EYEAFRICA TV: Johannesburg, South Africa: A social entrepreneur has been dealing with the problems of low recycling rate and high unemployment rate in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Lise Kuhle, founder of ECO Smart Group, always has a passion for the environment which led her into a sustainable business. Now she is helping many find gainful employment.
“We started manufacturing, recycling bins and things out of plastics. And we’re now manufacturing everything from hats to bags to shoes out of plastics. So it’s been quite an organic animal of a business. That’s really been grounded in the development, empowerment of women, and also utilizing recovered plastics in the materials that we use,” said Lise.
“We manufacture products for a number of different ranges and offers ranges cool coach. Our first range called Shwe. And that is a range of functional gifts, handbags. shoes, things like that. And that we predominantly use the South Africans Shwe fabric on the outside and it’s lined with our recovered waste plastic on the inside,” she added.
Over the years, Eco Smart has created jobs for people who’d battled to find employment.
“I’ve been struggling so long to get a job when I got this opportunity. Because I’m a mother of one, my son is 14 year old. I was struggling even to pay school fees and with that it’s helping me to pay school fees for my son and put food on the table. Yes, it’s helped me a lot,” said Patience Kieng, a sewer at ECO Smart Group.
These ladies are trained on the job but can decide to remain with the company as full time employees or branch out opening their own businesses and becoming entrepreneurs.
“The importance of the skill is really building self-employment. This also builds an enhancement within us to say we want to lie into a system but to rely on some skill that is ongoing. I would love to really venture into dressmaking. That is my dream and open a dressmaking shop. But for me, it’s mainly the skill. I feel like if I can, if I know how to sew I can teach one day as well, and also inspire the next young woman to become an inspiration in the industry,” said Angela Malama, a sewer at ECO Smart Group.
“We teach all of our ladies how to make a profit and to be proud of making a profit and to go out with purpose to make that profits. And I think that’s what’s so great about our project is that we see action every day. You know, there’s money coming in every day, there’s progress being made every day,” said Kuhle.
These products represent the only source of income for most of these women, but in their work, these ladies say they’ve found fulfillment.