Entrepreneur Q&A: Adam Root, founder of Inheriting Earth

Adam Root is the founder of Inheriting Earth and a winner of an Ideas Mean Business award from The Prince's Trust and Innovate UK. He explains more about his fight against plastic and the importance of creating a great business plan.

Adam Root is 27 years old and is the founder of Inheriting Earth, an environmentally conscious product design company.

He is one of 24 young innovators who have won an Ideas Mean Business award from The Prince’s Trust and Innovate UK.

Here, he tells SmallBusiness.co.uk more about his business and winning the award.

Tell us more about your business and how it started.

Inheriting Earth is sustainable-focused product design and we work on things that are beneficial to the people and the planet. I won this award for my work towards reducing ocean plastic and in particular, microfibre plastic.

These are the fibres that are in your clothes; they’re the fibres that are in your Lycra shorts or your sports bra. They’re what hold a lot of our clothes together and when clothes are washed inside the washing machine it’s like a cheese grater. It slowly wears down and because of their size, the fibres go straight out to the ocean.

Their size also makes them really dangerous to the marine environment.

A lot of chemicals will leech onto other plastic as a vessel to be carried around. Creatures that are lower down the food chain like plankton are designed to bottom-feed and so they’ll suck up these tiny pieces of plastic which they think is organic matter, just like anything else.

Trying to capture that much plastic in millions of miles of water is technically very difficult so what I want to do is stop it at the source. My current work is to look at washing machines in homes.

I’ve been trading for around six months and working as a product designer for hire to keep me afloat.

How does your engineering background fit into the business?

As an engineer, I’m not particularly renowned for being business-minded. In a lot of ways you focus on the technical detail – you know your field, but it doesn’t mean you know how to run a business.

At the moment I’m creating technology which is scalable, but a sustainable business has to make money. I’m focused on how we create a model that’s going to work on all aspects. I want to focus on my credibility and show that I can do it.

Classical engineering is a dry, dull subject but lots of people involved in it are creative.

It’s just a case of looking at the world around you and seeing where the problems are. You don’t have to continually reinvent the wheel. There are a lot of things which are designed badly.

Engineering is about solving problems and STEM-focused design is about solving technical problems. But sometimes I think you have to take a step back and look at what you’re trying to solve rather than how to solve it.

What are your goals as a business?

I’d like to be the biggest name in ocean plastic and solve this problem. The major goal for me would be gaining a credible position and having some real numbers to show what we’ve achieved.

I’m starting by doing smaller, in-home stuff that’s grassroots-based. Later on I want to work with river projects that’ll involve government agencies and and communities – that’s going to take a lot of different people. I’d love to jump straight ahead, but I’ve got so much to do.

I’m hoping this award will help me take my product and my ideas into being a full-time role. I think environmental damage is a huge problem worthy of my time. There aren’t enough people in the field doing something about it.

It’s really scary when you quit a full-time job – I used to work for Dyson in research development. It’s a fantastic company with amazing prospects, but I knew my ability and what I could do was better placed in solving environmental issues.

The Prince’s Trust have been invaluable in terms of funding. Have you had to spend much yourself?

I’ve been asking people for help and I’ve had quite a lot of success with that.

But my most valuable asset is my time. So the Prince’s Trust gave me a grant of £250 which went on buckets and some wood. I’m really good at working with a really low budget and making things happen.

I put a lot of time and effort into myself. I love skip diving – you can find all sorts of gems. I’m going to continue putting my time in and in the near future I’m hoping to be able to add some value to my time.

What advice do you have for other early stage entrepreneurs?

Really think about your business plan and how you can make money out of it because a great idea is awesome, but ideas can also be low-cost. Start in a position and gradually work upwards.

Always ask people who they know rather than to give you particular help and often if they know that they’re the person who can help you, they’ll often help you themselves.

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Anna Jordan

Anna is Senior Reporter, covering topics affecting SMEs such as grant funding, managing employees and the day-to-day running of a business.

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