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Colac’s Circular Economy Social Enterprise Seeks New Ownership To Help It Thrive

The Circular Economy is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot at the moment, but what does it actually mean? What’s the difference between green credentials and green washing? Ryan Mischkulnig, founder of FOUND:ling Reusery knows the answers to these questions all too well.

“The circular economy is a model for our society living within its means.  It is a model where rather than throwing things away when we have finished using them, we find ways to reuse, repair and repurpose them within the community so that they do not become waste, and so that new things do not need to be created.”

Ryan’s social enterprise has the circular economy at its core, showcasing beautiful, functional products from across Victoria which have been handcrafted from unloved and unwanted materials.

“It is easy for businesses to green-wash their products, by promoting recycled content or making claims about end-of-life recyclability, but to make a truly sustainable, or green, product is an entirely different thing.  To produce something from waste that is as beautiful, functional and desirable as a new product is something no big brands are doing at the moment, but it is something that a multitude of craftspeople are doing in an amazing array of ways, and we are very proud to showcase their work at FOUND:ling Reusery.”

“FOUND:ling Reusery was created in the belief that there is incredible work already happening across the country in reuse, but that work can be incredibly difficult to find.  We wanted to bring together the best reuse based products we could find, carefully curated under one roof, so that the community could see reused goods as a genuine alternative to buying new.  Over 6 years we have evolved our retail space to support over a dozen high skilled re-makers and bring the community a wonderful range of sustainable products, from clothing and jewellery, to furniture and bluetooth speakers.”

After over 6 years at the helm though, having steered the social enterprise through the pandemic, lockdowns and inflation Ryan has decided that it is time to hand over the reins to a new owner who can help FOUND:ling Reusery to flourish.

“I have done everything I can to build FOUND:ling Reusery into a unique and sustainable retail space which provides a critical path to market for the incredible re-makers we have here in Victoria, but it is now time for me to step back and provide someone with the right retail and business experience the opportunity to grow FOUND:ling to the iconic enterprise it deserves to be”

While Ryan is sad to be selling the unique enterprise he has put so much into creating, he is excited to see what it can become in the right hands.

“FOUND:ling Reusery deserves to thrive, and to become a support for re-makers not just in our region, but across Australia.  I have loved the support that the Colac community has provided us since we moved the business to Murray Street last year and I look forward to seeing that grow.  The sale of FOUND:ling Reusery will only occur to the right person or organisation who shares our values and passion for reuse. For the right buyer, I will happily provide as much support as they desire to ensure that they thrive.

FOUND:ling Reusery is located at 8/186 Murray Street Colac, and currently opens 10-5 Thursday to Saturday.  You can find them online at or on Facebook and Instagram.  If you are interested in purchasing this unique business you can contact Ryan on 0432 889 159 or at

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Circularity 2023 – ACE Awards Finalist!

We are thrilled to have been announced as a finalist in the Circularity ACE Awards this year. Not only are we a finalist in the ‘Design For Circularity’ category, but we are lucky enough to be recognised in the big ‘Full Circle’ award.

To find out more about the awards and Circularity 2023 head to

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Bringing New Circular Economy Products and Services to Market

Last week we had the pleasure of taking part in Victorian Cleantech Cluster’s NEXUS Cleantech Innovation Festival in Geelong. As well as showcasing some of our current range of value-add reuse based products, we also had the opportunity to speak as part of a panel discussion on bringing new circular economy products and services to market.

It was a great opportunity to share some of our knowledge and thoughts and experience in the challenges and opportunities in developing products in the circular economy, especially in the value-add reuse sector, in which we operate. We thought that the discussion was an important enough one to have that we have included some excerpts from it below.

What is the problem your customers or stakeholders have that you’re providing a solution for?

The core problem we are working on solving within our retail boutique is that of trust, visibility and accessibility for value-add reuse based products. Accessibility and visibility wise, there are hundreds of micro businesses across Australia making incredible products within the value-add reuse (examples), but they are largely invisible – the public don’t realise that they exist, so they don’t know to go looking for them. Most products are sold online, or at markets, as there are not suitable conventional retail opportunities. This makes them challenging and inconvenient to find.

Trust wise, there are many members of the public who want to find ways to live more sustainably, whether that is shopping sustainably or reusing/repairing what they have, but if they walk down mainstreet, there are no opportunities to do that. Others have a passion for vintage secondhand items, but don’t have the skills to repair items themselves, or don’t trust the quality or reliability of items which come from conventional secondhand streams.

We attempt to solve these issues together – FOUND:ling Reusery is set up in the middle of Colac’s main street. By carefully curating a collection of highly functional, aesthetically pleasing and accessibly priced reuse based products, in a carefully considered way, under our brand, we put value-add reuse in the heart of mainstreet.

What do you think are the Top 2-3 burning issues, for circular economy businesses trying to bring new products to market? How have you overcome them?

Aside from access to market, I think access to resources, recognition of the reuse industry’s scale and impact, and suitable, reuse supportive legislation are the most critical challenges right now.

On scale, there are more Salvos stores in Australia than there are Woolies supermarkets, and Salvos are only one of the players in the reuse space. Because of big entities like Salvos and Vinnies there is a degree of industry recognition for the importance of reuse, and there is also government support for the existing players in the sector. In value-add reuse however, there are hundreds, if not thousands of small and micro businesses working in the space, having a huge cumulative environmental impact, but they are all working alone, and as such there is no power in numbers, there is no central contact point, and as a result I believe they are overlooked, undervalued and under-supported

How should value-add reuse scale? Without access to resources at scale, it is impossible to manufacture at scale. It’s easy to access large scale resources for linear manufacturing and for recycled materials, but goods collected and sorted for reuse is a much more challenging and less developed resource stream. Without access to high volumes of accessibly priced resources, scaling value-add reuse will remain an impossible challenge.

Legal definitions are also a challenge – when does something stop being secondhand and become new? Where does liability land if a value-add reuse based product has hidden dangers from its original life? Can we ease the secondhand dealers licence burden for low value items to increase legal reuse?

How can we solve these issues? Recognising industry scale will help drive changes to laws, and those changes to laws will make it more viable for businesses to consider larger scale reuse based product development. Access to resources can be improved in a range of ways – we are developing digital and physical means of collecting unwanted household items and getting them to where they need to be to facilitate reuse, but that project is being hamstrung by access to finance.  There is also huge scope for improvement in materials collection, sorting and redistribution at landfill sites, in council hard rubbish collections, and even in sorting of unsellable items at op-shops, but until councils, their subcontractors and other material collectors recognise that there is value, rather than cost, in investing in better sorting of materials, this challenge will continue. Councils and opshops need to see a large scale material reuse opportunity to see the potential value, and reuse entities need greater access to resources in order to reach a large scale.  It’s very much a chicken and egg issue.

Is there any other help you can give to businesses looking to “go circular”?

Don’t assume that going circular has to involve a sacrifice, or is something that will cost more. That doesn’t have to be true.

The best way to take steps toward going circular is to fully understand the needs of all of the stakeholders involved in each part of your business. Without that knowledge you are going to make assumptions, and those assumptions lead to imperfect choices. Once you fully understand these needs then you willhave a solid platform from which you can find suitable circular solutions that can be implemented without sacrifice, solutions that can even provide opportunity for growth and improvement in other ways.

Take those needs that you have identified to an expert. Don’t take a solution, take the needs, the solution is their job. As a designer and problem solver, I can confidently say that the best solutions come from a thorough understanding of needs, and from an expert being given the opportunity to develop a solution, rather than being lumbered with improving a solution brought to them by their client. This absolutely goes for circular solutions too.

What’s the one action you’d like people to leave with today?

I’d love people to remember that circularity is more than just reducing the amount of materials your organisation is sending to landfill or putting solar panels on the roof, or changing the type of hot water service you have. Reducing conventional energy inputs and reducing linear waste disposal are important, and are easily identifiable and measurable solutions, which is why they attract so much attention, but the circular economy is so much more.

When you look to improve your businesses circularity, understand your needs, and look at the full circularity heirachy – look at where you can reduce, where you can reuse, where you can repurpose, and where you can work with others towards a more circular future, and look for where your customer can do the same with your help.

Photo Credit: Victorian Cleantech Cluster

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A Social Enterprise on a mission to make reclaimed goods mainstream


“I’ve always had a passion for reuse — for seeing opportunity and potential in things others discard. As a designer and engineer, the complete lack of consideration for reuse and sustainability disappointed me, both in my training and from design clients once I began working in the industry. I left the industry to prove that, with the right care and skillset, it was viable to develop quality, functional, affordable products, without utilising solely new materials. Our Vintage Bluetooth Speakers, made from discarded radios, became our proof of concept. I quickly discovered that there were not really any retail opportunities for reclaimed — as opposed to as-found secondhand or high-end antique — goods, that could accurately present the benefits of such items. As a result, and with the assistance at the time of Renew Geelong, The Reimaginarium was born. 

From a circular economy perspective, our core aim is to minimise the number of new materials that enter our economy in the form of consumer goods. If we can make repaired, repurposed, or reclaimed goods just as desirable, functional and accessible as new ones, then we eliminate the perceived barrier of having to make sacrifices to shop circular goods.”

We want to keep as many existing goods and materials in circulation as possible, and in doing so, reduce the need for new materials to be added to our economy. Unlike the recycling industry, we are focused not only on the raw materials, but in maintaining the embedded energy of goods by capturing and reusing them before they require recycling. 


“We have been talking about fossil fuels, about recycling, about waste, since before I was born and there is a strong awareness of these issues, but awareness on its own does not guarantee action. In fact, awareness without a method of action that is considered socially acceptable can lead to inaction. At The Reimaginarium, we wanted to take a different approach. We thought rather than demanding changes in people’s behaviour, we would change their opportunities. We wanted to provide a service that makes reuse just as convenient as purchasing new. To see if we could get to the point where customers are purchasing our goods unaware of the environmental benefits, rather than because of them. This is not a common approach, but we are confident it is the approach with the greatest potential for impact.  

We are still working towards making purchasing renewed as convenient and attractive as purchasing new, but already in our Geelong retail store we are seeing the impacts of the moves we have made in this direction. By carefully curating our store so that every reclaimed good that we offer provides the same functionality as a similarly priced new piece, providing a clean, accessible shop layout and ensuring our staff are knowledgeable about our product, we have opened a lot of eyes to reclaimed goods. Our methodology has built instinctual trust from customers in the goods that we offer, our location in central Geelong has provided accessibility and we have become a facilitator for a far greater range of methods of reuse than we had initially imagined. In store right now we have items made from furniture, musical instruments, floorboards, car parts, cutlery, sea glass, old radios, curtains, sheets, blankets, bottles, tablecloths and more.” 


“Our biggest barrier so far has been government acceptance of the value of reuse and repair in the circular economy. We have found that, while governments are keen to reduce waste and improve their circularity, they still look at circularity as recycling. Because of this, funding and opportunities provided at all levels of government seem to focus on recycling, unintentionally undermining or ignoring more circular possibilities.  

Since the recycling industry is so well established, we also perceive that governments find it easier to fund large-scale established recyclers to improve their processes and throughput, rather than supporting the much smaller and more diverse re-users and repairers, even though they are potentially a more circular and sustainable solution. Communicating with stakeholders such as government about the value and opportunities that lie in supporting and growing the reuse industry, so that it can become as large and efficient as the recycling industry, has been our biggest challenge to date.”


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Reimagining the Retail Sector

Tell us about The Reimaginarium.

“We repair, restore, repurpose and reimagine previously-used products, offering a more sustainable alternative to mainstream retailers. Our products include restored and reimagined bluetooth speakers, furniture, homewares, jewellery, bikes and more.”

Ryan believes that recreated products can offer the same features as new products while having a big impact on our shift to a more sustainable circular economy.

“In just 12 months we’ve grown from a small outlet for our own handmade recreated products to a retail space supporting more than a dozen re-creative businesses from across Victoria and Australia.”

What else can be done to highlight the benefits of sustainable product design?

“Sustainability is still undervalued in the broader design industry. There are many industries where it’s financially viable to produce products from reclaimed materials.

“We need to shift the mindset – from convincing people about the benefits of sustainable products – to producing sustainable products that are so good that people want them regardless of the sustainability benefits. That’s where The Reimaginarium comes in.”

Why were you keen to be a UNESCO City of Design Champion?

“Geelong has a strong design history which stretches back to its inception, and it’s exciting to be part this continuing legacy.

“Designing and developing reused products and developing more efficient remanufacturing methods will be critical to the future of design. I’m excited to represent this (currently) boutique industry as part of Geelong – UNESCO City of Design.”


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If buying secondhand and reclaimed goods was as easy as buying new ones, which would you choose?

Global marketing and delivery have transformed us. Choice, convenience and price are mainstays of 21st century purchases, despite environmental and human costs.

So how do we shop sustainably without losing quick and easy? Ryan has a vision for a sustainable retail future and chatted to us about his journey.

Tell us about The Reimaginarium.

The Reimaginarium was launched late in 2018 to prove that second hand isn’t second best. My wife and I founded the space as a way to showcase some of the best reclaimed goods from across Australia.

I produce a range of reclaimed goods including furniture and vintage Bluetooth speakers, and it occurred to us that there was no real central location for such items. We firmly believed that secondhand, repaired, restored and reimagined goods can be just as good as new ones (and better) and can be just as appealing to people, but they need to be made just as accessible and convenient.

We wanted a space where we could show reclaimed goods the same amount of respect as new ones, so we created one. With the help of Renew Geelong we set up a retail space in Moorabool Street and began to carefully gather the work of re-creatives from across Australia that met our standards – beautiful functional goods with a minimum of new materials.

From humble beginnings in a corner of a shared space, we now have our own dedicated shop front and support over a dozen Australian re-creatives while proving to the local community just how good reclaimed can be.

You were a product design engineer in your previous career. Why the change to reimagined retail?

The change was an evolution rather than a revolution. Since I was a child I have loved to work with old materials, from picking up bicycles off the hard rubbish and rebuilding them as a teenager, to hand painting suit jackets while I was at uni. I wanted to apply design and engineering principles to the reuse of waste materials in order to make reuse more efficient and predictable, and therefore more accessible. The development of our vintage Bluetooth speaker line came from this idea – identifying an available under-utilised material, and working out how to make it meet modern needs with the minimum of new materials.

With the launch of our Bluetooth speaker range we had real trouble finding outlets where it made sense, and came to realise that spaces with a focus on reclaimed goods were few and far between. We knew that there were some amazing creatives out there making great products, but they lacked a convenient outlet. Launching The Reimaginarium was an attempt to identify these incredible goods that were already being made, and present them in a way that would appeal to the broader public, by making them convenient and accessible.

Vintage Radios

We love the bluetooth speakers from old radios. Are they your creations?

They certainly are, and as mentioned they are really what kicked our space off. I have loved the look of old valve radios for years (and I’m not alone, look at all the imitations from Bush and others), but I’ve never really had an excuse to own many. Their wiring is often beyond economic repair, and if they do work their reliability and safety is highly questionable. I had a Bluetooth speaker at home that I loved the concept of, but not the style, and it occurred to me, why can’t a beautiful old radio do all the same things as a Bluetooth speaker? They certainly have most of the essential parts.

After substantial planning I developed an electronics package that I could integrate into old radios with minimum new parts and maximum reliability. Our amplifier and wiring connects to the radio’s original speaker, we keep a working volume control, instead of manufacturing a new power supply we provide a power cable that will plug into your existing spare phone charger base, and instead of an inbuilt battery that same cable will plug straight into a phone battery bank for hours of listening pleasure. All of the function of a new Bluetooth speaker, but with perhaps 10% of the new parts by weight, and every one built saves a beautiful old radio from becoming landfill.

I’ve been lucky enough to build speakers from radios that are over 90 years old, as well as ones that have had one owner from new. It is always a privilege to be able to build a speaker from a family heirloom that is being passed down through generations.

What has been the most challenging custom piece to come through the Geelong  antique shop?

That’s a tough question. Even some of the simplest projects can throw up unexpected challenges, but as a designer and engineer the challenges are a large part of the fun. I’ve turned lawnmowers into coffee tables, wardrobes and car guards into TV units and chests of drawers into sewing tables.

Some of the most unusual work I do is collaborations with my mother, Michelle Mischkulnig. Once or twice a year we will tackle a chair or daybed together, working her freehand embroidered artwork over a vintage frame to create a truly unique piece of furniture.

One of my favourite pieces to make and use other than my Bluetooth speakers is transforming derelict sideboards into TV units. We have one at home which we love, and I am just about to start on a new one for the shop. Worn out sideboards have no value in their original form, but they are often made from amazing timbers, and with a little care and patience they make fantastic lowline entertainment units.