Furnish sustainability

One of the biggest challenges, says Raul, is the inclusion of all relevant stakeholders in order to make the business sustainable as a whole. So far everything is going according to plan, and CIVAG wants to stir up the furniture market before the end of the year.

(Interview of HSG Alumni with Raul Schweizer, July 2021)

1. The business idea:

CIVAG is a digital startup that offers furniture for rent. As part of the circular economy, CIVAG focuses on the restoration and reuse of rented furniture whenever possible. CIVAG's rental model thus promotes the long-term use of resources.
In addition, CIVAG specifically supports the choice of sustainably produced high-end furniture by reducing investment barriers, providing relevant information and forming selected partnerships. In this way, CIVAG contributes to achieving climate goals and enables users to live sustainably without limiting their design options.
Finally, we want to give shape to the demand for recyclable furniture and, in doing so, push the existing value chain towards a sustainable reorientation.

2. The best part of being self-employed:

For me, CIVAG (Circular Value Generation) grew out of a desire to have a positive impact on the environment and build a company that is 100% aligned with my values.
Furthermore, the motivation to make a difference welds our team together. As a team, we are always faced with new challenges, but knowing that we can fully commit to our passion provides us with the energy we need.

3. The most valuable experience:

Building the company from scratch also meant being exposed to all aspects of building it. This helped to get to know and understand a company holistically in a short time.
The cooperation within the team does not stop at the individual core areas when building up the knowledge that is required for a circular business model. For example, we are all involved in the lifecycle analysis process of furniture or in communication decisions. Because we believe that if you want to succeed with a circular business model, you cannot think marketing without also understanding the value chain management.
Another valuable experience was seeing the initial idea of keeping furniture in circulation for the long term in order to conserve resources grow into a concrete business model. It is great to see how many talented people have shared my initial vision and how we are working together to make a positive difference. Thereby different perspectives in the team have contributed significantly to the productive development of the initial idea, and every day is still full of exciting interactions.

4. The biggest challenge:

Bootstrapping! As with many startups, a big initial challenge is building the business with scarce personal resources.
Especially in the circular economy, it is not easy to get a foothold with scarce resources and a small team. For example, it takes well-researched knowledge in many more disciplines than in comparable linear business models to properly design products and processes. For us, this means that we spend a lot of time and energy doing in-depth research. This is where networks like HSG Alumni, Circular Economy Switzerland, Innosuisse and Impact Hub help us in an irreplaceable manner.
In addition, circular economy business models need a good communication strategy to specifically reach the part of society that is already interested in environmentally positive ways of living and to promote and spread sustainable thought patterns.

5. A tip for future founders:

For me, it has turned out to be central to be clear about the values and mission from the beginning and to communicate them concretely. This guiding principle has enabled us to be agile in our day-to-day operations without veering off course.
Especially in an impact-oriented business model, such a guiding star is essential in order not to get stuck while striving to improve the world.
Thus, questions such as which business partners we want to work with, which employees fit into the team, which investors might be interesting and which customer group we address, all ultimately depend on our formulated targets, mission and vision.
Last but not least, as the owner and CEO, I am myself held accountable and measured against these values. I find the transparency and stringency a pleasant quality assurance: If proposals or actions of CIVAG, in their sometimes difficult-to-predict effects, turn out to be contrary to the transparently communicated values, one is quickly made aware of this, from the manifold perspectives and experiences of all stakeholders.

6. I am grateful to the HSG for this:

The broad orientation of the HSG curriculum, especially during the context studies, formed the basis for me to find my way around complex topics, such as the transformation of an industry or the cultural change of consumption.
In addition, I have been able to benefit from countless individuals, associations, and initiatives at the HSG that have helped me grow professionally and personally. Without the inspiration of associations like Oikos, CIVAG would probably not exist. At the moment, I am also very grateful for the HSG network of real experts who helped me again and again during the founding process.

7. I could use support from other alumnae or alumni for this:

We are currently building a long-term network of sales, operations, and financing partners. We are also in the process of setting up an advisory board that brings together relevant know-how for the sustainable rental of furniture. This includes numerous areas such as extensive knowledge in the rental business, insurance, legal expertise and of course know-how in the area of circular business models including their physical processes. For this we can use the support of alumnae and alumni very well - if there are individual inputs or interest for a cooperation, I would be happy to hear from you.

8. Targets for the current year (2021):

1.    Go-live of a further business model development increasing its scalability
2.    Finding and onboarding co-founders and team members.
3.    Establishing further partnerships for the Circular Furniture Ecosystem.