The idea of reduce, reuse, recycle is a relatively new concept in Kenya. There are few businesses that peg their profits on conservation efforts, however, for Lorna Rutto the concept of creating products out of waste is big money.
Founder of the eco solution company Ecopost Limited, Lorna Rutto has made headlines on the continent for her efforts to reuse and recycle waste to make outdoor solutions for homes and organizations. In her feature on Forbes Top 30 under 30 in 2013, her company Ecopost was identified as a profitable social enterprise which manufactures aesthetic, durable and environmentally friendly fencing posts using plastic waste, a more environmentally friendly alternative to timber. Her efforts have helped rid the nation of tons of waste. According to an article on Cartier Women’s Initiative, in its first eight months of operations, EcoPost manufactured 5,000 posts, removing 300 tonnes of plastic waste from the environment. ‘That’s 500 trees that won’t be chopped down. Growing her empire from starting off with posts, the range of products now includes flower pots, readymade picket fences, estate signage as well as outdoor lighting solutions.
From experience of eco-prenuers, there are some lessons anyone interested in starting up a social enterprise can learn:
1.Social Enterprises May Not Necessarily Yield Profit Immediately
Because of the nature of the business, a social enterprise is less likely to yield high profits immediately. Those looking into start a business that offers eco-solutions should have great patience and be ready to apply themselves to better the business.
2.Accolades May Not Reflect In The Account
An ordinary profit-making business struggles to ensure they make sales. For a social enterprise this struggle could even be three-fold because although many may support the sustainable solutions offered by the business, this may not necessarily prompt them to act and buy the products on offer. Thus, for a social entrepreneur, an open mind to business could help overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of making profits.
3. Ordinary Business Principles May Not Apply To Social Entreprises
As you seek to improve the lives of those who work in the organization and change the environment around you, one must appreciate a social enterprise is miles apart from a profit making business. In looking into creating the product, establishing promotion and appropriate pricing one must rethink the conventional business model. Do not be afraid to wander off the beaten path and seek unique solutions to create a custom business model for your business.
4.Never Loose Sight Of The Ultimate Cause of The Business
Often driven to outdo the competition, social enterprises forget their primary objectives. In the case of Lorna Rutto and the Ecopost organization, reducing waste within the city by providing environmentally friendly plastic lumber was the main objective of the organization. Their objectives informed their product range as well as how they conduct their business. As a social entrepreneur always remember the objective of the organization.