RagBags Fiji (recycled fashion)
Published on July 3, 2014 um 13:20
Name of Enterprise
Princes Rd 265
Type of Enterprise
Enterprise has a positive impact on
environment, education , sustainable trade, empowerment of women, youth
Year the enterprise was founded
Summary of your enterprise
My sixteen-year-old friend and I (Im 15 years old this year) recently launched a small business here in the Fiji Islands where we live and school. We make fashionable bags by up-cycling old materials; mostly second-hand and unusable clothing. We currently market our bags to teenager girls and their mothers with disposable income. We are, however, working on a new line of bags we will target at teenage boys. We design a range of shoulder and messenger bags as prototypes to test the market before outsourcing manufacturing to small, local retailers, who are mostly stay at home mothers looking to earn extra income for their families. Our materials are sourced from second hand clothing stores and donated from friends, family and others looking to dispose of their torn and tattered clothing in an environmentally friendly way. Our bags are sold direct to consumers mostly through word of mouth and local flee markets and we recently had two stores begin retailing for us. We also take orders for custom bags. Our primary objectives in launching this business were to learn and experience business first hand as part of a school project, to inspire other teenagers and women to become entrepreneurs and self-reliant in a third world country where unemployment is high, and to encourage recycling in a place where very little recycling is done. We have learned about registering a new business, designing and marketing a product, banking and budgeting. We have become more disciplined, independent and self-sufficient and believe all this learning will only help us when we become adults. We believe we are the first in Fiji to recycle un-wearable clothing into something fashionably functional. We are also one of the few businesses in Fiji starting to communicate and sell online where internet marketing is largely foreign.
Impact of your enterprise on sustainable development
We believe that our entire business model has a very positive impact on sustainable development in Fiji. While our enterprise is still young and small, we believe this impact will grow over time as the business develops over the coming months and years. Firstly, we employ a handful of people to help us sell and manufacture about thirty-two bags per month at the moment. We envision that we will employ ten to twelve people, mostly women, in about a year when we expect to be selling about one hundred bags a month. Given the high rates of unemployment among youth and women in this country, we believe we will have an increasingly positive impact on reducing unemployment the more bags we sell. Secondly, recycling and being environmentally responsible are not major priorities for most Fijans. We believe it is in part because most people are unaware of these issues. Our business is having a positive impact on creating awareness of these important issues as a result of being recently covered by the national media. RagBags Fiji was covered by two national newspapers and the largest national television station with a fifteen minute interview, all of which highlighted what we do and created a new level of awareness about the importance of recycling and being environmentally responsible. This national exposure is undoubtedly contributing to sustainable development in the Fiji Islands. Thirdly, our business not only utilizes sustainable materials (as second-hand clothing will always be available) but we also utilize unwanted and discarded materials, reducing Fijis waste footprint by adding value to useless materials which would otherwise have ended up in a landfill.
Sustainability and future plans
Our business model can best be described as one which involves a range of activities from designing and manufacturing to sales. My business partner and I worked together to design bags we thought other teenage girls and their mothers would like based on what is worn today and what is in fashion. We selected materials based on what was available at second hand stores or what was donated to us from friends and family. We originally manufactured all of the bags on our own because we were limited in funds to $150 Fiji Dollars (USD $75) of start up capital which came from our own savings and wanted to test out these prototypes directly. The bags sold quickly at local flee markets and through word of mouth advertising generated from our Facebook page. As sales increased to 20 bags per month, we soon realised we needed to begin sharing the workload so we decided to outsource manufacturing to tailors. We also expanded our sales effort by distributing our bags through two well known stores. This has lifted our enterprises profile and given our bags a whole new level of credibility. Currently, we are selling about 32 bags per month. Our goal is to reach 100 bags per month within a year and 500 bags per month in two years. We believe we can do this by finding more stores to distribute our bags, focusing our sales efforts with an online store and featuring our bags in the next Fiji Fashion Week Show. While we funded Ragbags Fiji using our own start up capital and profits from prior sales, we recognize we will probably need to borrow money from family or a bank to fund this next level of growth especially since retailers required manufactured bags before sales.
Your profile as an entrepreneur
We are two teenage, female high school students aged 15 & 16 from Suva, the capital of Fiji. Despite its sheer beauty, Fiji is still considered to be third world by economic standards with high levels of unemployment among the youth and women. What started as merely a school project to teach us basic business skills has become a fully fledged business that keeps us busy outside school hours and has us excited about not only surviving but thriving in the business world. While most teenagers are happy to relax with friends or watch TV in their spare time, we find ourselves loving the hard work and anxious to expand our business to the next level. We find being young helps us with our business since adults seem to love supporting youth who are anxiously engaged in a good cause. They are astonished by what we have done in less than a year. We are motivated by the hopes we can learn new skills that will help us in the future, no matter what career path either of us pursue. We are also motivated by the potential we have to create awareness and inspire others to recycle and become environmentally responsible citizens. We also like to think we can inspire other youth and women in Fiji and perhaps even in other countries to realize their potential by putting their time and existing resources to good use, and becoming entrepreneurs. Despite being less than one year old, our business has already attracted national attention in Fiji thanks mostly to a fifteen minute story aired on Talk Business, a national program and several national newspaper articles. We hope additional media outlets will cover us, which in turn will help drive sales and awareness of our communitys environmental responsibilities.
The two of us making direct sales to the public at a market day as well as introducing the recycling we engage in.
One of the many "up-cycled" bags that we designed, made from a dress.
Our first interview by one of the national news papers highlighting our recycling.