Sitting at a table with friends, drinking beer and talking about launching a social enterprise to make the world a more sustainable place is easy. But actually doing it? Well, that’s a bit tougher. Especially when the logistics wind up involving multiple countries on separate continents for products requiring an infrastructure that doesn’t yet exist.
But that is precisely what Brentwood-area locals Jesse Sproul, Barret Ward, Joel Griffith, Michael Graziano and Matt Lehman have done. The five friends founded Newly, an environmentally enlightened business that produces high-quality home goods from 100 percent recycled materials. Newly launched toward the end of 2016, offering such items as premium glassware, blankets and cutting boards.
Now, just over one year in, it’s time to reflect on what the Newly team has accomplished and where they go from here.
“The growth in our first year has been strong and encouraging,” says Michael, a filmmaker when not busy building the Newly brand. “From this time last year until now, we’ve learned a ton. We’ve learned who our customers are. And we are proving a business case: You can make beautiful, durable home goods from 100 percent recycled materials.”
Jesse, Newly’s CEO, agrees.
“We found we saw increased sales in categories that had more options. We launched in October 2016 with only 12 products. But now, just over a year later, we’ve more than tripled the choices. And for premium handmade goods, our items are not expensive. If you compare to other brands, they’re actually competitively priced.”
And, unlike other brands, each Newly product is a part of a larger mission baked into the business charter itself: Newly is the first registered benefit corporation in the state of Tennessee.
“First and foremost, we are a maker of beautiful, quality home goods," Michael says. "However, our goods just happen to have this fundamentalist mission.
Too often you must choose between being stylish and being sustainable. That’s a false dichotomy. You can do both.”
Newly’s growing success proves that doing both is indeed possible, but with recycled resources gathered in places like Italy to be manufactured in South Carolina, it is still difficult.
“The fact that it is hard does help us keep our competitors at bay,” Jesse admits with a smile.
“It’s our dream to vertically integrate—sourcing and producing much closer to home," Michael says.
Until then, Newly will continue to grow its global sourcing and manufacturing base, utilizing artisan glassblowers in Valencia, Spain, for example, to produce its current line of 17 different types of glassware, each piece made by hand. (To see for yourself, check out the video on Newly.com.)
However, regardless of the source of the recycled materials or the location of their manufacturer, the premium products of Newly hold true to its motto: beautiful goods, responsibly.