#Community Stories: Plastic Fantastic; Combining Business Acumen with Environmental Consciousness

By Abu Okari
iHub Community
  Published 11 Mar 2015
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Do you ask about the history of a product or brand before you make a purchase? Do you wish to know the reputation of the companies behind the products you normally buy, and how their behaviour affects with the rest of the planet? Well, if your answer is "No", maybe it is time you started. And to start you off, make an effort of finding out who this group of buyers who are referred to as Conscious Consumers are. Conscious Consumers are a growing segment of consumers who only buy products that support the causes, values and ideals they stand for –known in the USA as “voting with your dollars.” And they are a sizable number, especially in the Western World. A worldwide research conducted by Nielsen shows a large number of the respondents identifying with this category. And now, a Kenyan startup founded by iHub community Members, Naomi “Ciru” Wanjiru and Jesah Segal, is seeking to leverage this portion of consumers in its bid to make the world a better place. Plastic Fantastic is a startup based out of Ngong in Nairobi Kenya that seeks to change how inhabitants from the developing world interact with the plastic waste they produce. The company runs a programme through which plastic packaging, especially paper bags is upcyled into fashion accessories. Environmental Consciousness
An earring made from upcycled paper bags. Photo: Plastic Fantastic.
The plastic waste is transformed into a raw material that artisans use to make jewellery and other items such as backpacks. The startup's founders want to show people that every decision they make impacts the ecosystem they live in. Thus, for them their business is a means to an end. Through selling products made from upcycled plastics, they get to spark conversations about the environment. "Selling upcycled handcrafts from plastic waste serves as a vehicle which ignites conversations around important social issues, such as how we relate to our environment." Says Ciru. Plastic Fantastic collects plastic papers from people in Nairobi, so far, and transforms it into material that artisans can use. It also co-designs and collaborates with local artisans to create the accessories. They also teach upcycling techniques to organizations and artisan groups to encourage the upcycling of plastics. On top of that, they  sell products on behalf of exceptional artisans. Part of their future plans is to raise their artisan’s relationships to Fair Trade standards to ensure that they can afford better living standards. Also, Conscious Consumers, who are the main part of their target market pay a premium when you have Fair Trade certifications. IndieGoGo Crowdfunding Campaign To make this possible, Plastic Fantastic is running a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo. They hope to raise 10,000 USD. They plan to use some of this money to travel to California for the Fair Trade Federation Conference where they will interact with other players in the industry and gain skills on how to better their business. They will also learn how to more effectively work with women artisans since women are a bit challenging to work with, as they tend to have more responsibilities than men. So far, the campaign has raised slightly above USD 4,000. Ciru and Segal are encouraging people, especially Kenyans to contribute at least a dollar each towards their initiative. They are also asking you to think of how you interact with the environment. In fact, they are more specific; "Collect all your plastic waste for a week, and see how much you have. This is all being thrown out into a dumpsite where it will sit for hundreds of years, or it will be burnt, releasing toxic fumes into the atmosphere. Now, think of this happening to all the waste produced by all the households in Kenya."
Bengal bangles equally made from upcyled plastic papaer by Plastic Fantastic. Bengal bangles equally made from upcyled plastic papaer by Plastic Fantastic.
  Points of Sale You can find Plastic Fantastic’s products at Motieno Designs at Galleria Mall in Karen, and also the Nairobi Fashion Market Shop in Nairobi. They will soon be selling at a yet to be named local cafe as well. There are plans to sell the products in USA and Finland as well. In the meantime, you can also get their products by attending a fundraising concert they are organizing on the 18th of March at Juniper Kitchen in Nairobi. E-Commerce Platform The startup is working on an e-commerce platform for their products. However, they are not prioritizing it because they feel this is not the right time to introduce a technology angle. Currently they are focusing their research on fashion, fashion trends and their consumer markets to properly understand how to position their product. Interestingly, for a while, they didn't know that their products fell under the category of fashion accessories. They also need people to buy into the idea first before introducing a technology angle. However, they are confident of making it because their target market (conscious consumers) are considered adventurous. Their products are ideal for the courageous, the trendsetters. Their initial line turned out to be popular, even though they had one failed product. One great thing about their business model is that it can be replicated anywhere in the World .And, since they plan to see a reduction in plastics polluting the environment, they are glad and open to working with any person who is interested in what they are doing.  
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