CBCC member interview - Jana Tyrer, Managing Director, mmcité 11 Ltd

On ‘street furniture’, upcycling, smart design, giving manufacturing scraps a new purpose, tough competition and so much more…

Can you share a bit about your background?

I was born close to Opava, and come from a business-oriented family. After I finished my management and economics studies at University of Tomáš Baťa in Zlín, I began working for mmcité, my current employer and partner, as Export Manager, and travelled a lot around the world. After two years I accepted an offer from our distributor in Dubai to move to the UAE and help them develop the street furniture department. I spent five years in Dubai as Street Furniture/Business Development Manager working for a UK company but still selling street furniture from the Czech Republic.

Then I got married and decided to return to Europe. As my husband is British, we naturally came to the UK. I enjoyed working with mmcité, so agreed with them to open a branch in Milton Keynes.

You mention the term ‘street furniture’ – what does it mean?

Street furniture is everything that goes into streets for the public use and we specialise in that. Our range is wide – bike and bus shelters, benches, bollards, etc…

Where do you supply your products to?

We currently have 11 branches and further exclusive distributors in 32 countries. I am a shareholder in the 11th one in the UK. We are present in Australia, the Middle East, Europe, the US and South America.

Do you also design street furniture?

We are both designers and manufacturers. The company is owned by two product designers who set up the business in 1994. They saw an opportunity to make cities more beautiful. They started to design only, but later on they found out that they weren’t getting the desired quality from manufacturers, so they brought production in-house, to Zlín and then to Bílovice, Czech Republic. We currently employ 400 designers and factory workers.

Some of your products are very creative…

That’s right, and I believe we meet the market needs. Our products are about design and quality as well as functionality. A number of our products have won international awards.

What are your growth plans?

We’re looking to expand the brand and continue to develop new products. We select a different product group every year. Last year we focused on smart cities, so products with smart accessories. We now have street furniture with power points and USB chargers. We also want to expand the number of our branches; the youngest one, and very successful, has been set up in the US. We will be looking at expanding our market presence further but we are also focusing on strengthening our position in the existing markets.

Is competition tough?

Very tough. There are hundreds of brands out there. Some of the few design-led brands we like and admire. On the other hand, there are also some competitors that get ‘inspired’ by other companies’ designs, which is becoming a big problem in this industry worldwide.

What does mmcité+, your sister company, do?

It specialises in special infrastructure projects, e.g railway stations, tram lines or airports. These projects are design & build and need to have completely different project management from street furniture development.

Do you do installation as well?

It depends on both project and market. In the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Romania we have installation teams. But in the UK, for example, has different legal requirements, so we only currently supply.

How often do you create new designs?

All the products in our catalogue are standardised to fit any type of the environment. The catalogue changes every year. However, we also make a lot of bespoke products.

Do you work with universities?

Mainly with Czech and Slovak ones but recently, our owner and lead product designer David Karásek was a judge during a competition for young students to design their own benches and chairs at the College of Environmental Design at the Berkeley University. We helped them understand materials, the process to create a publicly-used product, its longevity, etc... We will continue to do that going forward. I am currently preparing a proposal for a workshop for young student on how to design and develop their own street furniture as part of the London Festival of Architecture next summer which I will submit to the event organisers.

How sustainable are your products?

We aim to make the right decisions where we can and beyond the given guidelines. This year we created new outdoor seat from cut-offs called Pixel.

But it’s not only about selection of materials as all are sustainably sourced. It’s also about working with design smartly; for example, in the past we created a swing chair from cut-offs. All these project are listed on mmcité socialWe are giving manufacturing scraps a new purpose. We call it upcycling manufacturing as these are actually fully recycled and recyclable products.

How would you define yourself in three words?

Enthusiastic about everything I do. I like to believe I am loyal and always true – to myself and to others. Outgoing – I love speaking to people, learning and getting experience from others and sharing mine, and I’m very open minded.

Have you got any free time?

Not much since I opened the branch, but I make time as we love to travel. I fully enjoy going back to the Czech Republic and spend time with my family. We’ve also started to explore the UK. And I absolutely love cooking.

Last word?

Street furniture is actually part of landscape architecture. It’s part of outdoor design and wellbeing, art, as well as making people happier within their environment. We feel we aren’t just designers and manufacturers; we belong to a professional network of designers and urbanists. We are becoming thought leaders in the industry. In addition, we work with universities to ensure that they understand the importance of not only street furniture but also landscape architecture as an industry. We have created competitions and developed workshops in our factories. Last year, we also started a conference called The Street (Ulice) where we invite various landscape architects from all around the world who share their experience. We believe that communication and knowledge sharing will make the industry stronger and better. We welcomed 300 participants from all over Europe and speakers from New York, Ireland, Dubai, Austria, the Czech Republic, etc… The planning for the 2019 conference (May) is underway and it will be even bigger. This conference also includes a visit to our factory as we like to show the magic behind the design and production of our street furniture which needs to fit, be functional, suitable, and aesthetically appropriate. Of course, the event finishes with good Czech beer.

I’d also like to mention that although new in the UK, the brand has a potential to make a big impact. We have delivered many successful projects, for example in Birmingham and Belfast. We’re also working with the Plymouth Council on the Plymouth’s Central Park project. This project will enhance the city for the celebration of 400 years of Mayflower sailing in 2020 – the anniversary of pilgrims travelling to America. We are proud that Czech furniture will be visible during one of the biggest UK celebrations and beyond.

In addition, the City of London is currently piloting our smart benches; one is next to Gherkin so citizens can use them also to charge their phones. If the trial is successful, there will be more smart benches in London in months and years to come.

Click here to find out more about mmcité


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