Innovative modular technology firm C6(n) is changing the way makeshift structures are built at events and festivals across the country. Managing Director Charles Hall tells BQ about how he set up his business and invented its “adult-sized Lego kit”.
Tell us about your business, what does it do?
C6(n) is creating beautiful buildings made from glass and carbon fibre. We have put a lot of energy into the research and development of our structures. The building system can be used for anything but we have started testing it in the events industry. The system has been designed so that the building can built in a day and last for hundreds of years, change shape and size on-site depending on demand and then be disassembled when no longer needed, ready to be reused on another site.
What did you do before you started this business?
I thought my calling was to be a tax accountant (don’t ask me why) but after a year in London I realised that I needed a creative job in design engineering, as that’s where my passion is. I have been really interested in new materials and how they are used. Surfboards, snowboards and boats are mostly made of composites of carbon, glass or wood fibres. I wondered if these materials could be used as a building material and then set about making it.
What inspired you to start up?
I think we can do better. I believe that we can improve on what we see and how we achieve it. That was the drive to make and design a new building system. We can make beautiful things that are sustainable. I believe that we can look to the future and not worry, if we try and design out the disadvantages of a building system.
How would you describe your business to your grandma?
Our business has designed an adult-sized Lego kit. This kit is able to make any size or shape building that you could imagine. It would look beautiful, what would you like to make?
Where do you get advice, support or help?
When inventing something new it’s sometimes hard to get the right advice and you can go down many wrong paths. However the Empact Ventures Growth Studio (www.empact.ventures) have been of great help suggesting people to talk to and getting us in front of the right people.
Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?
We fall between the gaps on most grant or financial investment schemes. The family have supported the start up until now. Now we have a product ready to take to market so we have de-risked the idea for a potential investor who also shares our belief in this better building system.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
I like trying to count all the small wins we have had, I have learnt to be quite stoical as there are lots of times when I have counted my eggs only to be disappointed, That being said we have worked and showed our product all over the world now. I think for me the most enjoyable jobs we have is when they are on the beach. Either in the south of France in Cannes for Google or on Bournemouth beach for Koh Thai. It’s not a bad day when you are being paid to work hard in the summertime. We also have had some great achievements with the patents we have had granted.
How do you differentiate your business from others?
I would say we are similar to a lot of business as we all work hard but I think our biggest difference is that we work smart as well. When we see something not working properly we go back and redesign to remove the problem. Especially with the testing we have been doing with clients. We love to remove problems and barriers so that our clients get the best possible results.
What’s it like to be your own boss?
Fantastic and terrible at the same time. It all comes down to responsibility. I care about my workforce and clients and the buck stops with me. This means we do our job right. But as we are inventing a lot of new kit, it also means figuring out how it will all work safely for the public. It definitely would have been easier to stay in a safe job but the adventure of discovering and inventing new systems is a whole other level of excitement and absolutely worth it.
Where do you see your business in 5 years time?
Manufacturing our system of parts all over the world. Expanding the building system into different market segments. Expanding our composite engineering technology to other sectors, perhaps in renewables would be my first port of call.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
It’s not easy. It will take longer than you think. There is a big difference between learning and failing. You only fail when you give up. Belief and passion in what you do is infectious, don’t stop believing.
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