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Meet the Melbourne woman turning scrap material into $195 pieces of art

·4-min read
il Pietra stone scalloped coasters in different materials, Brianna Cardamone smiles at the camera.
Brianna Cardamone has launched a homewares business after noticing waste in the building industry. (Sources: il Pietra, Supplied)

The first time Brianna Cardamone realised stone and marble masons discarded their offcuts, she couldn’t believe it.

These were beautiful, if imperfect, pieces of stone that were simply being added to landfill.

To the founder of natural stone homewares business il Pietra, the discarded stone reflected not only a huge waste, but also an opportunity.

“The stone [I use with il Pietra] is originally sourced from stone quarries around the world and used for larger interior projects,” she told Yahoo Finance.

“I thought, ‘How could something so unique, that has been sourced from halfway across the world, be disposed of just because it’s an offcut?’

“I wanted to normalise making something imperfect into something deemed perfect, as well as contributing to less waste.”

With this in mind, she launched il Pietra from her home in Melbourne in September 2020.

She picks up offcuts from various stonemasons and pays them for it, before turning them into handcut trays, coasters and platters.

To Cardamone, who had previously worked in car sales, the business was a way to step out of her comfort zone during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“[The feedback] that we got from people on Instagram was absolutely sensational - everyone was embracing it,” she said.

“It really showed me the gap in the market, people had never seen anything like it before.”

She launched the Instagram account before she launched her website, but within days of announcing the business she was receiving hundreds of messages.

“I thought, ‘This is in more demand than I thought,’” she said.

“There was also the aspect that I was able to create something during the pandemic, when people aren’t working much. I was just really grateful so I didn’t let the stress get the better of me.”

Today, il Pietra employs around six people, including Cardamone, who spends her days packing boxes and overseeing the cutting and polishing process.

“The biggest success was needing to register for GST without realising it,” she said.

Businesses need to register for GST once their turnover exceeds $75,000.

Lessons learnt and what lies ahead

Cardamone was one of the 25 business owners to participate in the Instagram Academy, a workshopping and networking forum for young female entrepreneurs.

She said the biggest thing she learnt was the importance of having an understanding of all aspects of her business, including Facebook and Instagram advertisements.

She works with external agencies to promote her business, but she realised she also needed to be able to quickly turn on Facebook ads and target them to her audience.

“I also learned that you need to define your ideal customer to target your ads to,” she said.

“That meant asking, ‘What do my customers need? Where are my customers located? What does my customer share?’ That really helped me, because I realised it’s more about defining who your customers are.”

For Cardamone, her business reflects a critical shift in the consumer mindset: they want items that will last and that have a significance behind them.

A global survey of 80,000 people found nearly half of shoppers felt personally affected by environmental issues, while one in five had begun to shop with sustainability in mind since the pandemic began.

Locally, a survey by Mastercard found 61 per cent of Australians were demanding their favourite brands become more sustainable.

One of the biggest areas consumers wanted companies to improve was in cutting waste, with 38 per cent citing this as a priority.

This is good news, Cardamone believes, not only for the world but for her business. Essentially, every piece of il Pietra homewares is one less piece of rubbish heading into the bin.

And given they’re made of stone, they’ll last forever.

She plans to expand into furniture and is currently looking at how to use recycled plastics to achieve this.

“There is no better feeling than giving new life to materials and enriching the value of a meaningful piece to treasure forever,” she said.

“Sustainability is the future and we are happy to be a part of the zero-waste movement.”

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