Beautiful, sustainable, innovative and regenerative… Simon Pestridge shares all about Good Business at Desa Potato Head.
With over 24 years at Nike, Simon Pestridge is no stranger to the world of business. After working across the globe, he finally joined the Potato Head family when he took up the role of Chief Experience Officer. What started out in 2010 as one of Bali’s original beach clubs (where simply having a good time was the main mission), it’s since evolved into the island’s sustainability powerhouse. Think furniture and decor made with upcycled waste, guilt-free food and drinks straight out of zero-waste kitchens and bars, and with the help from the United Nations, Potato Head has successfully offset its carbon footprint, making it the first carbon neutral hospitality company in the region…
But if you think claiming sustainability is the end goal, think again, because these guys are only just getting started. To learn more about the brand’s good business ethics and where it’s going, Launchpad and Honeycombers founder, Chris Edwards, sat down with Simon Pestridge on an episode of the Good Business podcast by Launchpad. Here’s the lowdown on what they discussed…
If you’re going to build meaning and purpose into your brand from the very beginning, and you have a product that backs that up, then you have a recipe for success.
From “good times” to “good times, do good”, tell us about Potato Head’s eco-mission and your role in the transformation.
I’m lucky that I came in and took over the great work that’s already been done. Our job is to take the concept into the future: breaking it down into smaller, shorter term, tangible goals that we know will lead to something big. So we’ve taken the recent shift from sustainability and focus on regeneration. The reason behind that is quite simple. Sustainability is something that you can do forever and ever, but isn’t it more interesting to actually be able to take that into a virtuous cycle? Whereas regeneration is about whatever you touch, whatever communities you work in, everything is actually positive and leaves the earth in a better place than where you found it.
We are taking sustainability into a virtuous cycle with regeneration, where whatever you touch is leaving the earth in a better place than where you found it.
Can you give us some tangible examples as a result of this regenerative shift?
We work with a partner, who’s been working with the local communities and farms, from the north to the south of Bali. What we wanted to do is to procure organically-produced rice directly from the local farmers, taking out the supply chain in the middle. By doing this, the farmers are getting a bigger cut of the profit, and in return, we’re giving them a commitment to a certain amount of rice every single month so that they can plan ahead. Now we’re in a place where we may well be able to procure all their rice, the farmers are making more money and able to get more land, and therefore you are regenerating that community.
What we’ve also realised is that we have to take care of our own waste in our facility, and how we can turn it into beautiful objects. For example, why would we buy candles from outside when we can create candles from used cooking oil? We go through hundreds of candles a week and we are actually creating more jobs internally to create those candles. So that in itself is actually regenerating your own community because you are creating more jobs and opportunities for people.
With regenerative hospitality at the forefront, where do you see Potato Head in 10 years?
If we crystal ball out five to 10 years, we would like to have more impact in different places all over the world. But where would that be? We’re looking at it right now. But as any brand grows, you have to stay true to who you were originally. And so our job first and foremost is to make sure this is the most amazing experience with the idea of zero-waste, and that everything we do is beautiful, sustainable and we give great jobs to great people in Bali. Then as we grow, we want to share those learnings with hotels and restaurants in the community, and develop different management systems.
You should never sacrifice consumer experience to be sustainable. No consumer is willing to sacrifice, they don’t want an ugly, unconfortable shirt because it’s made of sustainable fabric. So we have this ethos: beautiful, sustainable. And we want to take that ethos out to the world.
And what’s been the biggest challenge when you want beauty and sustainability?
It’s about making sure that you don’t compromise on either side. But when you clash, it should be about clashing forces that come in together to create objects of beauty, amazing new experiences for people. So we don’t look at anything as a challenge, it really is an opportunity.
Every tourist in Bali creates about three kilograms of waste a day, from plastic bottles to product packaging. And the idea we have is that it’s not waste until it ends up in a landfill. So whatever we can do to stop it from going into a landfill is the most important thing. We separate our waste into organic and inorganic – organic goes to compost, while inorganic can be upcycled into beautiful goods like soap and lotion dispensers. We believe that a small change repeated by hundreds of people is way more important than one big change made by one person. It is important that nobody feels they’re sacrificing any part of their experience, and that we still exceed people’s expectations every day.
A small change repeated by hundreds of people is way more important than one big change made by one person.
Do you have any advice on how to create a meaningful brand, or any business mantras that you live by?
If you just have a product, and all you’re going to do is try and pull people in to buy a product that has no bigger meaning or inspiration, then how sustainable is that for you? So find your passion, and show it to the world. Make sure your product actually does exceed people’s expectations, so that they will talk about it. That way, they will help you create a community around your story and grow it. And the mantra that has kept me true to who I am is this notion that you’re never the smartest person in the room. As soon as you think you are, you’re done. You’ll lose your way and get blindsided.
What does community mean to you and Potato Head?
Community is everything when it comes to building a brand. For Potato Head, we wouldn’t be where we were if we didn’t have amazing community and partnerships, because we can’t do everything ourselves. If you ever forget the people that made your brand special, you’ll lose that community and you’re just talking to yourself.
So tell us what good business means to you.
A good business shouldn’t just be measured by the financials, and we have to move away from capitalism. It should make a social, economic, and environmental impact. And that’s why we’re so inspired by this idea of regeneration – if you’re regenerating, you’re really thinking about how you can leave the world a little bit better every single day.
Lastly, who would you recommend that we should have on the show?
I would say there’s probably one that really stands out, Sungai Watch run by the siblings Gary, Sam and Kelly. It started as a river darling project, to try and stop the waste from actually getting into the oceans. And now, they’ve turned that into a micro-business. They’re born and raised in Bali and super smart, learning their way in the business world driven by a passion. They’re just doing good things every single day.