Currently, 23 billion pairs of shoes are manufactured each year globally using virgin materials, which prove very difficult to recycle due to the complex design and various materials used. Compound aims to create a recycled footwear business that benefits motorsport, race fans and the planet. Utilising waste streams such as used motorsport race tyres, outdated race suits, team clothing and manufacturing offcuts, teams can reduce their carbon footprint, keep waste material out of landfill, negate the cost of waste disposal and convert their rubbish into new hot kicks for their fans.
“Compound is very much a personal passion of mine. I’ve always loved motorsport, growing up watching my Dad immerse himself in the sport with his work, falling in love with the smell of molten rubber on the track, and the sounds of V8 engines roaring past at 200mph.
These experiences, paired with my affinity for design, led me to specialise in “sustainable design” at The University of Brighton, which enabled me to have the freedom and support to study what problems the world faces and taught me an understanding of how we as designers have an obligation to try and fix them.
Compound was created out of a culmination of all of these factors. Seeing the waste within motorsport, and the current state of our climate led me to try and find a solution using the skills I possessed from a mix of University, childhood experiences, and personal passions.
After reading Victor Papaneks book, “Design for the real world”, I became obsessed with the study of circular economies and how, in fact, sustainability isn’t just great for our planet – but also great for business. Pair that with a love for trainers and a project was starting to form in my head –
this led me to create Compound, a unique brand of sustainable sneakers that takes wasted tyres and converts them into recycled, fashionable footwear.
I am determined to inspire others to look at design and product ‘end of life’ differently, and question how rubbish’ can be turned into valuable products, limiting the need for fossil exploitation.
With 23 billion pairs of shoes manufactured globally each year using virgin materials, Compound aims to revolutionise how trainers are made, by utilising the 80,000 Formula 1 tyres that are discarded each year and the 25% of material wasted during the manufacturing of motorsport clothing. By creating our own footwear brand the hope is to promote sustainable waste utilisation on a global scale. Compound aims to initially target Formula 1 tyre wastage with the intention of broadening our production to incorporate the 2.5 billion road tyres that are discarded each year.
Our aim is to reduce the sneaker industries carbon emissions by demonstrating that you can manufacture beautiful, high-quality products from waste materials and ultimately save tyres from landfill, the incinerator and reduce our anthropomorphic impact on the planet!
Additionally we want to create a recycled footwear business that benefits motorsport teams, race fans and the planet. We are determined to inspire others to look at design and product ‘end of life’ differently and question how ‘rubbish’ can be turned into valuable products, limiting the need for fossil exploitation.
We have an excellent core team, including Megan Lander, Compound’s sustainability, research & development and marketing consultant. Megan is a former producer/director at ITV London and the BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol.
Chris Witty is Compound’s Motorsport Director. Chris has 50 years of experience in F1, F2, rallying, offshore powerboat racing and America’s Cup sailing and is responsible for Compound’s connections with FI teams, drivers and our motorsport clothing and tyre suppliers.
I am (Alex Witty) Compound’s founder/CEO. I’m an award-winning product designer who is passionate about motorsport, innovation and sustainable design to help save the planet. I gained a 1st class honours degree in Product Design BSc with Professional Experience as well as a qualification in Digital Marketing. I founded his first company at 19 years of age and filed my first patent at 20. I was runner-up in The Verizon European Young Entrepreneurs Challenge in March 2022 and was awarded The Santander University of Brighton Growth Grant, as well as the Southwest Creative Technology Network Automation Award, the Bristol & Bath Creative R&D Trailblazer grant and the Fred Maillardet 2019 Breakthrough Award.
There are many reasons why I decided to start my own business – I became tired of listening to fashion brands saying that they were “green” or “sustainable” without actually doing anything of use. Ultimately “greenwashing” motivated me to do what those brands were saying they were doing. Additionally, I have a huge passion for sneakers and fashion as well as motorsport. I realised my privilege of having a father who has experienced a fantastic career in all forms of motorsport and a mother who is incredibly well versed in the world of sustainability and project management, I realised that if I applied myself, we could build something serious and meaningful in this space.
Getting involved with SETsquared has opened up many opportunities for me. Bath has a great network of entrepreneurs and innovators and I was referred to SETsquared which is how I learned about the Sustainable Business Support Programme and subsequently attended a 2-day Sustainability Workout. This environment was perfect to purely focus on the business and address some really tough questions and focus on creating a business model canvas which challenged my thinking. The other valuable aspect from the course was building my connections and meeting other great people who have a passion about the environment.
I’m continually going back to my business model canvas and use it as a template of reference which I can build on and as I accumulate more knowledge can reinvest it back into my business model canvas. For anyone developing a new business take a look at this funded programme of support from SETsquared Partnership and University of Bath.
Compound is very much in the R&D stage, we’ve been fortunate enough to receive a few different grants including Innovate UK fast start grant which has enabled us to approach material scientists and industry experts in their field which will help us research and develop our own recycled and sustainable filament for the 3D printing of our midsoles. We are making functional pairs of prototypes which has been about a year in the making – a lot of background work going on to ensure we go about it the right way. Then we’ll be getting them tested to refine the product where necessary and then scaling whilst tying to keep as much of our manufacturing in the UK.
We are building up to our crowdfunding launch in July 2023, we’ll be offering our shoes to the public along with our sustainable clothing lines so that our fans can show their support without harming the planet. We aim to build brand notoriety and have a spot on the map for Compound to start conversations with major footwear players to use us as a case study to show you can do more with waste.
As with all new startups operating on a shoe-string budget has been a challenge and managing cash flow commitments takes a lot of energy. Ensuring smooth transitions happen between subcontractors is also a challenge, particularly being a small operation there is a lot of rejigging of schedules which can be frustrating as well as challenging.
The next year is going to be a learning year for Compound – but learning whilst having products, whereas last year we were learning about the business set up. We see ourselves as quite an agile company that could move into different spaces very quickly.”
Alex Witty, Founder