Massimilano Rossi of Supernovas: “Society”

Society: Don’t be the two young fish in David Foster Wallace’s ‘This is Water’ novel who aren’t aware that they are swimming in something called water. Be aware of what surrounds you, and all of a sudden you will realize that circular economy is the only way forward. Just be informed and act accordingly. As […]

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Society: Don’t be the two young fish in David Foster Wallace’s ‘This is Water’ novel who aren’t aware that they are swimming in something called water. Be aware of what surrounds you, and all of a sudden you will realize that circular economy is the only way forward. Just be informed and act accordingly.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Massimilano Rossi.

Massimilano Rossi is the founder and CEO of circular design and lifestyle brand, Supernovas. An aesthete from an early age, Rossi oversees all aspects of the organisation including design, materials, production, and partnerships. London and Milan based Supernovas represents the crossroads of Rossi’s entrepreneurial ambition of building a completely circular company and his progressive artistic talent. Operating under the mission to revolutionise the way we buy, use, and re-use products to fit our ever-evolving lifestyles, Supernovas designs and manufactures recycled and recyclable everyday objects with an artistic and playful edge. Their unique business model allows customers to trade in their Supernovas items for fully recycled new ones as their lifestyle or taste changes. By transforming objects that were already made from completely recycled materials, Supernovas supports the sustainable yet dynamic lifestyle of its community.

Rossi is deeply inspired by the circular economy, which to him is one of society’s most poignant challenges. His professional and artistic career has been driven by the desire to build a business model that is both financially and environmentally sustainable. Rossi founded Supernovas in 2018, following a 15 year career in the communications industry, where he worked with brands like Vodafone, Giorgio Armani, L’Oreal and Unilever.

Born in Milan and bred in Brianza to a family of architects and wooden furniture manufacturers, Rossi has had a lifetime of exposure to the design and architecture industry. He studied Architecture at the Politecnico in Milan (IT) and pursued a degree in Visual Communication at the Accademia di Comunicazione in Milan (IT), followed by an MBA at the Berlin Creative School of Leadership.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path? Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?

I was born in Milan and bred in Brianza. I was born and bred in the midst of the bustling furniture business; my father was an architect and my mother’s parents owned a small wooden furniture manufactory. This creative and hard-working upbringing strongly influenced my educational choices, inspiring me to study Architecture, Visual Communication and get an MBA at the Berlin School of Creative Leadership. I then started my professional career in the communications industry, where I stayed for over 15 years whilst taking part in the startup of several ventures.

You are currently leading Supernovas, a social impact organization that is making a difference for our planet. Can you tell us a bit about what you and Supernovas are trying to change in our world today?

Our mission is to transform waste and unwanted materials into dynamic products that evolve with consumers as their needs change. We believe that to move, change and evolve is what makes life worth living — but if we surround ourselves with ‘linear-designed’ products, not only do they become a burden when life changes, but most likely they become waste too.

Instead of asking people to live less, we asked ourselves to design better products — beautiful, useful and endlessly recyclable, designed to preserve the beauty of our planet while enabling people to keep enjoying their life to the fullest.

So we created Supernovas, a circular design and lifestyle company that challenges world-class creatives to transform waste and unwanted material into products that can also be recycled at end of life; giving customers the freedom to buy, swap or return them, ensuring the material never becomes waste again. In a nutshell: we put the circular economy at work by pairing circular products with a circular service.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

My interest in sustainability came while studying the rise of the first B-Corps that help brands shift towards a more purpose-driven approach to business. I am also greatly inspired by my travels, and the experiences I have gained by them, (for example having visited Dharavi — India’s largest slum with an economy that runs on recycling waste like plastic bottles or car batteries).

The ‘Circular Economy’ represents the most creative, yet tangible and impactful challenge to tackle nowadays. I believe this is because it addresses how everything that surrounds us is designed, while also requiring experienced communication skills to make it interesting and engaging, and create as much demand for circular products as for traditional ‘linear’ ones.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

No ‘eureka’ moments for me, instead it has been a continuous curiosity and drive to understand what our future might look like that brought me to connect the dots from a variety of fields — consumer behaviour, technology, design trends, waste management, bio and recycled materials, marco-politics, communication and social activism all play a role.

Many people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

I’m not the first one to say that the only difference between a dream and a goal is a deadline. That’s the truest truth. Set deadlines and your vision will become reality.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading Supernovas?

I have been collecting music vinyls since I was in my mid-twenties, buying them during my travels and bringing the growing pile with me from one home to the next. The more I moved, the more the collection became a burden though, eventually making me think to get rid of everything, accessing the digital copy of my favourite tracks via online streaming platforms. This is why our Furniture as Service model is called Streaming. Collectible design is similar to collecting vinyls for me: you dig, find unique pieces and invest your money in something that you should keep forever, whereas our products are meant to be ‘streamed’, so people have access to the coolest design at a monthly fee, that they can swap or return, when life changes. The rest of the ‘linear’ design industry looks like the good old MP3s to me.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

I’m not a big fan of the word ‘mistake’. Everything we did was beneficial to the evolution of Supernovas. And very fun all along the way.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

Yes, we did. We brought together a group of passionate, clued-up advisors from the field of design, circularity and branding that helped us shape our proposition. We have a pipeline of people that we would like to have on board in the future. That is definitely something I would suggest to everyone who is interested in changing things; the only way to achieve systemic change is through collaboration.

Are there three things the community, society, or politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Society: Don’t be the two young fish in David Foster Wallace’s ‘This is Water’ novel who aren’t aware that they are swimming in something called water. Be aware of what surrounds you, and all of a sudden you will realize that circular economy is the only way forward. Just be informed and act accordingly.

Corporations: The same effort companies put in bringing a product to life, should also be put in thinking how this product will die. Everything dies sooner or later, and it shouldn’t end up polluting our environment.

Politicians: Promote, incentivize and reward circular economy practices, rather than following the ban avenue which is always the easier path. World’s population is expected to increase by 2 billion persons in the next 30 years, with over 50% of the world’s population that is now middle class or wealthier. On top of that, the Internet has given access to everything everywhere. Consumption of goods triggers emotional benefits like gratification and self-realization, and looking at data projections is only going to increase in the upcoming years. Let’s help people live their life to the fullest by supporting companies that create products and services that don’t harm our planet, rather than following the utopic ‘let’s go back to use a boat to travel from LONDON to NY’.

How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?

What we are demonstrating with Supernovas is that by transforming waste into recycled & recyclable products, paired with a zero waste FAAS, we can generate higher EBITDA than the furniture industry median. As you might imagine, one size doesn’t fit all but that’s how Supernovas is putting the circular economy at work to make our company more profitable than the average ‘linear’ design companies.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Because the opposite would be to make a negative impact on our environment or society, and it doesn’t sound right, doesn’t it?

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Billionaires are the ones who positively affect the lives of a billion people”. Jason Silva.

It’s a very simple yet utterly meaningful play on words that sheds a light on what leaders within and outside corporations should really aim for. Businesses can be a force for good, only if you look at our world not as a resource to be exploited, but as a place full of possibility for everyone.

Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Fabiola Gianotti, the director general of Cern in Geneva. She embodies all the values a leader should have: to ask big questions, to be creative, to be humble and to foster collaboration between people and countries.

How can our readers follow you online?

Our website and social channels (i.e., )

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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