Kresse Wesling

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Elvis & Kresse

Kresse Wesling

2011 Laureate for Europe

The Cartier experience was the ultimate stamp of approval
Cartier Awards provide top-class mentoring for eco-accessory entrepreneur
Interview conducted in Tonge, Kent, United Kingdom

When it comes to luxury, “the go-to company for problem waste” is not a moniker that springs to mind, but for Kresse, it is the ultimate accolade.
It’s a testament to what the business has achieved since she was named as the 2011 Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards Laureate for Europe.
Turning old firehoses destined for landfill into high-end handbags saw her turnover leap from £8,000 to £164,000 in one year and retailers (including Harrods) ─ keen to capitalise on eco-appeal ─ opened their doors to her.

Cartier’s $20,000 grant, coaching and media exposure proved to be the best entrée of all: “It was the ultimate stamp of approval that said: ‘take a look at this business’”, she explains.
Today, the company she co-founded, Elvis & Kresse, has a new challenge: the 35,000 tons of leather discarded in Western Europe annually.
An ‘assembled’ material made from leather offcuts is her big-picture solution: “A single-type luxury item isn’t enough to save this amount of leather. You need a multi-purpose building block, a revolutionary material.”
Rugs from this material have gone from being no part of her business to a third of their turnover since last year. Kresse is confident: “it will eclipse firehose within two years”.
Key to this success ─ a 30 % increase in 2015 ─ is the company’s new home, a listed mill in Kent which has been completely restored in true Elvis & Kresse style. Tonge Mill has allowed the company to double in staff size, with two more people set to join in 2016.
The need for a site to both manufacture and showcase their products was a key objective established during her mentoring with Cartier.
It has allowed the company to mature from a final stage start-up to a fully-fledged enterprise, with embedded structures, ecologically-sound processes and firmly grounded principles: 50% of the profits from the fire hose range go to the Firefighters’ Charity.

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The Cartier community: an inspiring group of women entrepreneurs

Kresse celebrated this milestone by hosting, in partnership with Cartier, a group of laureates, whom she describes as “an inspiring community of women entrepreneurs” at the mill in 2014. She also regularly invites MBA students from Oxford to learn about purpose-led business models.
Elvis & Kresse have lately been hard at work promoting their latest project, Unplugged. In order to secure the needed funds to launch their own renewables installation, they decided in December 2015 to sell 750 pieces from their new line of Fire & Hide accessories. Through these product sales, they hope to raise enough money to install a renewable heating system for 4 properties, including their own Tonge Mill workshop.

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Their Unplugged campaign is gaining huge momentum in Scotland; and is appealing to other businesses and organisations who also want to ‘unplug’. Several organisations, including Scotland's 2020 Group and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency have pledged to bring 500 Scottish businesses to the Unplugged campaign which is currently in beta on www.unplugged.earth.
This talented entrepreneur will never forget how Cartier allowed her “to dream what my business could be”, nor her grandmother, whom she credits as a major influence: “She once said to me: ‘If you are capable of doing something, you have to do it, you are responsible.’”