Scots find opportunity in China with phone covers

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TWO Scottish graduates who moved to China “in search of opportunity” are using crowdfunding to set up a business making designer mobile phone covers.

Steven Murray and Malcolm Russell, who met at Dundee University while studying product design, set up their firm Coconut using Instagram to source graphic designs for the covers. Their business model involves donating a portion of sales to development charities, with the colour of the cases indicating the cause a customer supports.

Murray relocated to China a year ago to take up a job after graduating, and was joined by Russell who moved out to take up an internship a few months later.

Murray, 22, said: “There wasn’t much opportunity in the UK so we came to China. That’s also one of the reasons we started the company – we have created an opportunity for other designers as well.”

The duo teamed up with a US businessman to get their first mould made, allowing them to manufacture covers that fit Apple’s latest iphone from their base in the city of Shenzhen.

They are now using crowdfunding website Indiegogo to raise enough cash to invest in moulds for other popular models. The pitch allows people to support the company by ordering covers in advance for $30 (£19.60), while also choosing to support a charity.

The company is hoping to raise $50,000 (£33,000) and is working with six charities. Good causes include a clean drinking water initiative, a ­polio vaccination programme and tree planting.

Meanwhile, Coconut has been inviting budding graphic designers to submit pictures to go on the covers using the popular photo-sharing website 
Instagram. It is running a competition allowing people to vote for the best designs, and those that are used will be paid either in cash or with an ongoing system of royalties.

Murray, originally from ­Edinburgh, said the business evolved out of a desire to give designers and artists worldwide a platform to design for charity.

“What we really want to do with this brand is combine great design with charity,” he said. “It’s all about giving designers exposure and raising awareness for global causes.”

The venture is supported by Chinese staff from Murray and Russell’s business partner’s company. Murray communicates with the 20 workers in Mandarin, after picking up a working knowledge of the language since moving to China.The covers are expected to start selling in shops in the UK and US later this year, with the American market being the main focus.