‘I helped revolutionise packaging’
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