Design entrepreneur and green warrior Peter Kowalski has been in and out of South Africa but decided to settle here and make a difference. The owner and founder of Formfunc Studio, suppliers of ergonomic office chairs, workstations and monitor arms, Kowalski, 44, is on a mission to change corporate South Africa’s attitude towards quality design brands, ergonomic necessities and sustainable design principles. Kowalski studied towards a BSc in Human Movement Science but his love for design saw him swapping university for an N.Dip in Interior Design at the then Cape Technikon.
After a few years dabbling in space planning and as a furniture designer for various South African firms, Kowalski moved to the United Kingdom where he worked at various design firms. His last role prior to returning to South Africa in 2008 was as head of Workplace Solutions for British Sky Broadcasting, driving a team which developed innovative solutions for office, and broadcasting space by establishing a workspace strategy capability.Kowalsi returned to South Africa in 2008 because he wanted to make a difference in his home country. Today, he feels that his company Formfunc, which is dealer partner in Southern Africa for Humanscale, the global leader in ergonomic design, has done just that.
- What are you most passionate about?
I have a few passions that consume my mental state as well as the conversations I have socially. The most prevalent are my thoughts about sustainable design; my strategy to continue to grow our footprint for Humanscale in Africa and a not too distant 3rd is my recovery from an auto-immune condition using a miracle herb called Buchu, which is indigenous to the Western Cape of South Africa.
- What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
My wife and I putting our life savings into starting a business in SA – Formfunc is now the exclusive manufacturing and Distribution partner in the SADC region for Humanscale, the global leader in Ergonomic designs.
- What makes you angry?
South Africans who pay lip service or justify the kickback culture that simply amounts to corruption in our industry.
- If you inherited an acre of land what would you do with it?
That’s an easy one. We have set plans in motion to build a manufacturing facility that aims to be the first Nett positive (to the environment) light industrial building on the African continent.
- Are you more of a hunter or a gatherer?
I would expand on that and say that I’m a silent hunter 🙂
- How many pairs of shoes do you own?
Five: Havaianas, running shoes, 2 loafers and a pair of smarter shoes for when I have to look a little more presentable at a client presentation!
- If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?
Fillet on the braai (medium rare), mushroom and cream sauce and an avo salad with a secret vinaigrette that has loads of anchovies and garlic!
- How would people communicate in a perfect world?
Preferably no email! Pick the phone up and speak to your colleague or prospective client. You can’t build relationship and a rapport typing long winded messages. They waste the most valuable commodity in our business – time!
- What do you work toward in your free time?
Strategising our expansion in Africa. We have recently opened a registered Formfunc office in Kenya in order to service the East African market and have high hopes that this will aid our expansion goals.
- If you woke up and had 300 unread emails and could only answer 30 of them, how would you choose which ones to answer?
300 unread emails have not happened in the last 2 years. I have taken advice from a mentor to develop a ZERO inbox policy. Today, at 10.20am, I have 13 unread mails and make a point of making sure that it’s at ZERO before I put my head on the pillow at night.
- Name 3 thing in nature you find most beautiful.
It’s very difficult to pin point 3 things as I find all nature beautiful. I’ve come to the realisation that the best industrial design solutions are based on nature, which is completely self-sustaining. I recently watched a jaw-dropping TED Talk by Neri Oxman, which explains her design principles, based in biomimicry. It’s absolutely fascinating what positive results can be achieved with this technology!
- Have you used plastic bags for your shopping in the last two weeks?
Sadly, I have to concede that I have, merely because I shop at convenience stores for groceries. I’m going to put a re-usable bag in the car today so that it doesn’t happen again!
- What would you say are some small steps that people can take to improve their relationship to the environment?
Educate yourself on the simple things that can make an impact (put a reusable grocery bag in your car for starters!). Put meters in your house to understand what your consumption levels are. Once you understand these you can set goals to reduce.