Green Living Interview: The Eco Age Story

Photo: Courtesy of Eco Age
Sitting down with Nicola Giuggioli

Eco Age is an exciting new retail concept and the first of its kind – a store, showroom, consultancy and green hub that offers inspiration, ideas and specific domestic solutions for all those who want to lead a greener and more energy efficient life. Located on Chiswick High Road in London, England. We caught up to Founder and CEO Nicola Giuggioli.

For as long as he can remember Nicola has been concerned about the consequences of our behavior on the environment. From an early age he became keenly interested in the possibility for renewable technologies to provide a solution. "I built my first solar panel when I was 13!" he recalls. At university Nicola studied economics and business, and his dissertation explored the question of how we will move from fossil fuels to renewable sources. "The idea for starting Eco Age came when I realized that there did not exist a physical place where it was possible to connect the growing supply and demand for sustainable goods and services. There really was a hole in the market - and it was clear to me that I had to take action to fill it! Eco Age is where I place my hope for a better world!"

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1. What has been your biggest learning, that you would like to share with other green entrepreneurs, when it comes to opening an eco-minded space?

Apart from what I say to every single person who comes to me for advices which is: "you have an idea? Well don’t loose one year to write a business plan of 150 pages, nobody will read it! Just write the best 5 page presentation and start meeting potential investors!"

My biggest learning has been, how much energy and time you really have to put into structuring a business like the one I'm running. Working 24/7 with no holidays for years! This is the main ingredient to success, together with the other most important ingredient which is: the people who work with and for you.

Of course you can have a good idea and the money to support it but without a great team you won't be able to deliver anything!

2. When it came to building your space what resources did you use to advise you on building materials and "green" building design?

I come from Italy, where the building techniques are some of the most advanced in this world. Also my dad was a civil engineer so I have been, since I was a kid, in contact with highly competent and experienced professionals. Apart from that, well you should have a look at my library of books on green design and materials...it's very large and actually available here at the shop for everybody to consult.

3. How do you keep up to date on in the eco-community?

At a personal level I am constantly reading news and research on what's new in the "eco market" but I've also have 1 full time researcher in my company and fortunately, thanks to the solid and well recognized brand we set up, we are contacted daily by new and exciting companies developing products and solutions.

4. Who do you consider your mentor?

I have a list!

  1. I would definitely say my dad, who has given me some of the best lessons in terms of managing not only a business but especially the people who work with me.
  2. My sister for public relations, she really has a talent for that equal to none.
  3. Lorna, my number 2 and head of operations, she has been following me since I set up the business and helped me develop the structure that allows my Company to work efficiently.

I am also lucky to have a number of experienced partners who always advise me during the most delicate operations. I would say, I consider anybody who is older then me a mentor (many considering I'm only 28) as they will always have lots of things to teach that you can't really find on the book you study at university.

5. What are a few of your favorite items in your store?

I, especially, love the items which condense high technology and design! Such as the "Andrea" purifying filter who remove chemicals from the air thanks to a plant!

Or the "aerogarden" which is a very stylish Hydroponic system which allows you to easily cultivate a small vegetable garden on your kitchen worktop!

Having a motorbike, I also have to mention the bamboo helmet  which "ROOF" produces - it is a limited edition therefore quite difficult to get hold of but, I was lucky enough to get one!

6. What has been the biggest criticism you have received about your vision for your company?

I've only received one so far from a person I respect for his work as a sustainable consultant which was, "how can you promote your business as sustainable if at the end of the day you have a shop that sells stuff?" My answer was quite clear: I do definitely sell objects and I understand the criticism to the "consumerist"  model, but I think that to keep shouting at people to stop buying and doing things isn't really working - at least it hasn’t worked so far. Instead I offer clients a sustainable alternative to their purchases and support companies who are putting all their efforts in changing the way they produce goods and services.

7. What has been the best compliment you have received on your company?

If I have to be honest, the most amazing experience of my life as manager of Eco has been my visit to Toronto and the Green Living Award! I couldn't believe so many important people came to me saying how amazing the work I have done so far is; believe it or not I've also found myself signing autographs!

8. Are you looking to expand the store to other locations? If yes, where and why?

We are in deed. We are planning to open a new office in London to expand the consultancy department which is becoming more and more our core business, a shop in Milan which is, no doubt, one of the more important places in the world for trends and a web shop in US, a very large market which we want to "scout" through a internet based model to then open physical stores in the future.

9. In 10 years, what do you envision Eco Age looking like, as a company?

I hope it will be the name that comes to mind when people and companies thinks about sustainable lifestyle and business. A group which will be able to deliver to the highest standards, goods and services all over the world.

10. How do you enroll your community and team on an ongoing basis in the green philosophy?

Apart from a constant training on products and solutions, I think having a young team that is excited about what we do as business, means that the "green philosophy" is spread throughout the entire company and surprisingly I find myself learning from them quite often. At the end of the day they are the generation who will take decision and run this world in the future so is very important to communicate with them, understand their needs and answer to their opinions.

11. What inspires you each day as a green entrepreneur?

Seeing the world around me changing and feeling I have been and I am part of this change toward a sustainable economic model, not only respectful to the environment but even more to the people!