Vivacious Eco Vixon is a Cape Town-based business that creates eco-conscious products from ethically sourced, landfill-destined materials. “We produce ethical, eco-friendly, reusable products that replace daily single-use items. Our Eco Towel, for example, replaces your once-off paper towel,” says owner Natasha Pearce. “It can be reused by simply washing and rerolling it onto the core.” Natasha adds that the business also makes reusable facial rounds that don’t have to be replaced for up to a year. “All our products are locally sourced from waste that the textile and clothing industry creates, such as overrun trims, zips, elastic and buttons,” she adds.
This business came about as an opportunity hidden in adversity for Natasha after spending 23 active years in the fashion industry as a designer and buyer. “After working for years in the industry, I noted the wastage and how it wasn’t being recycled or upcycled; it was mainly being collected and dumped at a landfill. When I was retrenched, I started my own eco-conscious label, instead of another one that adds to the problem,” she explains.
Starting the business proved to be a challenge, with barriers to entry such as a small injection of self-funding, limited access to market and a vague understanding from potential customers on notions of circularity, upcycling and dead stock. “You don’t always have enough assets and counter leverage to get funding. Sometimes you’re just a one-man show. Many SMEs struggle because we are dreamers with a vision, and to bring that to fruition, we need financial backing. This is often tailor-made for linear business models and not entrepreneurial ones, so it’s a struggle to get financing. Then advertising costs money, social media costs money, and an e-commerce platform costs money,” Natasha adds.
Nedbank, on its own mission to use its financial expertise to deliver positive economic, social and environmental impact, joined forces with the Embassy of Finland and JP Morgan to deliver an intensive Circular Economy Accelerator (CEA) programme. For the last 18 months, this end-to-end business-transformation programme, run by Fetola, has empowered entrepreneurs operating in the sustainability space to succeed as thriving, profitable SMEs – which includes Natasha.
“South Africa generates about 122 million tons of waste every year, and only 10 percent of it is recycled. This situation creates environmental issues with health consequences. That said, waste also creates an opportunity to be turned into valuable products through upcycling and recycling,” explains Khensani Nobanda, group executive for group marketing and corporate affairs at Nedbank. “We advocate for businesses to adopt circularity by putting sustainability strategies in place that reduce and recycle their waste, which builds resilience. When businesses thrive, they create employment with ripple effects on social impact, like access to healthcare and education,” adds Khensani. Nedbank also supports small businesses through South Africa’s longest-running business mentorship programme – Nedbank Business Ignite – which granted Vivacious Eco Vixon one of three packages valued at R140 000 each, consisting of a R30 000 cash injection, business coaching and airtime on 702 and CapeTalk. “Nedbank Business Ignite was such a great boost for me – not just the cash injection, as I’m coaching and mentoring now too. After being on radio, I was offered an opportunity to give 50 masterclasses on eco-conscious businesses. Doors are opening after different divisions of Nedbank found out about my business,” says Natasha.
Fetola’s CEA programme proved to be incredibly beneficial for Vivacious Eco Vixon. The female-led business has received 90 hours of one-on-one mentorship, brand-building assistance including product promotions during workshops, and has access to further support before the programme ends at the end of November. In addition, Natasha also attended business development workshops covering personal transformation, strategic planning, costing and pricing, sales and marketing, the fundamentals of finance, people management, and investment readiness.
On maintaining her ethos, Natasha says that she is mindful of who she connects with. “I only partner with people that are green, and I investigate who I’m collaborating with and where I’m getting my resources from.” It’s a bonus that Nedbank shares that same ethos. “Nedbank is the perfect partner for me, and I say that because the bank runs on the ethos of green is the new gold,” she adds. Natasha’s sustainability goals for her business include going off the grid and to create a 360-degree business model of eco-consciousness, where she’s not just offering home and lifestyle products, but offers home decor, thrifting and repair work on the items that she sells.
“Supporting clients that are active in the circular economy is a key way to acknowledge the benefits of job creation and resource optimisation,” concludes Khensani.
DOING GOOD SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT FINANCING
Nedbank’s Sustainable Development Framework focuses on sustainable development efforts to identify business opportunities, risks and cost savings. Pioneering its vision is to remain at the forefront of the evolution of sustainable finance. The framework acts as a lever to integrate Nedbank’s key sustainability performance indicators and measurable positive impact targets into its debt-financing activities. This has allowed Nedbank to occupy a strong ESG and sustainable finance position in the market.
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