Richard Shirtcliffe [1984 – 1988]
From merino to baby buggies; GPS to beer; and now coffee to chairs. Nobody could describe Richard Shirtcliffe’s career as linear. On leaving Scots College, he studied Law and History but stepped away from that when he realised very early on that he didn’t actually want to be a lawyer.
However, he found out that what he did want to do was tell stories and that has been the connecting fibre that joins all his roles of the past 30 years.
Richard has relished building New Zealand stories and taking those stories to the world. He says that all of the start-up companies with which he’s been involved, have been fast moving, high growth businesses with high design integrity providing a lot of scope for brand development and the increasingly important role of storytelling. For value-based organisations the storytelling goes beyond the end-sale transaction and encourages customers, employees and communities to go on the journey with them.
In fact, Richard’s latest role with noho.co is all about the story. He and his wife Sarah love being in the sea and during a family trip to Indonesia they introduced their three young children to surfing. Unfortunately, it wasn’t only the children that the waves were rolling on to shore, but also plastic. And lots of it. Richard and Sarah decided with something akin to an epiphany, that they wanted to do something that addressed the ever-growing global problem of waste.
An abridged version of the story is that he joined forces with the world renowned designers at Formway to create a new direct to consumer furniture business – noho.co – the first product from which is the noho move chair. It is a revolutionary ergonomic chair for the home, made from reclaimed and up-cycled fishing nets, often abandoned at sea, and end of use carpets. Polymers from these products can be recycled over and over again. The decision to have all the design and manufacturing undertaken in New Zealand was to take advantage of the design talent and, principally, renewable energy available here. It allows the business to get closer to the 100% sustainable model that noho is aspiring towards. However, in order to share the story and market the brand and chair to the world’s biggest e-commerce market, Richard and his family have moved to Boulder, Colorado in the US.
The move is an exciting adventure for them, although Richard confirms that New Zealand is most definitely home. It’s where his parents and brothers are and it’s where he wants to return to eventually. Until then the family are enjoying their new environment, where they love their new neighbours’ and colleagues’ praise for New Zealand’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. But Richard points out that a US education is very different from that in New Zealand – the US system seems very linear and based on the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects, whereas he thinks New Zealanders are encouraged to be creative thinkers. Richard is certainly a testament to that.