‘I helped rev­o­lu­tionise pack­ag­ing’

Woman & Home (South Africa) - - New Directions -

Hout Bay’s CATHER­INE MOR­RIS, 39, is mar­ried to Phillip, 51, and has two kids, Ruby, 17, and Kira, 15. Her biz, Green Home, is SA’S first fully com­postable plant-based food-pack­ag­ing com­pany.

THE IDEA The six years I spent co-running a video-pro­duc­tion com­pany ser­vic­ing the en­vi­ron­men­tal in­dus­try opened my eyes to the dam­age caused by plas­tic waste. It kills thou­sands of an­i­mals a year, stays in land­fills for up to 400 years, and con­tam­i­nates our food and air sup­plies. I was on hol­i­day in Thai­land when I no­ticed that, be­neath my stan­dard-look­ing take­away cup, it read ‘an al­ter­na­tive to poly­styrene’. It made me won­der if SA had em­braced such plas­tic-free pack­ag­ing al­ter­na­tives.

GET­TING STARTED Back home, I did on­line re­search on plantstarch pack­ag­ing, which is eco-friendly as it’s biodegrad­able. Most of SA’S plas­tic waste comes from food pack­ag­ing, so of­fer­ing a so­lu­tion here would help to ad­dress the pol­lu­tion. I found an Asian com­pany that makes fully com­postable food pack­ag­ing out of bagasse (sugar cane pulp). I pooled sav­ings and a fam­ily loan and took a big leap by hand­ing over the pro­duc­tion com­pany to my busi­ness part­ner af­ter or­der­ing a ship­ment of pack­ag­ing to sell lo­cally from my home of­fice. I set up a web­site and found a courier ser­vice to de­liver na­tion­ally. I called a few restau­rants, fast-food com­pa­nies and food-in­dus­try stock­ists to pitch to. Nine months in, I had my first small or­der from Eth­i­cal Coop, with more to fol­low from com­pa­nies like Spar and Ro­co­ma­mas, which are now reg­u­lar clients. In Novem­ber 2007, I found com­pa­nies based in Cape Town and Joburg to stock my im­ports and to help man­u­fac­ture my own items made from sus­tain­able, eth­i­cally sourced lo­cal ma­te­ri­als, such as wood fi­bre. Within four years, I had 1 000 buy­ers a month, so I hired two staff to han­dle the ad­min, while I tack­led the im­ports and sales.

SET­BACKS In pitch­ing my busi­ness idea to in­vestors, I got of­fers for ex­ec­u­tive cap­i­tal, but I’d turn them down if it meant an ex­change in eq­uity. The biz grew slower with­out the help of such in­vestors, but I wanted to main­tain own­er­ship to bring my vi­sion to life.

BREAK­THROUGH In March 2009, Green Home was fea­tured in Fi­nan­cial Mail, which led to even more me­dia cov­er­age. I hadn’t done much mar­ket­ing, so this helped boost sales.

BUSI­NESS TODAY Green Home now has 30 staff, op­er­at­ing from ware­houses in Cape Town and Joburg meet­ing around 3 000 bulk or­ders a month. We started sell­ing food pack­ag­ing, but have ex­panded to in­clude sus­tain­ably made cock­tail ac­ces­sories, toi­let pa­per and straws, all 100% com­postable and plas­ticfree. Green Home’s growth has re­newed my faith in the prospect of a bet­ter, more sus­tain­able tomorrow. w&h

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