Climate change and environmental sustainability is alien to most developing nations where people are more concerned with what goes into their tummies than what exist around them. Unfortunately, the effects of these acts are glaring. The air we breathe are becoming more toxic, flooding is becoming incessant, ocean lives are becoming threatened and Malaria is killing more pregnant women and children. In a bid to stop the people from dumping wastes indecently, government came up with sanctions and policies that are simply not working. Understanding the culture of Africans that it’s better to preach sustainability from the angle of empowerment, PEARL RECYCLING has decided to take matters into their own hands.
PEARL RECYCLING is a social organization with the mandate of recycling solid wastes into beautiful works of art. In developing countries, waste products such as tires, bottles, newspapers, magazines, straws, plastic cutleries, wood, unused CD tapes, and sea-shells are naturally thrown in canals and drainage, dump inside oceans, or burnt in an open space. The company is set out to make different blend of interior crafting where exquisite and off the shelf home, office and personal furniture and decors are made from recycled products like woods, bottles and metals. The finished products are Tables, Chairs, Wall mirrors, Wall Frames and Flower vases.
As a Tony Elumelu Foundation Fellow and the winner of WIMBIZ (Impact investment competition), the company started operating in 2014.
Olamide Ayeni-Babajide is the Founder and Creative Design Strategist- CDS at PEARL RECYCLING. She shares her story with Alaba Ayinuola of Africans Building Africa on her journey so far including her plans and goals to intend to have a hub in every states of Nigeria and employ more women and girls.
- Tell us about yourself and your business?
My name is Olamide Ayeni-Babajide (CCNA, CCDA, CISA, CCSE, POLYCOM CVE), a graduate of Computer Engineering and Information Technology related certificates from Cisco, Polycom and ISACA. I worked both as a network engineer and Technical Presales Manager for over seven years before founding Pearl Recycling.
Pearl Recycling is the foremost waste upcycling company in Nigeria that focuses on converting solid waste into furniture and décor for homes and offices.
- How much did you need to start your business and how were you able to raise that capital?
Our niche of recycling business requires less than $20,000 to setup. We were selected as one of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur for 2016 and that gave us the privilege of getting $5000 from Tony Elumelu Foundation. We won the 2016 Wimbiz impact competition for Recycling and we got another grants of five hundred thousand Naira. The remaining startup cost came from my savings.
- What are some of the challenges you face in your business and how do you overcome those challenges?
The major challenge is acceptance. There is the need for people to unlearn some erroneous belief. Sustainable Living is a concept that is thriving in developed countries and people are embracing it. However, in Nigeria, majority believes that Waste is synonymous to dirt.
We also lack mentoring. Ours is a new and different niche of recycling and we are faced with proprietary issues. We hardly find mentors that understand our difficulties and are better positioned to guide us through the difficulties.
Funding is also a major challenge. We need funds to expand and cover more territories.
- Where do you see your business in 5 years from now and what steps are you taking today to reach that objective?
In five years, we see Pearl Recycling showcasing in international markets. Our focus is to make our upcycled products export-compliant and available at many international stores. We also intend to have a hub in every states of Nigeria and employ more women and girls.
- What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs looking to start a business or invest in Africa?
- Stop dreaming and start acting. No one ever achieved from the place of slumber.
- It’s acceptable to start lean. More focus and energy should go into sustaining your business than starting the business.
- Get a mentor. You will need one on your entrepreneur journey.
- Read Insightful Books Every day. When you stop reading, you start decaying.
- How is your business participating to the development of Africa?
We are contributing our quota as an environmental advocacy and social enterprise with focus on waste management. It’s no gain saying that Waste is a Global problem and in Africa, It has become a constant headache. We solve environmental and waste problems by creatively converting waste to useable furniture. We help the low–income earners and reduce poverty by allowing people to live decently through our sustainable living scheme.