How "Upcycler's Lab" is nurturing Environment and Kids
November 16th , 2019 | Amishi Shah
Social entrepreneurship and Upcycling
I completed my bachelor’s in Financial markets and then went on to work for Edelweiss financial services. After this I went on to pursue my Masters in International Management from the University of Bath in England. Like most students, my aspiration was to work for a large organization after graduating and pursue a traditional career path. As a part of my Master’s degree I undertook a course on entrepreneurship through which I had the chance to interact with several small-scale entrepreneurs. Many of these entrepreneurs happened to be working in social sector and were therefore running for profit enterprises but with the motive of doing good for society. This was the first time I was introduced to the concept of social entrepreneurship. A second experience during this time was with upcycling. England was filled with small stores that sold beautifully made products from what used to be waste and I found this extremely unique and innovative. My entrepreneurship professor at the time also inspired me tremendously. After having an extremely successful career on Wall Street and in the London financial markets, he quit to help work for Grameen bank in Bangladesh before returning to England to teach. He spoke about how fulfilling this experience had been and his stories really captured my imagination.
In search of my goals of life
However, I was still not convinced that a career like this was possible in India and after returning, I took up a job with a start-up as a brand manager. On the weekends I would pursue my love for upcycling and slowly began making simple products that I sold to friends and family. The aim of this was simple – to convince people that waste can be a resource. After 6 months, when the concept became popular, I quit my job to pursue this full time. The goal was always to change mindsets and behaviour around the environment so that people would be more aware about the waste they generate and what they consume. After working in this space for 4 years, we received over 30 media mentions and articles and orders from all over the country and abroad. However, we realized that no behaviour and mindset change had happened. Adults would simply buy the product for its unique story and then forget about it. For most adults, simply buying the product was enough action for the planet. This did not sit well with me and in late 2017, I began to really question whether this was the way forward for me. At the time, I was working on a not for profit project as a part of Global Shapers (a youth initiative of the World Economic Forum Read More) and through this project we worked with over 1500 students to cut down the plastic waste in their lives and use post-consumer waste to create “Ecobricks” which would be used in construction. As a part of this project, I saw first hand that children can be extremely powerful agents of change. These young children between 4 and 15 not only undertook the creation of Ecobricks from waste plastics but also encouraged the adults in their lives such as teachers, parents and local government to do the same. At this moment, I realized that we must work with children if we were serious about changing mindsets and behaviour.
Kids are the best medium for bringing change
In early 2018, we pivoted our business and moved away from making products out of waste for adults to making board games and learning tools on environment for young children. Since most behaviour is developed by age 9, we primarily created products for ages 2-9. Our aim is to engage children through play and fun in order to keep the conversation around environment exciting, inspiring and focused on solutions. Some of our products include board games on concepts such as waste segregation and ocean conservation. We spent 2018 and the beginning to 2019 experimenting with different business models and fine tuning the product. We worked with schools, educators, parents and children to make the best versions of our products. Selling our product through online and offline channels in India taught us a lot about the market. One thing we decided as a team was that we wanted to have large scale impact and keeping this mind we decided to partner with large environmental organizations and governments to implement our products.
Spread the message around the world
Just recently, we finalized a deal with Kuwaiti organization KEPS (Kuwaiti Environment Protection Society) and Blackforest Solutions GmBh. As a part of this deal, our products will be implemented in Kuwait through the “Green Schools Program" (Read more)We are also working to implement our products in Singapore, Sri Lanka and Egypt among other countries. We hope to spread the message of better consumption all around the world.
The author of the story is Amishi Shah, Founder of ‘Upcycler's Lab' and you can reach out to her at https://upcyclerslab.com
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