Refold Desk Demand

When the lockdown forced workers home, demand for Refold desks skyrocketed – right when production of the sturdy cardboard desks was most difficult. One of Refold’s founders, Fraser Callaway, shares his experience of working with Baseline to meet demand.

A design pivot
to meet demand.

We didn’t set out to design a foldable, portable yet robust cardboard desk.

As part of our final year as Massey University visual communication design students, myself, Oliver Ward and Matt Innes were devising a programme matching design interns with studios. But studios we contacted always said they didn’t have a desk to sit the intern at, so we decided to design a desk the student could carry in, set up, move around, soak up experience, then take away.

Using cardboard (because it’s cheap and we were students) and craft knives, we whipped up a prototype for a lightweight but surprisingly strong standing desk. However, the designers seemed more interested in our desks than our interns, so we pivoted. We spent a couple of months refining the desk’s design and launched a Kickstarter campaign that blew up on the internet. In fact, it was viewed millions of times all over the globe.

comes on board.

One of those views was from a Baseline team member who got in touch saying their Zund cutting machine would be perfect to produce our desks and they were looking for interesting projects. We came in and did some test cuts, and Baseline’s team helped us with some production refinements. They really bent over backwards, allowing us access to the factory and cutting machine.

We started production in mid-2015, firstly fulfilling our Kickstarter orders, with half heading overseas. Within five years we had produced thousands of desks, all designed, cut and distributed from Wellington.

We’re really proud we can produce an innovative, sustainably sourced, environmentally friendly and fully recyclable product in our own backyard.

Sam Hammond, Amy Molloy & Stephanie Gasperini.

Lockdown sets
off order avalanche .

Before COVID-19, orders had dropped away and our attention was elsewhere. So when lockdown was announced, and the orders started literally pouring in, we had to move really, really fast.

The pandemic meant hundreds of thousands of Kiwis were having to set up workspaces in their kitchens, lounges and bedrooms. Having a desk that can be put up and packed away quickly (Oliver and I hold the world record of 27 seconds) if the workspace must be moved, or they don’t want to feel like they’re eating or sleeping at work, was just the fix.

However, we had very little stock available, which put pressure on us – and on Baseline, which we suddenly had to call to urgently get back into production on our desks. To add another challenge, this was right at the time Baseline was forced to cut back on production crew and split shifts to allow for social distancing.

Baseline pulls out the
stops to meet demand.

We had big corporates and government ministries asking for hundreds of desks to be delivered within a week, there was no way we could do that – especially as for a while we weren’t sure we were allowed to operate.

Eventually, after many, many calls to MBIE by myself and Amy Molloy, Baseline’s Client Service Manager, we had the go-ahead to produce for essential services only. With Amy’s help, and Baseline’s amazing production team, within three days of ordering the cardboard stock we were pumping out 50 desks a day – our delivery hampered only by access to transport.

I was really impressed by how Baseline responded to this unique challenge. Amy took my calls at all hours of the evening and replied to my texts early in the morning. She found solutions around the clock, and the whole team was so nimble and quick, working flat out to make it happen.

We were blown away by how Baseline responded to the challenges – and this period was certainly a challenge on all fronts!

Shop refold desks here

Q & A

Amy Molloy – Client Service Manager
Working in partnership with Baseline’s diverse range of clients who require bespoke products is the big attraction – and the main challenge – of Amy’s role.
How long have you been at Baseline?
I’ve been at Baseline nearly 10 years, with some time off to have my two children. I started here because I planned to study media and design, and wanted to get a taste of working in this industry. I began in sales support and stayed, not going to study, because the opportunities kept coming my way and the work excited me.
What do you enjoy about the work at Baseline?
I love the variety of work I have done here, which has been over a range of roles starting in sales support and through to management. But my real love had grown to be production. So when our National Sales Manager left, I thought I could make use of my strong client relationships and knowledge of production to help bring our clients’ ideas to life.

I love working closely with our clients, talking about their goals and their challenges and how we can form a solution to overcome them together. I like to understand their business and see our relationship more as a partnership.
How did you meet demand for Refold during the COVID-19 lockdown?
As soon as Refold called, I got on the phone to our production team to work through how to manage production under the new health and safety guidelines – which seemed to change daily.

Fraser and I then worked together with MBIE to confirm that they were an essential service providing continuity to businesses nationwide. We also quickly worked through a new set of terms and conditions to protect both ourselves and Refold during these unprecedented times. The stock then arrived for the desks and we swung into production, working around the clock.
What did it take for you personally?
I don’t think I have worked as hard in my life as I did through those weeks of lockdown. I was working from home – on a prototype Refold desk, as it happened – working around the demands of my two young children.

Working at all hours of the day was a challenge but I’m so inspired by the Refold story and the entrepreneurial spirit of the young men behind it. I was determined to make it a success for both them and us. And, besides, they’re just such great desks! All the hard work was worth it for the great result we could give Refold. I do love seeing the end result.
What’s your favourite kind of project?
Definitely bespoke products – and our Baseline team does bespoke really well. We’re great at adapting to change, pivoting and innovating. Many of our customers want to create something out-of-the-box and unique, and they rely on us to deliver.

For example, to launch a new milk flavour for Lewis Road Creamery, we designed and produced a beautiful and unique box. It showcased the new flavour and was designed so it could hold small ice packs to keep the milk cold for hours.

Foodstuffs, Zuru, Farrah’s Wraps, Hell’s Pizza – they’re all interesting clients who challenge us to design and produce pieces that stand out from the rest.

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