The ability to see possibility in what others see as simply waste is a real talent, and that is something that Innovative Waste Design (IWD) founder, Colleen Deetlefs has in large quantities. She has a creative eye, combined with the business acumen to turn waste into beautiful and practical new products that have a great back story and a positive environmental footprint.
LoA chatted to founder Colleen Deetlefs this month to find out more about this unique and innovative company on a mission to make a difference.
What does your company do?
IWD is a company that specializes in the upcycling of different waste materials and empowering the communities through training and job creation.We manufacture different products using old tyres and discarded tyre tubes. We manufacture backpacks, fashion bags, laptop bags and tyre furniture. We have our own design team, so are able to manufacture to our customers’ requirements.
"Our mission is to build long-term relationships with our customers and clients and provide exceptional customer services by pursuing business through innovation and advanced technology."
What inspired you to start your company?
My love for creating products out of waste, and my love for people.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
We are solving two problems that we are facing right now. One is unemployment and the other is waste. By purchasing our products customers are helping us to solve these problems and preventing waste from ending up in landfill, and at the same time creating employment for someone that was previously disadvantaged.
"We believe in treating our customers with respect and faith we grow through creativity, invention and innovation. We integrate honesty, integrity and business ethics into all aspects of our business functioning."
Tell us a little about your team
There are five of us full time. Everyone working has been through our training programme. When large orders come in we have about 20 people from the community who work part time for IWD.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I became an entrepreneur 20 odd years ago when I started a clothing manufacturing factory. After my mom passed away I closed the factory and I then became a clothing and footwear buyer for 13 years. Then one day I decided to quit. I think I ended up doing what I do today purely by chance. I love people and I have a passion for creating something out of nothing. Working with waste really excites me as it is wonderful to make something from what people normally throw away.
"Working with waste really excites me as it is wonderful to make something from what people normally throw away."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
There are many future plans but I say one needs to take one step at a time. To get the foundation right and from there to build. We want to sell our products nationally and internationally. We also want to give dignity to people through our training programme and creating employment.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
My greatest satisfaction is seeing someone sewing and making something for the first time. The sense of achievement on their faces is priceless.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Follow one’s passion and never give up, whatever life throws at you.
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Why LoA loves it….
Effective waste management for so many cities in Africa is a continual challenge, and the need to find new and innovative ways of turning waste into useful products is growing. For South African entrepreneur, Colleen Deetlefs, founder of IWD, she sees waste as an exciting opportunity to create something new from what others throw away, and her inspiration comes in the form of old tyres. Her upcycling business is turning tyre trash into a whole range of exciting and eco-friendly new products, creating work opportunities for local communities and showing others that going green can pay dividends in so many ways. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa