Sky's the Limit 2 Jun 2024

Sky’s the Limit’s LIMITLESS! Spotlights Founder Brian Johnston


Limitless! Blogpost photo

Welcome to Sky’s the Limit’s Limitless! Blog Series.

Read exclusive interviews with some of the most inspirational and motivating entrepreneurs around, featuring the stories of people who inspire us and encourage us to think differently and #BeLimitless every day. We're spotlighting Founder Brian Johnston — we hope you enjoy his story.

Q: What inspired you to start your own business?

A: For the last 10 years I have worked within the sustainability sector as a researcher, looking for ways to reduce plastic pollution, save water and the oceans, and CO2 emissions. During this time, with academic funding, for many of the issues, like plastic-use and recycling are beginning to be solved. However, getting funding to investigate the fashion industry, clothing and other creative aspects sustainability is more challenging. This led me to the creation of iBiotech, because as a private enterprise we could leverage our knowledge and recourses to focus on areas that would be less likely to be supported inside of the academic framework.

Q: What keeps you motivated day-to-day to keep working on your business?

A: Every day, two things drive me: the lack of eco-friendly fashion options and the looming environmental crisis. Witnessing overflowing landfills in 2019 solidified my mission.

Through iBiotech, we're bridging the funding gap for sustainable fashion solutions like bioleather. But that's not all. We're also building a circular economy that benefits the environment and even local communities by making the brewing industry more sustainable. Every step we take brings us closer to a cleaner future, one where fashion and sustainability go hand-in-hand.

Q: How have mentors and other entrepreneurs played a role in moving your business forward?

A: The Sky's the Limit mentors give me and my team advice about potential funding, other competitions we could enter and some networks I could join.

Kristina Nushkova from HP, reminded me about highlighting the sustainable impact. I believe that this aspect was instrumental in gaining interest and votes from the pitching event panel. Many of the questions from viewers were regarding the environmental and sustainable impact of our biomaterials. Her and Alina Prisecaru were also able to help me with storytelling and condensing the facts into bitesize portions for the audience.

Lana Kropyvna and the team from Accenture helped me to improve the overall aesthetic of our slides. They will be used for future pitch events, giving iBiotech a distinctive look and maximum visual impact. They also helped me with clearly presenting the business model, using the right amount of annotation.

Q: What’s the #1 challenge you’ve faced, and how’d you overcome it?

A: Scaling up production was a significant hurdle. While we successfully developed the vegan leather material, manufacturing it in larger quantities proved challenging. To overcome this obstacle, we formed a strategic partnership with a company possessing the necessary infrastructure. This collaboration was mutually beneficial, as our core values aligned perfectly.

Q: How did you approach funding for your business?

A: Our first course of action was to look for grant funding, in the UK there are various grants available for research. The next method we used was looking for angel investment and joining accelerator groups. These approaches led us to a collaboration with larger organisations that shared our ethos.

Q: How do you manage your time between working on your business and other aspects of your life?

A: It's healthy to have a balance between your business and home life. I try to have a complete break over the weekends, this gives me enough energy to re-start on Mondays. It's a simple strategy, but makes a huge difference. Remember business and innovation are marathons not sprints!

Q: Any words of wisdom or inspiration you’d give someone just starting out?

A: Business and innovation are marathons not sprints! Don't try to solve every problem within a few weeks. Break things down into manageable sections and collaborate as much as possible.