[dropcap type=”default”]M [/dropcap] eet the Eco-heroes who are changing the style game by reviving fashions from your old jeans!
How often do we take our time thinking about how our wastes are managed and where they end up? We do not really care about what happens to the byproducts of our lifestyle after we dispose of them. About 800 metric tons of garbage fill the roads of Kathmandu every day, which means every one of us is knowingly or unknowingly throwing out 2 kg of waste daily, which ends up piling up the already full landfills. Wouldn’t it be better if the waste could be utilized to produce something fashionable? That is exactly what the team behind Upcycle Nepal thought and gave form to a business idea: to revive fashion from waste!
The birth of the idea
The idea of Upcycle Nepal sprang right out of the closet of the founder Ms. Pushpa Sthapit. The creative challenge to turn her old clothes into something usable that would not just reduce wasting the fabric but also give rise to a new fashion was the ultimate motivation for her entrepreneurial journey.
“Everyone has a closet full of clothes that are no longer wanted. Why not reuse them to create something fashionable and bring a positive impact in the environment by reducing waste?” Ms Sthapit questions our attitude towards old clothes. “Our company redefines the way people look at household and industrial fabric waste by turning them into quality handmade utility products, with zero fabric waste policy.”
Bundling up the Innovation
Only having an idea is not enough to be an entrepreneur. The idea needs to develop into action. In case of Upcycle Nepal, the winning of the National Social Business Challenge in 2018 organized by King’s College became the spark that ignited their flame. Their team, with the project idea:“Revive- Sewing Soul to Fabrics” won the seed amount of 1 lakh rupees, which served as the crucial initial investment for the startup. The idea was to convert old, used clothing material to modifiable upcycled products that aligned with the trending fashion of the day.
Designing the Market
The company was officially set-up on September 30, 2018, with agents to help them with the legal procedures. The difficulties in the procedures of tax and organization management came as no surprise, as they recognised such things to be strenuous in the case of Nepal. The initial start-up challenge proved the viability of the idea. It ensured that the audience understood the reason behind their innovative approach and gained customer awareness and trust for their products.
“It was really challenging to make people understand what we wanted to do, or make them understand the difference between upcycling and recycling.” Ms Sthapit recalls with a smile.
Today they have been able to rise in the market with their products like upcycled laptop bags, keyrings, tote bags, etc. in line with the current fashion trends, thereby influencing more customers with their creativity and business acumen.
Sewing through the Fashion Trend
With increasing competition in the field, Upcycle Nepal has been able to stand out with its innovative idea and flexible approach. Not only did it have a unique idea, it is also providing skilled employment to the people. However, they also have gained a fair share of failures along the way:
“I’ve learned that things don’t always turn out the way you plan them, but you should always be prepared with a Plan B if Plan A does not work. Be flexible.” expresses Ms. Sthapit.
The social entrepreneurship company is in competition with the fashion as well as other fabric companies which produce similar products. The eight-member team of Upcycle Nepal strongly believes in the uniqueness of their approach and creating a positive impact on the people as well as the environment.
Sustaining the Business
Upcycle Nepal plans to sustain their business with the goal of installing recycling machines in at least 5 different locations within the span of 5-6 years. This will help them serve their purpose of upcycling fabrics to cradle zero waste strategy efficiently. Furthermore, that will also increase employment opportunities as well as skill development by providing training in “stitching or tailoring”.
In the end, the young entrepreneur Ms. Sthapit suggests, “The most important thing for an entrepreneur is the ability to remain calm and patient, and be optimistic that your actions will bear fruit”
Upcycle and the Pandemic
“Our business during the pandemic has become pretty much stagnant,” says Ms Sthapit, “but we intend to accelerate it once it is over”. The orders for their products have lowered since the priorities have shifted to basic needs. However, they are maintaining good connections with their customers and the general population by conducting online DIY Mask Making Workshop and contests like” Lockdown, Waste Down” in collaboration with other small businesses including Nuga:, Ecosathi to promote their business and keep their audience engaged. With a pinch of patience and determination, they believe they will be able to get the business back on track after the lockdown.