“There is no such thing as ‘away’. When we throw anything away it must go somewhere.”
Every year, we purchase shoes that are on trend to match with our outfits. Some even make it a seasonal practice and some make it monthly, depending on their clothing habits. But every year, we also get rid of old shoes that serve us no more. A good question to ponder on- where do they go? In the landfills (dumping sites), just like any other waste generated from our homes!
Suheb brings a solution to keep this from happening with his idea- Doshro Paila, which literally translates to second step. The motive is to reuse and upcycle used shoes to give it a new life and prevent it from going into the landfills. He presented this idea at Udhyami Yuva Challenge and made it to top 15 finalists too. We got to interview him and found out all about his idea.
Read on to find out for yourself!
1. Can you tell us what inspired you to come up with this idea?
Back in 2016, when I was decluttering my closet, I came across various shoes that were either damaged or I had outgrown. I wanted to donate them or give it to companies that made good use of them but couldn’t come across any. So I quickly looked up ways to repurpose and upcycle them online. Surprisingly, a lot of companies abroad were already doing this. The shoes could be upcycled into gardening materials such as flower pots and could also be donated to the poor.
I wasn’t able to turn this idea into reality because completing my education was a priority back then. But when I saw the call for applications for Udhyami Yuva Challenge, I realized I had to move forward with this idea. I got some friends on board to join me but we weren’t able to start since the lockdown happened in an unprecedented way. Regardless, during the lockdown when we noticed that a lot of people were leaving for their villages, we realized they’ll need good pair of shoes to make the journey. So, we collected some shoes from our neighborhoods and donated them. I guess we could say that acted as an inspiration for us to move on further too.
2. Can you tell us how Doshro Paila will work?
The plan is pretty simple in theory. Shoes that are in good condition can be donated for reuse purpose and shoes that have worn out will be upcycled to different useful materials. Likewise, the shoes that aren’t of use for anything can be segregated and sent into waste accordingly.
So by collecting shoes, we will be providing different services,
a. Brand new shoes as well as used shoes in good condition can be donated to those who need them through us.
b. Damaged shoes that are not wearable can be upcycled for gardening techniques which we could carry out for corporate clients while also teaching them in school to children.
c. Shoes that are largely damaged can be torn down to substantial pieces and recycled to be used as raw materials for other products or even new shoes by selling them to local plants.
d. Through partnership with different local footwear companies, sell locally made shoes to tourists and local people.
3. You mentioned that you’re involved in another company as of now. How will you balance starting a new venture and working for another company?
Honestly, it’s going to be pretty difficult. As a project lead, I’ve had a fair share of freedom and I had also been using my time during weekends to work on the idea. Regardless, it’s a tough task given how my other two colleagues also have full time and rather demanding jobs. While one is a doctor, another’s an environment engineer.
Regardless, we are committed to our idea as our driving factors are impact and societal welfare. We want to help people and start this funding and donation drives, because we like the concept. We believe this is something that can be promoted in Nepal itself.
4. What are the major challenges you might face while launching your startup?
Firstly, we’re unsure of where business such as ours falls under the legal category. All the shoes will be donated so there are no costs of raw materials for us. Similarly, we won’t have investors as such but donors. Although we will be making money from the business, we won’t be taking any profits from it. We’ll inject all of it back to the business. So, figuring that out will take some time and effort.
5. What do you think are the opportunities for this business?
Have you ever heard about donation drives for shoes? That’s what people have been doing in other countries which are yet to make a noise here. So, if such a concept can be implemented here, then I guess the impact as well as opportunities are immense.
Apart from this, I think bringing in this concept will also contribute to the education sector. Students here lack practical knowledge about most of the things. So maybe they too can take this idea up as a school project. They’ll learn about how to reuse shoes and also about the poor living conditions in Nepal. We’re thinking of offering two classes per month to each class in a school to make students aware about this.
6. What are your short and long term plans?
We want to replace the small plastic flower pots that each household in Kathmandu has with upcycled shoes. Upon research, we found that they can be used for this purpose perfectly. During Dashain, a lot of houses plant ‘Jamara’ in small pots so maybe we could replace those pots completely with shoes for different plants. That’s for our short term plan.
As for the long term, we plan to promote local brands in the national and international platforms. Accordingly, we want to aware people of the negative aspects of fast-fashion and the wonders of recycling. Maybe then, they would be willing to invest in recycled products and the shoes we’ll be making. We want to let people know that recycling and upcycling are not just novel ideas that they cannot implement but rather an easy practice that can be done at home with some guidance and practice.
7. How are you planning to take the idea further if you win the seed fund? If not, how?
The whole plan to participate in this challenge was to understand aspects related to launching and running a startup. Through the bootcamp, we learned so much more about it. If we win the seed fund then we’ll have more funds at hand to actually kickstart our idea and if not then the three of us have decided to invest 50 thousand each so we’ll be working with 1.5 Lakhs.
8. Has your idea evolved since the bootcamp?
Definitely! Our idea was to provide 3 services, but we did not know which aspect to focus more on. During the bootcamp, I felt that we need a revenue model in order to keep this company running on its own. Due to this bootcamp, we started reaching out to other participants and other businesses seeking collaboration, and we got wonderful responses from them. Also, many local footwear manufacturing brands are actually interested in this idea. So I could say that many developments and changes into the idea during this bootcamp, and that now we are looking into different aspects that are essential to run the company.
9. Which sessions did you like the most and what are your three top key learnings?
The sessions on Sustainability and Digital Marketing were very fruitful for me. I think the three key learning from the bootcamp would be that:
a. We need to focus on how to run a company keeping financial management in mind among other things.
b. We do not have to do all of the work that goes into the idea. We can find other collaborators, engage them into the company, or find other companies that actually do that specific work.
c. We have to be clear about the legalities, how and where the company works, and what can be done to bring in more investors, with respect to the law of that area. Even if we want to bring foreign investment, we need to learn where the Government stands on it.
10. How has been your experience as a social entrepreneur so far?
We started just 3 months back and there has been a lot of positive response from people so far. As I mentioned earlier, we were able to collect shoes from our neighborhoods to give out to the poor and needy. We collected them from Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Dhulikhel and everyone was willing to help and donate. We were able to help people out with these shoes at different locations simultaneously. So, being able to collect and give them out made us feel great! We learnt that there are other organizations that are also supporting school children and athletes with new footwear sometimes. We feel that is something which we can continue and carry out regularly with the help of our collaborators and donors.
For more information about Doshro Paila, please connect with Suheb at firstname.lastname@example.org
Interviewed and article by Eva Villardón Grande