A fun way to be sustainable!

Albury-based small business Meet PAT was founded by dynamic industrial designer duo Nick Roseby and Nick Robinson. What started off as a design project has evolved into a fantastic small business. This duo design unique, sustainable products and systems that meet social, health and sustainability goals. They are trying to change the way people look at drinking fountains by providing a interactive, clean and fun way to access water. Nick Roseby tells us what makes his small business unique and the message behind Meet PAT.

Q. How did the idea of Meet Pat come about?
I was working for a large multinational business and had become slightly disillusioned with their design and manufacturing process. With my business partner Nick Robinson we wanted to create a business with strong environmental and social strategies at its heart. Initially, we were approached to look at a water based design project. We soon realised that it had much bigger potential. Thus, it evolved into Meet PAT.

Q. What is the significance behind Meet Pat?
Basically, they are contemporary, functional and free local water access points. We offer a very unique set of products and services. We are a design based company that is creating new water access points and easily showing where clean free local water is available. Our aim is to educate and promote healthy living and reduce sugary drink intake through drinking water. We do this though designing and manufacturing a very unique set of drinking water products which have a social and environmental focus.

“We offer a very unique set of products and services”

Q. What is your secret to success?
Having designers run our business. We realised we can design and manufacture anything quickly and easily. We focus on design, leading the company, both from an aesthetic perspective as well as a technical and innovation level. Much of our success has come from being passionate, trying to promote a system and vision rather than direct product sales and possibly being naive to many of the business basics which are often promoted as keys to success. We find we don’t often fit the mould and we love it.

Q. What made you want to start a small business in a regional town?
For two reasons, firstly family. Our office is only five minutes away from home, giving us the ability to spend more time with the family. Secondly, the space and location to suppliers and how we value local supplier relationships. Our business is unique as we service other businesses worldwide. Location wasn’t really an important factor, it was more being connected online that mattered the most.

“It’s a great feeling to be able to contribute to a greater good”

Q. What have been some obstacles you have faced?
Cash flow and more specifically financing our tooling and product development. Being designers, we’ve wanted to continually design and innovate rather than accepting where we are at. We’ve managed to (only through experience) better analyse what we’re trying to achieve and put development priorities in place based around sales and cash flow.

Q. What part of the business have you really tried to focus on and grow?
Recently, the focus has been on structure, general organisation (stock levels, orders and time lining) and reviewing basic business inefficiencies. Growing from a small 1-2 person business to a larger team, we’ve realised that some practices have contributed to a significant waste of money. For example, moving stock from one location to another, ad hoc/reaction based decisions, directors still overseeing too many of the basic tasks – not letting go – office set up and staffing rolls.

Nick Roseby paddling away with his portable drinking fountain

Q. Do you think small businesses are supported enough in regional areas?
Yes, I perhaps feel however it’s depending on the region. Albury is on the main freight line from Sydney to Melbourne. We can ship overnight to anywhere in Australia. From a local business-to-business perspective, we receive outstanding support based around having genuine relationships with suppliers and other businesses – true community support. There is a real “she’ll be right mate” attitude where if we need something fast or are doing something different. It’s almost never a “can’t do” rather a “no worries”.

We found that the relationships in the city weren’t as appreciated or valued – bit more of a “I’m busy sorry, come back in 6 weeks” reaction. We are so fortunate to live in an amazing regional city and the only real key missing for us is skilled designers and encouraging them to come to our region.

Q. Has running a small business been everything you expected it to be?
Yes, it’s been inspiring. We can control our destiny and have the potential to vastly improve both our long term financial position and lifestyle. It’s a great feeling also to be able to contribute to a greater good – contribute to positive social and environmental change. It’s not without hard work, long hours and stressful nights!

Q. When was your moment of realisation that this is what you want to do in life?
We sat down about one year into our new business and wrote an “About Us” guide for our internal identity development. We felt a little lost in our story and direction. We were just working extremely hard, with long hours and limited pay. The document included, why are we doing this? What are our goals? Why are we passionate? What are we trying to achieve?

This became a key mark in business and a reference point which we often refer back to. We realised that there were so many factors which contributed to why this is what we want to do. We are working in an amazing field, knowing that our children and family are inspired by what we are doing, working towards social and environment change.

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