Earth Day 2021: Meet the young entrepreneurs ‘restoring our earth’ through green and social businesses

Millennial and Gen-Z entrepreneurs have more of an obligation to care about the environment than any other generation – they will play a vital role in “restoring our earth”, the theme of this year’s Earth Day.

‘Restore Our Earth’ focuses on natural processes and emerging green technologies that can restore the world’s ecosystems, a priority as we build back better after COVID-19. Meet five inspiring young entrepreneurs who are achieving just that through green and sustainable businesses and find out how our network is supporting them through COVID-19:

Aaron Obong, Founder of Lira Seedling Center, Uganda

26-year old Aaron Obong’s Lira Seedling Center in Northern Uganda specializes in making, grading and packaging all types of seedlings for sale as well as landscaping in private compounds. Aaron started his business with the aim of improving the air quality in his community through planting more trees. His business was doing well and Aaron was getting ready to start a new tree planting initiative when COVID-19 hit Uganda. The strict national lockdown put all his plans on hold and prevented customers from coming to the seedling centre. Aaron now receives support from our member ICCO Uganda through our programme ‘Supporting the survival and recovery of youth-led MSMEs in the wake of COVID-19‘ funded by Standard Chartered Foundation to overcome his challenges and get back on track for success. He says:

Rokani Social Cooperative, Greece

Rokani Social Cooperative was founded by five young entrepreneurs Stratos, Petros, Panagiotis, Minas and Eleni with the goal of creating a circular economy through re- and upcycling. The cooperative takes reusable materials like wood, metal and plastic to create custom-made items like furniture. In addition, they raise awareness and offer training on the principles of the circular economy, recycling and upcycling. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rokani Social Cooperative have received support from our delivery partner Action Finance Initiative (AFI) and our Rapid Response and Recovery programme funded by Google.org to develop their digital marketing and online retail skills as well as soft skills like change and time management. Co-founder Petros Chatzigiannakis describes Rokani’s vision:

Esrat Jahan Chowdhury, Founder of Tulika, Bangladesh

Esrat’s small business Tulika produces bags from biodegradable Jute, a material with many environmental benefits. Jute cultivation cleanses the air, requires less fertilizer than other crops and improves soil texture. Moreover, Jute is a traditional crop of Bangladesh and higher demand for the material creates more employment and development in rural areas of the country. Esrat’s business hit a rough patch when Bangladesh went into national lockdown in March 2020 and all of her orders were cancelled but our member B’YEAH helped her get back on her feet. Through our programme Accelerating youth-led businesses in the digital era, funded by IKEA Foundation, Esrat received training in e-commerce and digital marketing and adapted her business plan. She now runs a successful online shop and has big dreams for her business. In Esrat’s words:

Nelson Lin, Founder of Velo City, Taiwan

Nelson’s business Velo City is a bicycle selling and rental service with the goal of promoting cycling as a daily means of transportation to combat the severe air pollution in Taipei, Taiwan. Velo City was doing well until Taiwan closed its borders to international tourists, one of Nelson’s main customer groups, due to COVID-19. With support from our delivery partner Institute for Information Industry (III) and our Rapid Response and Recovery programme with Google.org, Nelson adapted his branding to target a local customer base through digital marketing. His business is making an impact on the national commuting culture in Taiwan, with new green transportation laws and cycle routes being gradually introduced. Nelson shares his vision:

Herbert Murungi, Founder of Rural Environmental Sustainability Initiative (RESI), Uganda

Herbert’s Rural Environmental Sustainability Initiative (RESI) promotes the use of Biogas, a renewable fuel produced by the breakdown of organic matter such as food scraps, in rural Uganda. Specifically, RESI reaches out to rural mothers and youth to support them to make the shift from using dirty energy like charcoal for cooking to using Biogas. They also produce and distribute climate and environmental literacy books to children in rural areas. Our member Enterprise Uganda supported Herbert to create a sustainable business plan for RESI and provided fundraising training to address financial challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Herbert describes his goal:

Our network is proud to support young green entrepreneurs like Aaron, Esrat, Nelson, Herbert and the Rokani Social Cooperative who will play a vital role in creating a sustainable economic future and restoring our earth for generations to come.

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