Maziya and her husband Mike created Verigreen, an innovative business model that’s not only enviromentally friendly, but is also creating much-needed employment opportunities for disadvantaged women.
They’ve have come a long way since their tenderpreneur beginnings.
“We starting out buying, selling and securing contracts, but that wasn’t sustainable, as knew we couldn’t always get the tender. We set our sights on retail and, in 2012, launched Supa Mama, our range of draw-string refuse bags. We wanted to have an edge, which was why we invested in the technology of these bags.”
The story behind Supa Mama is heartwarming. Their eco-friendly model empowers previously unemployed women by turning them into micro-entrepreneurs: the women are trained to collect uncontaminated plastic waste, which is then recycled and used in the production of Supa Mama products.
“Waste-collectors earn money by collecting plastic waste and selling it to a middle-man, but they’re paid low, unregulated rates. We cut out the middle-man by buying direct. Beyond earning an income that allows them to support their families, the ‘Mamas’ in our programme develop a sense of pride and a degree of power. We’ve developed 500 micro-entrepreneurs who are diverting tons of waste from going to landfill.”
Despite their innovative business model, it was a struggle building up the brand.
“We started out small, but our bigger vision was to create a legacy brand. We self-funded the project using our savings. To ensure we could get business, we initially aimed for smaller municipal contracts that we could fulfil easily. Then, as the business and demand grew, we approached funding and investment houses so that we could increase the scale of our offerings,” says Maziya.