23-year-old Ffion McCormick Edwards founded Barefoot Tech with the support of Big Ideas Wales in a bid to tackle the volume of old, unused wetsuits that are adding to the environmental impact caused by landfill.
Ffion built her business around her love for the sea and places sustainability at the core of her business ethos by reclaiming unwanted wetsuits.
Ffion uses 80% or more reclaimed neoprene wetsuit materials across her products, which she sources from surf schools, wake parks and outdoor activity centres around Wales. The material from the wetsuits, some of which were originally made in the 1980s, are then turned into Barefoot Tech accessories including on-the-go backpacks and cross body bags, ranging from £30-£71; notebooks with a detachable waterproof cover that have 100% recycled paper costing £22 and purses from £8.
Ffion thought about a career in fashion in sixth form where she began to design and produce garments that went on to be featured at Cardiff Fashion Week. This continued through to university, where she studied fashion design and took on the role of a Student Union Representative for Fashion Design.
Since its launch, Barefoot Tech’s products have not only featured at London Fashion Week 2021, but recently won the Sustainability Through Innovation Award at the National Environmental Awards 2022.
Ffion’s entrepreneurial journey with Big Ideas Wales
Ffion launched her business with the help of Big Ideas Wales which is part of Business Wales and funded by Welsh Government to support entrepreneurship in Wales. The service is aimed at anyone between the age of 5 and 25 who wants to develop a business idea, including students and graduates, as part of its commitment to the Young Person’s Guarantee.
Ffion reached out to Business Wales for support and was put into contact with a business advisor who has since been supporting Ffion in officiating Barefoot Tech through trademarking, insurance tax and registering as a sole trader.
Ffion used her monthly meetings with her business advisor as an opportunity to boost the business’ digital and social identity, planning social strategies to increase her audience. As Barefoot Tech grew, Ffion was introduced to Business Wales Start-Up Barriers Grant which helped her register as a sole-trader and fulfil her dream of become self-employed, running Barefoot Tech from her own small workshop in Swansea full-time.
In discussing the benefits of Big Ideas Wales, Ffion said: “Big Ideas Wales has been such a key support system for me as an independent entrepreneur. When it comes to the nitty gritty requirements of launching and maintaining a business – from registering as a sole trader to tax – Big Ideas Wales jumped into action to support me.
Barefoot Tech has grown over the years, with over 200 orders placed so far. Ffion’s next steps for the future are to extend her product range and open stalls in local coastal areas in Wales where customers can have old wetsuits, swimwear and accessories repaired, in an effort to keep the sustainable cycle ongoing.