“Be creative, be unafraid, and take that step off the mountain. I assure you it’s worth it.” This advice from Lynn Worsley, the founder of the successful eco-inclusive enterprise and 2014 SEED South Africa Award Winner All Women Recycling, encourages women who are considering founding their own social enterprise to go for it.
In South Africa it is estimated that 3.7 million black women are unemployed, mainly due to the fact that they have had no access to skills training or an opportunity to complete a full education. All Women Recycling is a sustainable business that began in 2008 and is based in the southern suburbs of Cape Town. The aim is to create sought-after upcycled products that both benefit the environment and empower local women. Ten per cent of the eco-friendly products are sold locally in South Africa and the remaining 90% get exported to other countries. Our vision is to sustain and improve our lives and environment by upcycling plastic waste into innovative and high quality products and to create a safe place to nurture women through skills, education and empowerment. To achieve our vision, we have a strong focus on our impact because we believe in people, the planet and profit.
All Women Recycling's social and environmental impact
Important for us is to increase our social impact to include and empower more low income people. We mainly employ single mothers because our mission is to improve the lives of women. Many of the 47 women who have gone through the company since its inception have accomplished further education, new jobs and some returned to their homelands to try to form businesses there. We support our staff in opening businesses whilst they are working with All Women Recycling. In addition, we teach business and life skills and offer support, even when the women leave. On the side of the customer, we encourage them to get to know the women who work at All Women Recycling to understand their stories and backgrounds and to share their own with the ladies.
All Women Recycling also aims to improve the environmental situation in South Africa through waste recycling. Plastic bottles cause pollution, waste mountains and harm to the environment. All Women Recycling will save half a million PET bottles from finding their way to landfills in 2016. Imagine how many PET bottles can be upcycled into products if All Women Recycling operated in other countries as well!
Over the years, we have been able to scale our activities and our impact significantly. As a next step, we are planning to replicate our model in India.
We want to share our business model for two reasons
Firstly, we are a highly mission-driven eco-inclusive enterprise and therefore would like to achieve the highest possible social and environmental impact of our business model. Our objective is to contribute to sustainable development and therefore we want to exploit the full potential of our successful business model. We believe that we’ve found a solution to sustainability challenges that could be applied worldwide and easily adapted to a specific local context. Up to now, our concept is validated in the context of South Africa and we want to inspire and motivate others to build upon our experiences. We will support efforts to reduce time and resources spent on finding an innovative solution to a challenge that has already been addressed by us.
Secondly, by sharing our business model, we want to become a role model in the field of women empowerment and plastic upcycling. By spreading the brand that we’ve built over years, we aim to retail and wholesale globally in order to empower locally. What started as an idea in 2008 came into fruition when women knocked on my door looking for work. We started with one flagship product, our popular kliketyklikbox™, and continuously extended our product range. We were able to build our brand through working in our own shop and on markets on the weekends. Our own store enabled us to get to know our customers well and we believe in meeting customers face-to-face. Building strong relationships with customers and partners is important to our success. Up to now, we’ve already reached markets across South Africa, Europe, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA.
By replicating our business model, we want to reach more customers worldwide and spread the message of All Women Recycling.
If you want to learn more about All Women Recycling, visit our Website or explore a Case Study on All Women Recycling, which is part of the SEED Case Study Series. The SEED Case Study Series generates insights for policy, decision-makers and other ecosystem stakeholders on the role of eco-inclusive enterprises in achieving sustainable development and on enabling factors that can help them to overcome barriers and reach scale and replicate.
This blog post originally appeared on The Practitioner Hub as part of their blog series on scaling and replicating inclusive business models to increase social impact.
Lynn Worsley is the founder of All Women Recycling, an inspiring women-led social enterprise in South Africa turning discarded plastic soft-drink bottles into beautiful upcycled, highly decorative giftboxes. The desire to create a sustainable and profitable business, whilst at the same time supporting the environment and empowering other women in the community, was the inspiration for All Women Recycling, a small eco-business based in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town in South Africa. Lynn wanted to find a practical way of keeping the country and its communities clean, by finding a sustainable solution to the thousands of discarded plastic soft-drink bottles. The end goal was to create sought-after, high quality, upcycled products using these plastic bottles as the source materials, that would benefit the environment and empower local women in the communities. The result was the creation of the kliketyklikbox™, a versatile and trendy, yet highly practical and upmarket, eco-friendly gift box recycled from these discarded plastic 2-litre cool drink bottles. Today, All Women Recycling produces approximately 350 kliketyklikboxes™ each day, all created by local young women, primarily previously unemployed single mothers. Read Lynn's startup story.