The world of sustainable living is now a vast and often confusing place. Making the switch to a cleaner and greener lifestyle usually means being prepared to invest a fair bit of time and money; however, Last Object and Isabel Aagard firmly believe it isn’t necessary.
Isabel sat down with the Womanly Live editorial team for a one-on-one chat as part of our Inspiring Women Campaign. Before the interview, I managed to test and try out the products she created with her brothers.
Blown away by the quality and design, I fully expected to fork out a pretty penny to get my hands on more. However, on exploring the Last Object site, I was pleasantly surprised to find the products are all relatively cost-effective.
With the combination of impressive products and the eco-conscious new mum’s passion and drive, her team has continued to succeed amid the pandemic. This further solidified our decision to name her our first Inspiring Women.
In between putting her newborn son down for his nap and designing new products, Isabel agreed to have a quick chat with us. Here is a glimpse into our conversation.
In 2018, Isabel and her brothers decided to embark on a passion project to create replacements for single-use products. Isabel’s interest in reducing waste and exploring sustainable design solutions led the team to hunt for which single-use items had the worst environmental impact.
They discovered that cotton swabs were surprisingly high on the list and began brainstorming to replace it. Together, the three designers developed a supportive and open working environment and launched their company, Last Object.
“My co-founders and I are all designers from the Royal Academy of Design. Nicolas (my brother) also studied Business, Kåre is also a carpenter, and I also studied IT. So we are quite similar but specialize in different areas as well. It feels like the perfect team like there’s nothing we can’t solve,”says Isabel proudly explaining why they all work well together.
“We have had many challenges; being copied, production errors, shipping difficulties, etc. I still don’t think that any of them were particularly funny, though! Every day new challenges arise and need to be solved with stubborn and creative minds,”revealed Isabel.
For Isabel, the most painful experience was watching her ideas get copied. This spurred them to come up with a process to combat being copied.
“Crowdfunding is awesome, but the downside is that it makes you vulnerable to copies. This was one difficulty we didn’t have in mind when we launched; we struggled a lot with that during and after the campaign. After three days, we were copied and have since spent a lot of time and energy on protecting our design. We now have a nice setup every time we launch new products with trademark and design registrations,”explains Isabel.
Things She Learnt Along The Way
She taught herself to accept only constructive criticism, focus on the positives, and the importance of embracing all aspects of the business regardless of how certain difficult things may seem to her. Isabel also learned to accept that “not all my ideas or designs are viable.”
“We use crowdfunding not only as a financial tool but also as a way to validate our product so we can save ourselves from going the wrong way. It’s the perfect tool to see whether people are willing to spend money on your product and if there are any changes you should make,”elaborated Isabel.
What Makes Last Object Different
In Isabel’s opinion, Last Object stands out because of its dedication to providing innovative Nordic-inspired designs at an affordable price point. Unlike other sustainable products on the market, Last Object aims to keep the cost of items as low as possible.
Isabel passionately explains that when the brand “creates new products, we look at where we can make the biggest difference and where we can bring something new to the table.” She adds that they aim to ensure all items are well designed and durable because “the longer they last and the more they’re used, the bigger of a difference they will make.”
Design In Daily Life
From thoroughly testing and trying the products, it was easy to see that there were immense thought and intricate design elements at play in each item. Isabel revealed that this is because she draws inspiration for items throughout her day.
“Design is all about finding creative solutions, so it’s definitely something that comes into my daily life. I am more specifically a co-designer and have always been very interested in waste reduction and sustainable design solutions. Everything that I have done throughout the years has in some way tapped into these interests, “said Isabel.
Being A Female Entrepreneur
While Isabel explains that having her brothers with her, helped her bravely jump into following her idea and dream, she had a few lingering fears. Like many other women, she wondered how she would balance her family life and her career.
While launching the company, she had also been planning to start a family. She admits that while her brother also started his family around the same time she did, she understood that it means something different for a woman.
Being A Working New Mum
“Before becoming a mother, I had so many plans, but I found that once it happens, it’s much easier to see what is doable without overloading on work (It’s plenty of work just being a mom),”the new mom candidly admits.
She explained that it took some adjusting to go back to work. Isabel learned that as a new mother, you need to “be good to yourself and flexible at work” because some responsibilities are not possible when you need to plan your day around the baby. She also had to understand she could not “overextend yourself” even if “moms are more efficient” because “we also have shorter attention spans and less time.”
Baby Inspired Last Object Designs
“It’s been a real eye-opener to see how much trash is created around a baby. Luckily there are also a lot of solutions,”revealed Isabel when asked if consumers could look forward to baby inspired Last Object items.
She recommended that new mums look into “second-hand baby things” as it “made a huge difference” for her. Isabel also advises giving things baby outgrows away to family, friends, or those who need it as this saves on waste, and “you’d be surprised how happy people get.”
We concluded our chat with Isabel, imparting advice for different areas of life. If you’re planning to launch your own business, Isabel recommends following these three essential steps.
- Test your ideas: Prototype hundreds of versions, get feedback, change it, and test it again. Don’t be afraid to change things along the way.
- Preparation: You cannot prepare for everything, but preparing for as much as possible will make a massive difference in the long run.
- Learn About All The Aspects: Understand all aspects of your business and systemize and automate where possible. Once automated, a task should not be in your daily activities. There are thousands of platforms and outsource opportunities that can make your life easier.
Advice To Reduce Waste
For those struggling to go waste-free, Isabel suggests “taking it step by step and eliminate one thing at a time.” She explains that trying to switch your entire lifestyle all at once “can be very overwhelming.”
“Have a look at your habits and figure out where you can make a difference in your life as far as the waste you create. Maybe you don’t use cotton swabs or to-go coffee cups, but perhaps you use a stack of tissues every day. Remember that if we all make small changes, together we will have a big impact,”says Isabel.
Lastly, the ambitious designer revealed her secret to maintaining a balance between all her projects. Aside from the Last Object, Isabel is also involved in “Chemo to go, please.” However, the project has been automated and does not take up much of her time.
“To be honest, there is not that much of a balance between work and home life; both worlds must be combined and overlapping. It helps that my baby gets me up very early. My only advice would be to be aware of one’s priorities and be as effective and focused as possible,”concludes Isabel leaving us feeling inspired.