursday.

Not that it has all been plain sailing. Ms McDonagh points out that the Prince's Youth Business Trust and her Shell LiveWIRE adviser were about the only people who took her seriously. And she had to sell her car to help get the business off the ground.

Now, operating from a factory unit at Hambrook, near Chichester, she has subcontractors collecting and cleaning inner tubes while others make a range of products that includes bikinis, mirrors and personal organisers as well as the original bags.

In the past year, she has defied the strength of the pound by gaining 60 per cent of sales from overseas and now intends to raise her profile in Britain.

Hers is just one of several design/lifestyle businesses in the finals of the annual Shell-sponsored competition that carries a pounds 10,000 first prize. Among her rivals are a milliner who produces distinctive hats and a maker of high-quality silver jewellery.

Since being established in 1982, the LiveWIRE programme has given free advice to 140,000 would-be entrepreneurs aged between 16 and 30.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manager - (communications, testing, DM)

£32000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manage...

Guru Careers: Finance Account Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Finance Account Manager with...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Direct Marketing Manager - B2C, Financial Services - Slough

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity h...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum