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I started a company with my pocket money — Ogbonna

I started a company with my pocket money — Ogbonna

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Chibunna Ogbonna, 21, is the founder of a waste recycling company, RenewCykle Group. In this interview with MAUREEN IHUA-MADUENYI, he shares his story as an engineering student and entrepreneur

What specific things do you do as a business?

At this early start-up stage (we started in February and have recycled over 40 kg of plastic waste), we are into collation and sorting of PET bottles, aluminium beverage cans and brown corrugated cartons which we sell to post waste collectors who own a material recovery facility in our area of operation.

 We in return reward student subscribers with incentives such as food items, stationery and household items thereby encouraging them to embrace sustainable habits of proper waste management. This is our waste to value initiative.

 Also, we are providing clean energy to students by turning discarded laptop batteries into power banks and in a short time; we will build longer lasting inverters using discarded plastic and electronic wastes. This is the first step towards our waste to energy initiative.

 We also design company logos with recycled plastic materials which is our waste to art initiative. We finished making a logo of Total E & P last month.

 What informed your choice of business?

 While in Air Force Military School, Jos, I was trained to keep my environment clean and green. I also had high interest in geography, chemistry and technology. After my secondary education, I looked at global issues and sought for a problem I could solve in my area of interest and strengths to make a massive impact.

 I was disturbed by the alarming rate of climate change and global warming. I began my personal research and wrote an article on the ‘Agony of mother earth’ in the yearly publication of the EXJAM Magazine of 2014. Gaining admission into Federal University of Technology, Owerri gave me more reasons to pursue the course of zero waste world with affordable and efficient clean energy for everyone.

 I was embarrassed by the way the environment was effortlessly littered and decided to solve this problem through innovative methods. The idea of turning trash to cash and energy was birthed as a freshman and since then I have continued to run with this global vision for a sustainable environment.

 As a student entrepreneur, how did you source for funds?

 As a student entrepreneur, I sourced for funds with the help of my team. We contributed our pocket money to start the business. We also kept applying for grants such as the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme, Students Innovation Challenge, Union Bank Innovation Challenge, Sigma Pensions Future Tour Business challenge and many others.

 We had been rejected in most of our applications. This is part of the learning process but we recently won the Sigma Pensions Future Tour Business Challenge worth N250,000 in Owerri. We have thrived so far due to relentless team effort. We were also selected to pitch our start-up to the judges of the South East / South-South regional stage of the Students Innovation Challenge organised by the Federal Government.

 What has been the major challenge since you started your business and how are you managing it?

 After we launched RenewCykle Group on February 1, we had an oversupply from student subscribers who loved the incentive scheme. Initially, we had few reward items such as noodles, spaghetti and corn flakes which eventually finished after rewarding 10 subscribers. We ran out of funds to sustain the recycling model.

 The challenge was that there were no post collectors to buy the materials we collated. Most local scrap dealers only buy metal scrap materials while our major commodities were the PET plastic and aluminium cans. The majority of material recovery facilities owned by recycling companies such as Recycle Points Nigeria, Wecyclers and Ecoprune are located in Lagos.

What are your short and long-term plans for RenewCykle Group?

 My short-term plans for RenewCykle Group include improving the management team and developing our pilot projects to attain scalability and attract investments.

 I also plan to invest the seed funds to purchase basic recycling equipment and on attractive rewards, purchase components to modify the clean energy prototypes and purchase personal protective equipment for the team and potential workers.

 There are plans to build more connections with recycling companies and renewable energy firms.

 One of my long term plans is that by December 2020, we should have our own plot of land with a recycling and renewable energy hub with full certifications.

 We will spread our waste to value initiative across Owerri and Imo State as well as the waste to energy initiative and keep growing and providing solutions to the environmental and energy challenges that seem to overwhelm our country in line with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

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