Little Green Number is the brainchild of a passionate young social entrepreneur, Juanita van der Merwe, who is aiming to change the world for the better by not only creating unique, really funky handmade bags from up cycled advertising billboard posters thereby helping the environment, but also creating much-needed local jobs for young people in her community.
At LoA, we caught up with Juanita to find out more about her personal mission to build an innovative and sustainable social business that creates opportunities for other young people in South Africa.
What does your company do?
Little Green Number is an award winning social business focused on sustainable job creation, via community based micro manufacturing franchise ownership, producing a quality handbag product that is both funky and unique, yet also saves the environment - one advertising billboard at a time! Our products are 100% handmade, durable and weather resistant. We are proud to be a South African business with an upcycled, innovative product that creates sustainable jobs.
"I have always wanted to change the world, but never thought that I can make an impact through implementing business principles onto an existing charity."
What inspired you to start your company?
The company used to run as an NPO under the name Waste2Wow. It was managed by another NGO and in 2011 it was decided to let it die a quiet death as it was not showing any signs of making a profit, and the NGO that was managing it could no longer put money into Waste2Wow with no returns. I was working for that NGO at the time and was so sad to see this happening that I introduced my dad, an investor, to it and convinced him that with his business skills this was an enterprise that could work. Because both of us were very interested in the concept of social business (doing good whilst doing good business), we decided to take it on together. Little Green Number was registered as the new Brand under which we would sell our products, as well as the marketing leg of the social business. I have always wanted to change the world, but never thought that I can make an impact through implementing business principles onto an existing charity. This was our combined experiment to see whether we could turn this failing charity around and make it a sustainable business.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
We are a proudly South African business focused on creating sustainable jobs, saving the planet AND promoting education. Our products are 100% hand made and local. It is funky and every single bag is unique. The product is very strong and durable and we guarantee that we offer the best quality on the market!
"We are a proudly South African business focused on creating sustainable jobs, saving the planet AND promoting education."
Tell us a little about your team
We are a very diverse team, consisting of creative and enthusiastic individuals. We believe in treating each other with respect and love each other like family. We have a very interdependent model, so if one person slacks, we all carry the weight. We work hard to ensure we meet every deadline and that our quality stays the best in the industry.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
With only a few years of experience in the NGO sector and a dream to change the world through social business, my dad and I have taken on Little Green Number as an experiment to see whether implementing business skills (mostly his) can have an impact on societal problems. I am passionate about making a difference in the lives of everyone I come in contact with, whether it is my staff, clients or the man on the street. I believe there is no shame in trying and failing, because at least I tried. I am thankful for a fantastic team that supports me in my dream and a mentor/father who trusts me and believes in me. I dream of a world with no poverty and inequality, and I believe that my contribution, however small, has already made an impact. I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend and a colleague who wishes to lead others by serving them.
"I am passionate about making a difference in the lives of everyone I come in contact with, whether it is my staff, clients or the man on the street. I believe there is no shame in trying and failing, because at least I tried."
#EntrepreneurAdvice: "Failure is not something to fear, just make sure you learn from your past mistakes and fail forward!" Juanita van der Merwe @littlegreennr
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
To become an internationally recognizable brand.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
To be able to experiment in a safe environment and know that through my efforts other people benefit. I love the fact that I can be creative.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Fail forward! Failure is not something to fear, just make sure you learn from your past mistakes and fail forward!
Contact or follow Little Green Number
Why LoA loves it….
Incredible passion, commitment and a driven desire to make a difference are the things that set social entrepreneurs apart from the rest of the world. Juanita van der Merwe is one of those inspirational young women social entrepreneurs that genuinely feels that through her efforts, she can make change and positive things happen for her community and others around her. The social enterprise model she is implementing in her business is one that could make a real and empowering difference to the lives of others, and to the environment as a whole. Over and above all that are her products, the wonderful funky bags that her and the whole Little Green Number team of creators produce, which are a must-have for the design and eco-conscious fashionista. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa